Ever since Bill C-36 was signed into law in November, health, legal, community, and sex-work experts have voiced strong opposition, saying research shows that the criminalization of sex work hinders access to security and protection and increases the risks to the human rights and health of sex workers. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada heard from a coalition consisting of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, which shared evidence to support this view.
“C-36 will not only fail to protect sex workers but goes many steps further towards exacerbating the negative effects of criminalization on sex workers’ health, safety, and human rights,” Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative at BC-CfE and associate professor of medicine at UBC, tells the Georgia Straight. “Vancouver’s recent enforcement-policy approach targeting clients but not sex workers has already provided a clear cautionary tale of the continued harms of a policy approach criminalizing the purchase of sex on sex workers’ safety and health. As shown in our evaluation of this approach, rates of physical violence and rape of sex workers went unchanged following this policy.”