PRESS RELEASE: SWWAC Members Participate in House of Commons Review of PCEPA – February 8, 2022


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SWWAC Members Participate in House of Commons Review of PCEPA

Members of the Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition, along with other members of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, are participating this week in the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The consultation is a long-overdue review of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which came into effect in 2014.

PCEPA’s stated goals are to protect exploited persons and end demand for sex work in Canada. These two notions are completely incongruent, which is supported by both research and sex workers’ direct experiences. Prohibiting (or, “ending demand for”) sex work creates opportunities for harm, reduces access to supports, and reinforces stigma around the profession. That is not protection.

I came to understand PCEPA as laws that regulate my work and my colleagues’ day-to-day lives in a way that does not protect us, but rather, seeks to strip away our livelihood and create barriers to working safely. Organizing safety checks, working together, and negotiating my boundaries and expectations with clients is all currently criminalized under PCEPA, and yet these are the very things that have allowed me to stay safe. -Anonymous Sex Worker in Winnipeg

PCEPA reproduces the same Charter violations of Canada’s previous sex work laws. Sex workers are targeted through PCEPA by criminalizing their clients, ability to advertise, and ways in which they can communicate. The laws subject sex workers and their clients to increased surveillance by law enforcement, as we see here in Winnipeg, through the Winnipeg Police Service’s sting operations on both sex workers and clients. This criminalization and police surveillance forces sex workers into rushed negotiations with clients, forcing them to work in isolation and prevents them from establishing appropriate consent.

Concerns around this review are based on SWWAC’s experience with the review of 2014’s Bill C-36 (now PCEPA). In that review, sex worker voices were deprioritized in favour of voices concerned with abolishing sex work. This can’t happen again! We want to emphasize how integral it is that the Justice and Human Rights committee not make the same mistakes. They must center the voices of those who experience the impacts of PCEPA on a daily basis and hear the abundance of research that shows that this “end demand” model of criminalization creates harm and empowers exploitation, while claiming to protect communities.

My research shows that in recent history in Winnipeg, there has been hostility and disregard of sex workers’ perspectives by falsely opposing sex workers’ rights to the necessary protection of victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking… Erasure and silencing of sex workers does not help them. It is possible to support sex workers and to fight against trafficking and exploitation. -Dr. Claudyne Chevrier (SWWAC member)

SWWAC was founded in 2014 as a response to the Bill C-36 and PCEPA in Canada. We emphasize that prohibition of sex work increases violence, isolation, and other harms. We are dedicated to working with the Government of Canada to fight exploitation, not sex workers.