Trudeau government accused of jeopardizing sex workers’ safety by refusing to amend Conservative legislation

Sex workers made their voices heard at the recent Red Umbrella march in Vancouver, which is held every year to promote safer working conditions in their industry.
Sex workers made their voices heard at the recent Red Umbrella march in Vancouver, which is held every year to promote safer working conditions in their industry.CHARLIE SMITH

At the seventh annual Red Umbrella march last month, Vancouver sex workers expressed exasperation over the federal Liberal government’s failure to take their safety concerns seriously.

This point was reinforced by several of their allies, who wanted to shine a spotlight on the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

The law was passed by the former Conservative government nearly five years ago—on December 6, 2014.

Under section 286.2, anyone who receives a financial or material benefit through the sale of sexual services—apart from sex workers themselves—is liable to hefty prison sentences.

Section 286.4 outlaws the advertisement of sexual services.

The law also makes it illegal for anyone to buy sexual services.

According to Andrew Sorfleet, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C., Parliament has infringed on sex workers’ constitutional right to freedom of association.

And he’s upset that the Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has never amended this legislation in its nearly four years in power.

Andrew Sorfleet cannot charge dues for sex workers to belong to the Triple-X Solidarity Association of B.C. because of a law passed by the former Conservative government.
Andrew Sorfleet cannot charge dues for sex workers to belong to the Triple-X Solidarity Association of B.C. because of a law passed by the former Conservative government.
CHARLIE SMITH

“We are not allowed to collect money from sex workers and we are not allowed to collect money in order to promote their business in any way,” Sorfleet told the Straight at the event. “That’s what a professional association or union would be doing. We would be breaking the law.”

Sorfleet revealed that the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C. has created a certification mark, which could be made available to members to indicate that they are part of the group.

“In order to do that, we have to collect dues,” he said. “All of those things are against the law. I cannot recruit members right now without putting them in legal jeopardy. That’s a problem for me.”

To reinforce his frustration, Sorfleet declared that he has “no hope in these Liberals”.

The federal NDP did not mention sex workers’ safety in its long list of promises that was released last month.

But the NDP candidate in North Burnaby–Seymour, Svend Robinson, has suggested that something can be done in this regard.

He told the Straight at the rally that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act allows for a review by the Commons justice committee.

“We are not allowed to collect money from sex workers and we are not allowed to collect money in order to promote their business in any way,” Sorfleet told the Straight at the event. “That’s what a professional association or union would be doing. We would be breaking the law.”

Sorfleet revealed that the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C. has created a certification mark, which could be made available to members to indicate that they are part of the group.

“In order to do that, we have to collect dues,” he said. “All of those things are against the law. I cannot recruit members right now without putting them in legal jeopardy. That’s a problem for me.”

To reinforce his frustration, Sorfleet declared that he has “no hope in these Liberals”. MORE

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