News / Vancouver

Vancouver group ready to challenge new prostitution law in court

Pivot Legal Society says it will seek to constitutionally challenge the federal government’s new legislation on Canada’s sex trade.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay tabled the “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon.

The act criminalizes purchasing sex, communicating for the purpose of selling sex, living off the avails of prostitution and the advertising of sexual services. Sex-trade workers who look to sell services in the vicinity of children also face being arrested.

“An unbelievable step backwards, absolute tragic day for sex workers across Canada,” said Kerry Porth, Pivot chair and a former sex trade worker.

The issue of selling sexual services around children remains especially murky as it becomes hard to determine where kids can be reasonably be expected, Porth says. If a sex-trade worker had children, then they would not be able to operate out of their home, forcing them in to more secluded areas.

“Sex workers will experience violence, exploitation and will die,” Porth continued. “More sex workers will die in the three to five years it takes to bring this to the Supreme Court.”

Pivot joined the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative and Sex Workers United Against Violence to present research on Tuesday, which showed criminalizing the client but not sex-trade workers has a negligible effect on sex workers’ safety.

Dr. Kate Shannon, who helped conduct the research, echoed Porth’s comments.

“This on the heels of our evidence yesterday definitely seems like a slam to evidence as well as human rights,” she said.

By criminalizing clients, Shannon says sex-trade workers will go to greater lengths to conceal their clients and go away from high traffic areas.

The federal government defended its move in a press conference.

“We are going after the individuals who are exploiting [sex trade workers] and forcing them to be reliant on this trade,” said MacKay.

The Vancouver Rape Relief Shelter was tepid in their praise of the legislation and remains worried not enough will be done to protect women.

“We’re very cautious. We do think it is useful to have a law that explicitly prohibits purchasing of sex,” said Hilla Kerner, a spokesperson for the shelter.

Kerner said she was concerned not enough men would face charges for trying to purchase sexual services, with only a few being made an example of.

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