My Submission to the Canadian Government for their online consultation on prostitution laws

I have just submitted the following responses to the Canadian government’s consultation questions, and I thought I would share them here for the record. This is an important moment in Canada, and a scary one. On December 20, 2013, I was happy to see the Supreme Court of Canada “strike down Canada’s remaining prostitution laws, finding that bans on street soliciting, brothels and people living off the avails of prostitution create severe dangers for vulnerable women.” (Wikipedia)

Now, the federal government is determined to put something in place of those laws. The deadline for taking part in the consultation is Monday, March 17. Unfortunately, I have left my own response until very late in the day, but if any of you would like to share your thoughts as well, click here.

1.Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

No. I do not think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence. My sister was a sex worker. She was murdered by Robert Pickton in 1998, and she wrote about how unhappy she was selling sex. Even so, after all the research I did, writing a book about her and about my journey (Missing Sarah: a Memoir of Loss), I came away feeling strongly that criminalizing any part of the exchange of money for sexual services between consenting adults would not be the right step to take.

First, I believe that doing so interferes with our rights as Canadian citizens. Second, criminalizing the purchasing of sex creates danger as it causes sex workers to take risks. For example, they must negotiate with clients in places where they will not be seen by police.

 2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

No. I do not think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence. Adults should be free to sell sexual services for the same reasons that adults should be free to buy them. Criminalizing the exchange of sexual services creates danger, invites organized crime into the arena, and inhibits sex workers’ ability to support themselves, to access the services that are readily available to the rest of us and to participate meaningfully in society.

3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.

No criminal laws should target sex workers or their clients specifically. The laws that are already in place prohibiting violence, coercion etc, should be used to protect sex workers just as they are used to protect the rest of us. Sex workers themselves should be consulted on the development of any non-criminal laws with regard to labour conditions and municipal regulations.

4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

No. I do not think it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult. Sex workers should be free to use the money they earn as they please just as the rest of us are, including to rent space, to hire people in various capacities. Such a law places sex workers in danger as it prohibits others from taking money from them to help them and prohibits them from grouping together to support one another. Such a law also invites organized crime into this arena, as criminals become the only group of people sex workers can hire for protection or for other purposes.

5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?

I fully support the Bedford decision, and I would like to see the Government doing so as well. I would like to see Canada fully decriminalize sex work, and work with sex workers to come up with a set of best practices for moving forward. I believe that New Zealand provides a model worth examining closely. My sister disappeared in 1998. Since that time, I have spent a great deal of time studying this issue. I was happy to see the Supreme Court of Canada strike down the three provisions, and I believe that Canadians are shifting their views, and they are ready for change. I hope that the Government does not undo the good that has been done.

6. Are you writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:

I am not writing on behalf of an organization. I am the sister of a sex worker who was murdered. In April 2005, I addressed the Federal Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws in Parliament, and gave each member of the committee a copy of my book about my sister. I feel that these changes in law have been a long time coming. The research has been done. Let’s move forward and make Canada a safer place for sex workers, so that predators like Robert Pickton no longer find it so easy to hurt and kill our citizens.

Yippee!! My Book Arrived!

Yesterday, I arrived home to find a box leaning up against the door. Inside? Ten copies of my new teen novel, Rabbit Ears.

IMG_0730This book has been a long journey for me, and I’m so happy to hold it in my hands. Two weeks ago, I made a short video for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to post for World Read Aloud Day. Here it is. I’ll write more about the journey in another post.