PRESS RELEASE: SWWAC calls for immediate halt to Manitoba’s Hospitality Sector Customer Registry Act

May 13, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SWWAC calls for immediate halt to Manitoba’s Hospitality Sector Customer Registry Act

The Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC) is deeply against the impending Hospitality Sector Customer Registry Act. While we agree that human trafficking is abhorrent, we absolutely can’t condone this bill, as it will directly harm sex workers operating in the province.

The bill would require Manitoba’s hotels, temporary accommodations (Airbnb, etc), taxi cabs, and ride share services (such as Uber) to maintain a register of guests for at least 12 months, an incredible amount of identifying customer data to be filed in a likely-insecure manner by individuals and corporations. Police would require these hospitality providers to allow them access to the records without a warrant. Warrant processes in the province are already incredibly straightforward, which begs the question as to why police need this increased access, and without the paper trail of obtaining a warrant.

Sex workers use rentals as safer spaces to see clients, and policing these areas further will not add any safety. In fact, we would argue that it decreases safety for sex workers by severely limiting safe places that sex workers conduct their work.

“As a sex worker who relies on hotels and safe apartments to work out of, I find this extremely scary. This will without a doubt force workers onto the streets or work from their personal homes- thereby opening up chances of stalking and harassment. This is dressed up as an anti-trafficking effort when in reality, is a complete overreach of police powers and an attack on consensual sex workers.” – Emma

Again, we remind the public that the Winnipeg Police Service’s counter exploitation unit does not recognize sex work as work, and instead lumps in sex work as human trafficking. This empowers police to conduct invasive and violent raids against sex workers in the name of protecting them – though the reality is the exact opposite and exposes sex workers to harm, criminalization, and mental anguish.

“They just want us to have nowhere to feel safe and nowhere to work, until we stop working in sex work.” – Amy, a sex worker

SWWAC MUST be heard in the development (and ideally death) of this bill. It will absolutely affect lives and livelihoods, and is a gross abuse of power by the province and police. We encourage our government and society at large to fight human trafficking, not sex workers. This bill will absolutely harm sex workers.