Ottawa sex workers marking 'somber' Dec. 17 under new prostitution law
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As countries mark the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on Wednesday, sex workers in Ottawa will use the occasion to condemn the Conservative government’s newly revised prostitution laws that opponents say put women at risk.
Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate, Resist (POWER) will hold an open discussion in Lowertown to discuss Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which came into effect on Dec. 6.
The controversial legislation was introduced after the Supreme Court struck down three prostitution-related laws last year.
The new law target johns and pimps and makes the purchase of sex illegal. It also bans the advertising of sexual services and prohibits communication for the purpose of prostitution near playgrounds and schools.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the federal government designed these laws to make it easier for sex workers to exit the sex trade.
But, there has been mounting pressure to challenge them.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has asked the province’s attorney general to review the constitutionality of the new laws.
And on Wednesday, sex worker groups and the publisher of Toronto’s NOW magazine are to hold a press conference at Queen’s Park to ask police forces not to enforce the new legislation until it is tested in court for its constitutionality.
Opponents say sex workers are forced to rush the screening process with clients, who fear being arrested for buying sex.
Wednesday’s event – three days shy of the one-year anniversary of the landmark Dec. 20 ruling – will serve as another call to action from sex workers and their supporters.
POWER spokesperson Frederique Chabot said it will be a “somber” Dec. 17 because Bill C-36 continues to put sex workers at risk.
“We’re a year later with a set of laws that will have to be challenged again through the court because they’re not respecting the parameters that were set by the Bedford ruling. They’re putting vulnerable populations at risk, they’re not protecting anyone,” said Chabot.
“Really, it’s just ideological positioning as opposed to fact-based research-based legislation.”
Chabot said sex workers will gather at 216 Murray St. at noon where they will also hear findings from a local study on drug use, which included data from sex workers.