3 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About Canada’s Prostitution Laws

I had the chance to speak with Susan Davis, a longtime sex worker activist in Vancouver, about how well BC’s current prostitution laws are (or aren’t) serving sex workers in 2022.  She identified 3 juicy things you didn’t know about Canada’s Prostitiution Laws that we should all know about:

  1. The application of Canada prostitution laws to prosecute cases of child sex trafficking stigmatizes and further harms victims by removing their designation as helpless victims of sex abuse crimes perpetrated by monsters and reclassifying them as consenting adult sex workers.

    Sexually abused children deserve to be treated with care and respect, and they deserve to have laws drafted to serve their specific human rights.  To co-opt archaic prostitution laws – laws which apply to adults who choose consensual sex work as a career – as a framework to serve the needs of traumatized children who deserve justice, demonstrates either laziness, reckless disregard for the needs of children, or both.  We all know the stigma that goes along with sex work, and it’s not a burden that sexually abused children – and their families – should have to carry.

Further, for a child to be improperly labelled by the government as a prostitute rather than as a victim of crime can cause many negative long-lasting effects on their identity, self-esteem, mental health, and family relationships.  Often, family members and friends get confused and start to believe the child had some sort of power over the sexual abuse if it is perceived through the lens of prostution.  This causes such unnecessary pain, rejection, judgment, and misunderstanding within families. 

Therefore, Susan recommends we call for revisions to the BC Crown Council Policy Manual Charge Assessment Guidelines to include always include the terms, “abuse,” “unlawful confinement,” “sexual interference,” and such when referencing crimes committed against children.  Another suggested revision is to reflect the adoption of the BCACP Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines currently in effect across BC.

  1. Using Canada’s prostitution laws as the only framework for prosecuting human trafficking crimes leaves people who are victimized in the agriculture, factory, and domestic service industries unidentified and unprotected.

    With all of the anti-trafficking attention (and dollars) in Canada being spent on the sex industry, other common sectors where human trafficking is known to occur are being overlooked by law makers and law enforcement.  As members of marginalized communities ourselves, we cannot condone the ongoing exploitation of our brothers and sisters.  All forms of human trafficking must end, not just sex trafficking.  It is time our government drafted proper legislation to protect these exploited people in our country.

    Susan recommends we reach out to our MPs and make an appointment to have our voices heard.  It’s their job to listen to us – they work for us!
  2. The application of the Bill C-36 “Communication” clause to fight sex trafficking has the potential to help workers trafficked in other industries, too.  Currently, courts are accepting text messages as evidence of trafficking, (prices for services, working conditions, promises and threats, etc.)  If all cases of human trafficking in Canada continue to be prosecuted under the Prostitution laws, than this evidence type can also be utilized to convict criminals in the agriculture, factory, and domestic service industries.

Another benefit to the ability to use text messages to convict criminals of trafficking is that it can minimize the reliance on the victim to testify against their abuser in court.  This helps prevent the victim from being re-traumatized by the justice process, and is a kindness that cannot be overlooked.  Finally, one good thing to say about Bill C-36!