In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada found that various sex work offences in the Criminal Code violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter). They prevented sex workers from taking measures to increase their safety. The Supreme Court gave Parliament one year to draft new laws. As a result, the Harper government changed the Criminal Code with Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). However, the new Criminal Code offences make the exchange of sex for compensation illegal for the first time in Canadian history and conflate sex work and human trafficking by characterizing all sex work as inherently exploitative.
BLAC has heard from sex work-led organizations, sex workers, and researchers that:
- the sex work laws in this country are punitive and increase the discriminatory treatment of sex workers;
- these laws increase the levels of violence and stigmatization sex workers experience and make it harder for them to protect themselves in their work, access resources, and make a living; and
- these barriers are increasingly felt by Black, Indigenous, racialized and gender-diverse sex workers.
Last year, the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR), Monica Forrester, Valerie Scott, Lanna Moon Perrin, Jane X, Alessa Mason and Tiffany Anwar (the “Applicants”) initiated a proceeding at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the Attorney General of Canada. The Applicants allege that the new Criminal Code sex work offences violate sections 7, 15(1), 2(b), and 2(d) of the Charter.
BLAC applied for and was granted intervenor status on March 24, 2022. BLAC will:
- provide a framework for assessing s. 15 Charter claims that raise allegations of discrimination based on race;
- argue that the court should apply an intersectional analysis to evaluate the impact of criminalization on Black cis and trans sex workers; and
- highlight how Black sex workers and third parties experience anti-Black racism differently based on their gender and sexual identities.
BLAC respects sex workers’ rights to autonomy, agency and dignity. In line with our mission to challenge and eradicate individual and systemic anti-Black racism and our vision of a society where the humanity and dignity of all Black people are centred, BLAC supports the calls for the full decriminalization of sex work and supports repealing the provisions enacted by the PCEPA as they pertain to sex work done by adults.
BLAC is co-counsel in this intervention with Geetha Philipupillai and Saneliso Moyo of Goldblatt Partners, providing pro bono support. BLAC wants to thank them for their continued support and expertise on this case.
To read BLAC’s factum, click here. For more information on CASWLR, click here. To learn and read more about the history of criminalization of Black sex workers in Canada, read Robyn Maynard’s book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada.