Feminist antiviolence organization has publicly stated that it has caused harm to sex workers

45 posts / 0 new
Last post
Feminist antiviolence organization has publicly stated that it has caused harm to sex workers

In a letter to the sex-worker community, WAVAW's board, leadership, and staff stated that the organization produced a position paper called "Stepping out of the Binary" in 2008.

"The paper framed the sex work industry as inherently violent and oppressive," WAVAW noted. "It failed to recognize the resilience, agency, and autonomy of sex workers. It also conflated sex work with trafficking and exploitation."

The letter acknowledged that its position critiqued the sex-work industry as a whole, but wouldn't turn away sex workers who wanted access to services.

"This position is inherently flawed," WAVAW stated. "It is not possible to support individuals and also call for the abolition of their profession.

"Our service delivery and the writing we’ve put out have sent the message to members of the sex worker community and their allies that sex workers could not access our services," the letter continued. "We’re sorry for this."

WAVAW stated that it supports sex work and the rights of sex workers.




Interesting shift in policy. Not discriminating about those services is a positive step.

On the other hand, while I don't agree with abolitionists I do respect their position. So I am not sure why Vancouver Rape Relief gets mentioned at the end. It is a different issue.


OK I'm new to discussing this issue.

Did some searches and this memorial I believe is the only kind of in Canada. Possibly the world? 

Here's a related link I found.


Mr. Magoo

So I am not sure why Vancouver Rape Relief gets mentioned at the end. It is a different issue.

Looks to me like they were mentioned in the middle.  But I'm guessing it's either a sop to both sides, or just "teach both theories".

But it's fair to note that the article also says "It is not possible to support individuals and also call for the abolition of their profession.".  I guess VRR is pretending to do both.

What I find most interesting about the "abolition" vs. sex work argument is that it kind of looks to me like the people most interested in saving broken women from sex work are not, themselves, sex workers (notwithstanding those sex workers who repented their sins and got sainted by abolitionists).

I can't imagine if the vanguard of workers' struggles were people who'd never been workers, or had been promoted to management.

I can't imagine if the vanguard of poor people's struggles were people who'd never been poor, or who had been but now live in a condo.

Why is it not weird when the majority of opponents of sex work seem to be people who aren't sex workers (or to be fair, sometimes, recently Christianized sex workers), and why is it not weird when they just totally ignore people who ARE current sex workers saying "thanks for trying to save me, but I'm actually fine"?

It's like some TV skit where the lifeguard insists on "saving" the person happily walking in the shallow end.

"You think you're standing upright, but you're drowning and you don't even know it!!!"


But the crux of the problem (where the "harm" was) is that WAVAW services were being denied (I assume, anyway) If it is the not "supporting individuals and also calling for the abolition of their profession" I disagree. Drug harm reduction, after all involves supporting people suffering addiction, but the ultimate goal is ideally to get them off the drugs.

For that matter, most public policies regarding abusive situations don't just leave the decision in the hands of the victim, even if they don't see the abuse.

But assuming it is the former, that is distinct from the abolition/harm reduction split.

As for freedom arguments, there are also some people who for various reasons consent to working below the minimum wage, or in high-risk professions like asbestos mining.

There are some who trot out the "right to work" arguments in those cases as well, but far more of us see it for what it is in those cases. And it in no way invalidates calls for a minimum wage, and the shutdown of the asbestos industry.

As for criticism of prostitution, I am less interested in the moralistic view as I am in the position of some feminists - that it is by definition abuse of women, and not work at all.

Personally I don't agree with that perspective. But as a theory I consider it completely valid, and an important part of how society deals with prostitution, because some of the prostitution industry involves people being compelled to do work they would ordinarily not, and being put in dangerous situations.

So I think it is a bit odd that Vancouver Rape Relief would be singled out in an article that really isn't about them. Their position on this and other issues isn't popular. Agree or disagree, I just don't see it as helpful.



Mr. Magoo

Drug harm reduction, after all involves supporting people suffering addiction, but the ultimate goal is ideally to get them off the drugs.

I'm sure we all agree that if someone's use of cocaine resulted in the loss of their job, the loss of their family, poverty, and living in a car, we might say that that person would be better off without the nose candy.

But if someone uses cocaine, holds down a job, has family and friends and a home and they're happy, on what grounds do we need to get them "off the drugs"

For that matter, most public policies regarding abusive situations

Value Judgement Alert:  Code Orange.

Are you, or I, or anyone else best suited to deciding when someone who is neither of us is in an abusive situtation?  You should probably answer carefully.


Why should I be careful?

Police do it all the time. For that matter so do agencies for the protection of  vulnerable people. There are plenty of positions where if abuse is disclosed or seriously suspected you are legally required to report it without consent from the victim.





6079_Smith_W wrote:

Why should I be careful?

Police do it all the time. For that matter so do agencies for the protection of  vulnerable people.

That's true. And yet, I remember some recent media coverage implying that said police and agencies hadn't always had the vulnerable in mind when carrying out that mandate.


True. It doesn't mean that the principle of not leaving issues of assault and abuse to the victims is not important. In some cases in fact, it is impossible to do so.

But to back up a bit to the actual point, support for the abolition of prostitution and respecting individual autonomy are not mutually exclusive. The statement in that article is not entirely correct.


Mr. Magoo

Police do it all the time.


For individuals?

Or vague groups?


point taken on forum susan sorry i didn't look

susan davis susan davis's picture

i would like to remind people that this forum is for sex workers rights, not for promoting the idea of all sex work is violence. you have the feminist forum for that quizzical.

also, sex work is not equal to abusive relationships or cocaine addiction mr.magoo and smith w...

the flaw in your arguements is based on a fundamental lack of understanding of who sex workers are and what sex work is....

sex work is not an abusive relationship....domestic violence is a terrible issue...but it is not sex work

sex workers are not drug addicts....some maybe but the 2 issues are seperate. 

VRR are mentioned because they are the single most vocal anti sex work group in the city and WAVAW have to work with them via referals and of course on committees where policies are being decided...VRR assert pressure on groups they work with and indeed volunteers working there to embrace abolition and to fight against sex work.

WAVAW took a big step in admitting this harm and we as the sex working community are grateful. 

quizzical, you constantly belittle any action which could be seen as supportive of sex workers rights. this is not "just a board announcement"...this will make a real tangible difference in the lives of sex working people in vancouver...so please, keep your hate filled comments out of this forum.

vancouver has had non enforcement from VPD and the city of vancouver and is thriving in a state of defacto decriminalization. the sky did not fall, exploiters have been arrested, there is not a brothel on every corner and people are profiting from unregulated ejactulation responses.... the reports to and trust in the vancouver police is on the rise...and....

there have been NO MUDERS of sex workers in vancouver since 2009...almost a decade...under decrim....so please....tell me how the heavy handed enforcement tactics which are being used elsewhere to "rescue" the poor downtrodden exploited voiceless prostituted people are working...? oh yes.....muders, violence on the rise...the removal of our advertising platforms and undermining of our ability to make money...poverty and homelessness rising....

your "fight" against my community is costing people their lives....at least wavaw had the guts to recognize and admit their mistakes and the harm it costs....


@susan davis

Thanks for your comment! This issue is now much easier to understand. Your 1st person explanation brings everyone reading this thread right there!


@ Susan.

I  support harm reduction, not abolition, and I said as much. I also said that I think this is a positive step, and it is.

My point was that this article's calling out of VRR isn't helpful. They have a right to their position on the issue.

susan davis susan davis's picture

so smith w. i know you support sex workers rights and it's appreciated, frankly i disagree with you on the VRR issue ....

opinions are one thing, but promoting lies as facts and undermining the safety of PEOPLE...is not having an opinion. it is forcing your ideology on others. VRR have a loud and priviledged voice (they have core funding which NO sex worker organization has - our tax dollars pay for them to keep their doors open and in turn promote hatred of sex workers around the world) and play into people's fears about sex work helping them raise even more money and to promote their lies as facts on the international stage.

Having an opinion is different than trying to influence policy and law. people believe them, they have credibility because they have used all the sex workers they meet through the rape crisis line and their trauma to bolster their "opinion" , cherry picking stories to make it as horrible as possible and promote their ideology amongst the mainstream community all the while sharing stolen stories as if they are facts....have you not seen this before...big tobacco, oil companies, fire retardent fabric which causes cancer....

let me ask you, would it be ok for me to have an opinion that young black males are dangerous and there fore should be police chekced more often just in case they maybe doing something wrong? or how about an "opinion" that LGTBQ2 people are "sick somehow" and would not be good parents? or that all muslims are terrorists?

so why is it that people throw all those equality arguements out the window when it comes to sex work? facts are facts. we know the truth about what will support sex worker safety, it's been studied to death. any legitimate and ethical research draws the same conclusion, decriminalize sex work now.

these people are so married to their "opinion", so invested in their ideology...that facts don't matter, no matter who gets hurt.

so let's be clear...their "opinion" is promoted and accepted as fact as they are the loudest most priviledged voice...those opinions with no basis in reality are in turn used to further criminalize the sex working community...then...people die....

there is a serious problem with their opinion and no...i don't feel they have the right to promote hatred of sex workers...just as i don't think people have a right to promote hatred of muslims, LGTBQ2 folks or any other easily identifiable group...

we are PEOPLE, not voiceless victims and our stories and experiences are not for them to use to further an ideological goal of the abolition of prostitution. VRR are NOT representing sex workers or victims, they represent themselves and their insane morality. that is why VRR are mentioned. because they should do the same as WAVAW and admit they are wrong. the Georgia Straight are sex worker friendly and support our rights. so of course they would call out one of the largest obstacles to our emancipation. in fact they refuse to print the lies promoted as fact in the "opinions" of VRR and it's supporters. if more journalists would do their damn jobs and actually fact check this shit, we wouldn't have the problems we do in fighting for our rights. people would understand what needs to be done. instead we have to fight to be heard and fight to unpack all the lies people believe as fact as a result of their never ending attacks. we should be able to have an adult conversation in canada but instead all the hand wringing grand mothers cry out..."what about the children!"

sorry but this type of opinion is insidious. people believe them even though they are really only expressing an opinion....not fact. even to this day when i ask people what the average age of entry into prostitution is people say 12-14.....a direct result of the thing i am trying to describe....


Actually the clear trend seems to be toward harm reduction. That article is an example. It is also the case here in Saskatchewan, where the differences between our two major cities - licensing in Saskatoon, and being outside the law (but far more visible) in Regina - show clearly what is the more effective public policy choice. If anything abolition is seen increasingly as unworkable.

I am not sure what influenced WAVAW to change their position, but somehow I don't think calling it "insane morality" was what did it. That is why I objected to the mention in the article - that women's groups are singled out for criticism in a way that other groups which support abolition are not. I'd venture to say it is because they base it not on moralizing, but pointing out systemic problems.

But I have said my piece, and I don't think we are going to agree. I'll bow out.

susan davis susan davis's picture

it says clearly in the letter from wavaw what changed their minds....the voices of sex workers. it is "insane morality"....VRR are the loudest...it is NOT because they are a women's group....i understand you are on the prairie and in the land of Joy Smith et al.....but here in Vancouver, their group is the single loudest and most oppressive org against sex work. they are quoted in every article, they can afford to go to every politician....they are provincially funded and as such people believe their vitriol....

they were singled out because they earned it.

we have a strong relationship with the police here and so the law is not the issue.

however, in neighbouring cities...Vancouver is part of a string of cities...the RCMP are in charge and there ARE real issues there...The richmond and burnaby RCMP are coming around though and there is some effort to try to balance enforcement across the lower mainland as was recommended in the Foresaken Report - the Missing Women's Inquiry here....which also recommended adoption of the entire living in community report - www.livingincommunity.ca - which also - as all ethical research and work does - recommends decriminalization.

please try to understand, what it is like to be fighting for the lives of members of your community only to have a women's group.....counter everything you say and dominate the conversation...before we achieved defacto decrim here and in the height of our fight...when i was speaking publically and in the news alot i became their target...they would come to events where i was speaking and attack me...yelling at me, filming, advancing towards the stage...it was threatening and brutal...i developed chest pains and an involuntary twitch in my face...permanent stress injuries...caused by a women's group....their total refusal to hear anything other than their prescribed rhetoric was an extreme barrier...

i know you said you are out and maybe you will never understand how violent some of the groups are but believe me when i say, they do not care about sex workers. if they did they would listen to us and at least acknowledge that we have a right to a voice in this discussion instead of berating, belittling and degrading us when we try to fight for our rights.


The problem is that there can be no debate between abolitionists and those who wish to legalise the entire sex work industry at this forum - the industry meaning also pimps and other exploiters. I know of no feminists, whatever their orientation, who wish to criminalise actual sex workers.  That is all I can say because this forum is not for those of us who view prostitution as violence and exploitation. That does not entail contempt for people in the game; I've worked a lot with Indigenous communities so of course I know several of them.

susan davis susan davis's picture

so, no one wants to decriminalize pimps and exploiters. this is the way abolitionists always frame the discussion. sex workers are labled as the "pimp lobby" and in support of exploiting children....stripping us of our voice and casting us as complacent in the harm of children...


in Vancouver under defacto decrim, several exploiters have been arrested and prosecuted including a VPD officer...the police have more resources as they are no longer engaged in blanket actions against the sex industry and so can work to route out the actual exploiters....not all brothel keepers are exploiters. many provide healthy and safe work spaces for people and are former workers themselves...many are women....

there lots of laws against human trafficking, exploitation, sexual assault, unlawful confinement sexual interference....the VPD used these laws instead of prostitution laws....because is an underage person who was exploited by traffickers really a prostitute? no....and they do not deserve that lable which will follow them their whole lives....

i can never understand why abolitionists always try to say sex workers want to decriminalize pimps, we do not....we never have...but y'all are doing a great job confusing everyone about what decriminalization would actually look like and of course about what sex workers are actually saying...using our language saying you support decriminalization when you don't....

but hey, you are entitled to your"opinion" about what we want...even though we have told you over and over and over and over and over and over ....you refuse to listen and instead provide the mainstream community with your priviledged "opinion" about what we want and claim to know better than we do about what we want.....

the nordic mess.....does not decriminalize sex workers.....it recriminalizes us and in fact deepens the criminalization further than it was before....

no sex workers in parks...no sex workers in schools....no sex workers in churches.....in fact no sex workers NEAR schools, or near churches or even near parks....

if 70% of sex workers are single parents as one study suggests....it's illegal for them to take a child to school or to the park and obviously sex workers are outside of god's love as we are not allowed to worship either....going to church? ILLEGAL!!!

you say you support the decriminalization of sex workers....but do you?

or are you blinded by your own rhetoric and truely believe that i....we ...support the decriminalzation of child exploitation.....? 

it's unfair and untrue and you know it deep down....we want human and labour rights...we deserve the protections other canadian workers enjoy...we deserve to be given accurate info about our heath and safety and to have safe places to work....

we DO NOT want the decriminalization of child exploiters or human traffickers....we are NOT the pimp lobby.....and you know this....even if you try to pretend otherwise

susan davis susan davis's picture

lastly...."legalize"?....you know damn well we do not want legalization......and "the game"? ....really?.... you know something abut 'game"....apparently not using language from 20 years ago

if you can't remember or respect the things we have told you over the course of a decade, perhaps you should refrain from engaging in the discussion at all...you know...that it is decrimnalzation we want...not like germany or holland where it's legalized.....like new zealand....


I am not a privileged person; in many ways, I've lived a hard life. No other reason for us to converse. If I use outdated language about the life, it is because it is what I heard at an age where I was of interest to pimps. I'm over 50 now.

susan davis susan davis's picture

fine, but you didn't answer any of my other challenges...you know we want decrim...not legalization...

why keep saying it even though you know its not true...why would you say i want to decrim pimps...? is that what you really think? or do you think i am stupid...and therefore not worth listening too...living in a false consciousness as they say...?

why say sex workers rights advocates support decriming exploitation?

you never answer that...i am also over 50 and my interactions with my community show me what current language is...the fact that you admit it was over 20 years ago proves my point...you don't understand how much safer it is in vancouver under defacto decrim....no murders....reporting on the rise....everything i thought abolitionists wanted...to end violence against sex workers...isn't that what you wanted? and claim we don't want?

well decrim is working in vancouver...and not your false appropriated language decrim...real non enforcement and respect for our safe work spaces...

so....why continue to lie about us, what we are fighting for and who we represent?

why not admit it, you know we do not support exploitation or pimps....and while in places where enforcement of your coveted nordic model is high...murder and violence are rampant...in vancouver under defacto decrim...the opposite.....

will you acknowledge the truth?


I apologise for posting in your forum; I thought I was posting in the feminist forum.


susan davis wrote:

you know we want decrim...not legalization...

Hi Susan,

May I ask why you want it decriminalized but not legalized?




susan davis susan davis's picture

because we had legalization....it didn't work....many people died.....

and fundamentally we do not need two sets of laws to protect people...one set of laws for when a lawyer for example is raped, unlawfully confined or human trafficked.... and the other for when a sex worker is raped, unlawfully confined or human trafficked....

a child exploited for sex is not a prostitute or a criminal....those laws seperate crimes seen as "prostitution related" from crimes against non prostitution related persons....

seperating crimes against sex workers as different from crimes against non sex workers means that people view violence against sex workers as different or of less importance...ever heard the saying "truely innocent victim"?

there are lots of laws to protect all people in canada, we do not need these 2 sets of laws.

many of the provivions within PCEPA - canada's new prostitution laws directly segregate sex workers from the rest of society...

no sex workers in or near parks, no sex workers in or near schools, no sex workers in or near churches....imagine if the law read.....no (insert visible minority here - aborigionals, muslims, jews, use your imagination) allowed....

we are people, we are part of society and we contribute alot all the while being classified as second class, not worthy of protection, different, less......"them" as we are commonly refered to....

we need to be decriminalized so we can begin to establish occupational health and safety and organize collectively for our wages and working conditions....until we are decriminalized our focus has to be on our "outcast criminal" status and we cannot work to improve our over all quality of life and safety....

legalization means criminal code provisions still on the books and which can be pulled out at any time to be used against us. living in fear of arrest or loosing our income is not freedom....

the consensual sex work deniers would have you believe that we are not capable of defining safety for ourselves or working to prevent exploitation in our industry without police oversight and threat of prison....that we are of such a diminished capacity that we cannot be trusted to prevent youth exploitation for example and need to be governed by the criminal code as criminals...

it's the stigma....people cannot get past sex workers as criminals and believe all the rhetoric spouted by those who hate us and deny that our clients need us and our services...


Actually de facto legalization - licensing, with provisions - is what has made for a  better situation here in Saskatoon than in Regina. And for that matter, everything is subject to zoning and by-laws (and in some cases federal regulations) from where I can build a factory or club or how I can sell alcohol, tobacco or cannabis or milk, down to how I can change a toilet in my own house.

Those kinds of regulations are not criminal, and I can't think of anyone in our society who isn't subject to some of them. Most parks won't grant anyone a license to set up a kiosk and sell stuff either.

I am sure some smokers think they are unfairly discriminated against by laws which restrict where they can smoke. That is not the same as racial segregation.

Regulations need to be fair, but they are necessary.


Thanks for the indepth reply Susan. It's interesting to read about. I wouldn't consider myself an ally because I don't know anything about this stuff (plus I'm an evil straight white mostly conservative male) but as far as I'm concerned a woman's body is hers to do whatever she wants with it including selling sex. I agree there shouldn't be two sets of rules and it seems like the major issue people have with sex work is their own moral beliefs?

A good friend of mine is (or was, we don't discuss it) a sex worker (escort?) and she's said she's made over $2000 in a day and it wasn't BS.  I'm just guessing but I think maybe part of the governments problem is that these men, women and trans people are having a lot of money pass through their hands and the government isn't able to tax it.  Because we know they'll tax anything, including taxing other taxes. I want to guess that's why the porn industry is allowed to do what it does simply because it's taxed and the government get's their cut.

That said I think what Smiths talking about could make sense too, as far as regulations and stuff goes. I really just don't know enough to make an informed opinion though.

For what it's work I hope it becomes decriminalized if that's whats safest and best for your friends and peers.

susan davis susan davis's picture

smith w .....yes municipal business licensing and OHS standards on a provincial health level...we have that in vancouver....i will say in regina...the police go to an unlicensed escorts door, detain her and then take to be forcibly licensed.....not cool....this should be the job of business licensing staff and health inspectors....not police....make sense? nobody is asking for special treatment, just equal treament. do the police go to your house if the suspect you may have installed a toilette without a permit? it is NOT defacto legalization...it is still criminalization...we have by-laws governing our work here in vancouver too...that is part of decriminalization as are OHS regulations... legalization implies enforcement by police of criminal code provisions....i have had many complaints especially from touring sex workers about the police enforcement of licensing in regina...as long as the police are involved there is a problem and it is not equal or fair.

i must say smith w ...i am surprised by your comments...i thoguht since you have seen my posts over a long period of time you would have a better understanding of the difference between legalization and decrim....i am surprised that you don't remember all the times and posts i have published in regard to by-law regulation and OHS.... remember our www.tradesecretsguide.blogspot.ca ? we are about to roll out OHS training ceritification using this guide and experiential people as teachers...like "serving it right" for alcohol....it is mandatory under vancouver by-laws to have "certification" before employment in a health enhancement center...so we are using that regulation to bring OHS to massage parlours.....

here's a link to the post i made in october 2009 http://rabble.ca/babble/sex-worker-rights/proposed-municipal-bylaw-revis...

anyway, regina is applying their by-laws in a negative and biased way using police for enforcement.

thankyou Paladin1....yes what swith w is saying is what we have been saying for decades..personally i have been saying it for over 17 years...i have posted extensively about it here but as you can see, no one listens/ reads what we propose and groups like VRR confuse the discussion by claiming we want to decriminalize pimps and want no regulation of any kind...brothels on every corner with no licensing or oversight whatsoever....if you believe the rhetoric...

that is the entire point of this thread....the way abolitionists have appropriated our language and confused this conversation to the point that sex workers voices are drowned out....people only know what the consensual sex work deniers promote as what we want...that we are the pimp lobby and want to make sexual abuse of children legal ....

i feel like it is ego....that prevents abolitionists from admiting they were wrong...it's the only cause i can really see...

i remember once, i was invited to speak to a group at UBC and it turned out to be the abolitionists...trisha baptie, cherry smiley and even meghan murphy were there...it was an ambush really...meghan asked me "why any one would want to do sex work as it was so degrading and demeaning"...i asked her if she would take a job which included changing old people's diapers...to which she replied..."eww"...literally she said eww....and i replied that made 2 jobs she was unwilling to do....her right of course....

anyway i digress....i am so tired of defending against abolitionists who scream - sex workers rights advocates are in support of exploitation!!! especially here when they know damn wel its not true and receiving no answers from any of these liars when i challenge them on why they lie....


susan davis wrote

yes municipal business licensing and OHS standards on a provincial health level...we have that in vancouver....i will say in regina...the police go to an unlicensed escorts door, detain her and then take to be forcibly licensed.....not cool....this should be the job of business licensing staff and health inspectors....not police....make sense? nobody is asking for special treatment, just equal treament. do the police go to your house if the suspect you may have installed a toilette without a permit?

Also very embarrassing having the police at your door. Having someone come to your door wearing a bullet proof vest with a sidearm/gun is to intimidate, nothing more than thugery.

Since I'm a plumber, I'll use my services as an example. I have to claim my income and also have to charge HST (if I owned my own company) From my limited knowledge/ignorance, I suspect you would welcome paying taxes and charging HST etc etc as long as there was an actual provincial body that treated sex trade workers as an bonofied trade.

Please your thoughts, your a good poster!


I'm commenting on what you just said, Susan. And whatever your definitions of the two terms are, they mean a range of things internationally. Legalization means operating under a legal framework, like any other business.

I wouldn't be able to set my retail business up next to a school either because of zoning. As for not having a brothel there either I think it is a good idea, and I expect most legitimate businesspeople would agree. We have had two incidents (that I can remember) of reported luring at our kids' school in the past year. Would any serious proprietor want to have their clientelle mistaken in that way? And if they didn't care and really wanted to set up there, sorry but there is a legitimate public safety concern IMO.

Same goes for parks. Sorry, but I have lived in places where I didn't want my kids to play because of the presence of used condoms and worse biohazardous material. But even without that particular concern, no one gets to just set up shop in a park.

As for "anytime the police are involved", sorry, I have had to get criminal record checks, and many people do it for work. Police  oversee a lot of things. If our fire extinguisher and door locks weren't to code we would have the fire department show up. And yes, if I built something in my home which did not comply the city could come and force me to change it or tear it out.

I get that sex work is discriminated against. And I get that regulations can be crafted or applied in a way that compounds that discrimination. But given the public safety concern I think it is a good thing to have cops involved, and I don't see how this is a case of anyone being singled out. I was at a licensed event this past weekend at which the cops made numerous walk-throughs, and set up a roadblock on the way in.

If there is an interface with police when it comes to alcohol and firearms, I don't see any reason why it is unreasonable when it comes to sex work.

And yes, the negative situation in Regina was my point. In Saskatoon brothels are licensed, and those licenses are overseen by the police.


susan davis susan davis's picture

ok smith w but that is my point....you are saying regulation, i am saying regulation....it's the same thing we are saying and it's called decriminalization....not legalization....regulation via municipal by-laws and provincial health regulations is not under the criminal code and therefore is not criminalized and is decrim....

as far as parks and schools...in one of my earlier posts in this thread...if 70% of sex workers are single parents...how do suggest they drop their kids off at school? or attend parent teacher meetings? also how do sex working parents take their children to the park...or to church? this is my point...a brothel is not a sex worker...a brothel is a business and is covered in vancouver by location restrictions, opening time restrictions (not 24hrs) and a development permit which allows for problem businesses to be dealt with via by-law infraction and potential license withdrawl...

but the criminal code of canada says - no sex workers near schools, churchs, parks,etc....

what if i want to go to the park to have a picnic...my life is not one long sexual act in which everything i do is sex related and thus i leave a stream of used condoms where ever i go....how do you know the condoms are from sex workers anyway? what if it is young people having sex because they have nowhere else to go? or closeted gay men who have nowhere else to go? why are condoms always blamed on sex workers? which...i have never actually worn a condom so i really don't understand why we are blamed....?

the police have proven over and over to not be responsible enough to regulate brothels. they are tuned to a different station - the war on crime  - by letting police regulate the "criminal sex worker", you make sex work criminalized....can you understand that? if by-law officers and the normal processes for business licenses were used, it would be regulated but decriminalized.....

@WWWTT so yes, we consider it police violence when they use these intimidation tactics and it undermines sex worker trust in police and their willingness to report violence should they experience it...

in terms of taxes... we DO pay tax....if you want to have a credit rating and get a mortage, car loan etc...you must have a declared income.  so, most sex workers do pay taxes and GST/HST as our business is classifed as a service....in terms of benefiting from the tax dollars we contribute, you are right...we do not enjoy the same protections as other citizens and i find that to be really unfair...we are expected to pay but enjoy only some(clean water for example)...not all of the benefits....

especially brothel operators who not only pay federal and provincial income taxes but also significant property tax within cities.....so it is a crazy situation of double speak and double standard which plagues our movement and which is confused ultimately by outsiders trying to impose their ideology/ morality on us...


Section 231(1.1) Everyone is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who communicates with any person – for the purpose of offering or providing sexual services for consideration – in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a school ground, playground or daycare centre.

The law doesn't prevent anyone from going to a school or park or church. It prevents certain activities there. As you say, life is not one long sex act.

Mr. Magoo

but the criminal code of canada says - no sex workers near schools, churchs, parks,etc....

Does the government differentiate between a sex worker doing sex work, and a sex worker shopping for groceries?

Same goes for parks. Sorry, but I have lived in places where I didn't want my kids to play because of the presence of used condoms and worse biohazardous material. But even without that particular concern, no one gets to just set up shop in a park.

To be fair, though, when the police eventually crack down on park sex, people freak out.  What are they freaking out about? 

susan davis susan davis's picture

but you are assuming the law will applied fairly and without bias...what if a known sex worker is in the park? and someone doesn't want them there even if they are not engaged in sex work? do you think it will matter if the worker is not working? or will the workers be asked to leave? i have no faith in the ability of the mainstream community to be fair when it comes to sex work and as such those kinds of regulations should not be included in particular since they mostly impact street entrenched sex workers the most marginalized group....in vancouver the sex workers outreach van hears the complaints made about "condoms and street disorder" and share the complaints with sex workers in the area. it's a communication strategy, not a police enforcement strategy ...which appeals to people on all sides for patience and understanding...including sex workers who maybe negatively impacting a community....we talk....we don't arrest and detain....

we do not need the federal criminal code to build understanding in communities, on all sides...we need grass roots engagement....talking not arresting.....

enforcement against condom mess is frivilous and vexacious in that in places police in an aggressor role against people they are supposed to protect....it makes sex workers fear police and not want to report violence when they experience it....we all know what the outcome of this approach is....in vancouver it is particularly poiniant as we are the home of the disaster in the case of the missing women...condom mess and street disorder are not worth jeopardizing people's lives especially when talking....can do the job just as well or better....

i know you feel this section of the law is not harmful but you are wrong and it has been proven via research and the supreme court of canada....these kinds of provisions were struck down as harmful in bedford v canada.....only to have the aboltionist conservatives replace it with something worse...as we are seeing bare out in paces where enforcement is high and based on the ind of ideas you are describing...sorry smith w...but it sounds a little "nimby"...workers on street are in a bad situation for the most part and have nowhere else to work...brothel closures, high barrier licensing , the inability to run and work via independent advertising...

i am trying to create an environment where no one is forced to work on the street or in parks via decrim and the creation of more safer indoor jobs....the closure and criminalzation of brothel keepers is a major barrier to addressing complaints on both sides...


Smith  W wrote

I wouldn't be able to set my retail business up next to a school either because of zoning. As for not having a brothel there either I think it is a good idea, and I expect most legitimate businesspeople would agree.

Devil's in the details. The zoning where I live in Brampton and in many residential municipalities in Ontario actually allow a small business to be operated from your home. 10-15% of your home can be used for this small business. Now I'm not exactly sure of all the restrictions/limitations, but it sounds like to me that someone in the trade that was on their own could legitamitely work out of their own home.

I'm still new to discussing this issue, but I'm going to throw this out there. I believe many humans have this awkward thing about sex, sexuality and sexism. These are all three different things, but for some reason the S E X letters together at the beginning of each word throws a lot of people off. The lack of proper education/information and the lack of respect towards people is something that needs to change.


@ Susan

That isn't what the law says, and I expect if any person was mistakenly arrested at a school for going to see their own child we would probably hear about it. If you have an example I am interested in seeing it.


How much street traffic you generate is another. More than eight customers a day here and you have to get a variance if you want to operate in a non-commercial area.

Nature of the business is another. You might think it is being awkward about sex. I don't think that is any more the case than people being awkward about metal recycling, long-term storage and radiator repair to expect both to be in industrial areas.

I know I have posted this old article before. You can read what the business owner thinks about having the police involved:


Kind of interesting, considering Saskatchewan doesn't even allow exotic dancing, and the province recently overruled a move by the liquor and gaming authority to even allow burlesque.


susan davis susan davis's picture

@smith w.....i see, you need proof of bias against sex workers...you need proof that police cannot be trusted to enforce in a way that is calm and reflects the protection of all people...you need proof that the municipal, provincial and federal government will treat sex workers unfairly....

i am not sure where to to begin smith w.....

why is it always, show me the proof....otherwise it isn't happening....as if sex workers report hate crimes or other exclusionist shitte....

how do you expect me to quantify these things....? seriously...you think there is some study? or a news article...? nada ...diddly...squat.....

and of course why would you believe me...that this could be possible? and what about me asking about the parks and why sex workers are always blamed...? and creating safe work spaces....?

no you are focused on what you perceive as an impact you experience...your issues...your not liking sex work...or rather condoms...in your neighbourhood?

no comment about what i haveproposed and what has worked in vancouver...only demands for proof....ughhhhh....

i know you support decrim...but how, where...? not in your backyard i guess...

there is no easy fix...no law that will change things...no pill for bias....so people...if they care ..must commit to the hard work....TALKING ...to each other...


Well as it says in the article one of the proprietors who is licensed in this city thinks police involvement is the best thing that has happened to her industry and that it makes things easier for her because she doesn't bear the responsibility for licensing and background checks.

Better than the lack of a legal framework is in our neighbouring city, anyway.

Not saying your way won't work, but it isn't the only way, and I don't see how the sex industry having federal and municipal regulations is an unfair expectation. All businesses have regulations. And businesses which involve high risk, security and potentially vulnerable populations have even bigger hoops to jump through. Contact with the police is normal; plenty of us have had to do it.

And if I question the claim that the current law prevents sex workers from setting foot in a school it is only because it actually isn't what the law says, and it is a pretty bold claim. So I don't think asking for an example is all that unreasonable.

susan davis susan davis's picture

fair enough, if operators like it than i guess that's ok... we agree on regulations smith w..... we just don't agree on what kind...the criminal code is not the way to bring OHS and labor rights to the sex industry...federal regulations under the umbrella of health....sure....muncipal licensing for businesses...of course...

i wonder how other industries would handle being regulated by the criminal code and police...?

like the food industry...

you can make food but you may not advertise it or promote it and if you do the person who sold you the advertising space will be arrested and face possible jail time..

you refrigerators must mantain temperature below 3.3 Celcius and when the police come to check them if they are not at or below this, you could be arrested and face jail time...

all employees must wash their hands before and after handling raw meat products and if found to not be in compliance, the employee and employer could both face arrest and possible jail time

i am trying to convey to you that even though one brothel operator says it makes her job easier, the police are not the right people to ask to enforce labour regulations or industry health standards...

to say that it is working is a cop out, regina has not done the hard work and engaged with sex workers to see what they feel would best support their safety and the current approach of forced licensing via being detained by police is like using a sledge hammer to break an egg....

do you uderstand what i mean? i am not saying that what we are doing in vancouver is perfect or that it would work for every community...but regina should not make the mistake of simply doing what non sex working police and bureaucrats think will work...when you exclude critical people from decisions on these issues, you inevitably will see cracks emerge and people will fall through them...


Again, other industries are regulated by the criminal code. Gaming, alcohol, firearms. Any position which requires reporting of abuse has criminal consequences if you do not, and if you try to work as a doctor, lawyer, or financial advisor (to name a few) without a license you will get arrested.

And I am not saying what you are doing in Vancouver is wrong (how could I?) but saying there should be no involvement of police, and nothing in the criminal code - especially for a profession that is open to to abuse - seems rather absolutist to me. And that doesn't mean I think we should just trust the cops or that the laws as they exist are just fine.

susan davis susan davis's picture

we will have to agree to disagree smith w..... being a doctor is not a criminal offence.... and sex workers are people...not a card game or a gun or a bottle of booze...this is a fundamental difference...and saying that the sex industry is rife with abuse so needs criminal code provisions is crazy....the criminal code is very much a reason for the abuse....so says the supreme court...not me...


Mr. Magoo

being a doctor is not a criminal offence

I think Smith's point was that being an unlicenced one is.

That said, I'm not sure other industries are "regulated" by the Criminal Code so much as they're bound by it the same as everyone.  To say that someone with no licence to practice dentistry offering root canals out of his basement is subject to criminal sanctions isn't quite the same as saying that the CC "regulates" dentists.


There was just a teacher charged for criminal negligence in your province.  The laws might not be applied as often or in the same way, but they are there.

Last time I had to give a warning that any abuse mentioned to me would have to be reported I was aware of the possible criminal consequences. So the criminal code does play a role in many of our jobs.

Really, the main way that prostitution is distinct is that it is still illegal to pay for it, and that seems to be something that is on its way out.

But sure, most of the nuts and bolts of regulation are municipal and provincial. At least here in Saskatoon they are by-law and zoning matters.

Mr. Magoo

There was just a teacher charged for criminal negligence in your province.  The laws might not be applied as often or in the same way, but they are there.

That's true.  But at the same time, the laws weren't specific to teachers -- if he'd been a Youth Group Pastor or a camp counsellor or whatever, I'd expect the same laws to apply.  By no means does his charge imply that "teachers" are regulated by the Criminal Code.

I certainly expect sex workers not to kill or steal or assault and I doubt anyone is pleading for an exemption on their behalf.  But other than things like that -- that apply to teachers and you and me and everybody else -- is there any way that the Criminal Code should "regulate" sex workers specifically?


I think we have already been talking about it. I have no problem with a law restricting it in proximity to a school. If it is illegal to drink a beer on the street it makes sense to not have prostitution in an area where people already have to look out for luring.

As for criminalizing paying for it, that is probably going to become unenforceable. But for the moment I wouldn't say it is an entirely useless law.

And I have already mentioned - several times -  other professions which have specific laws that apply to them.