One of Canada's most important activists in the fight for sex worker rights is being named Sexual Health Champion of the year today.
Katrina Pacey represented the sex workers who fought Canada's anti-prostitution laws, which resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada striking down those laws in December 2013. Options for Sexual Health, a non profit group, is recognizing Pacey for her work on February 12, Sexual and Reproductive Health Day.
"I feel so happy about the progress we've made. I feel so excited about the government and what they might do now at the federal level," said Pacey, executive director of the Pivot Legal Society, based in Vancouver.
"We're going to be pushing very, very hard to reach the goals we've been fighting for in the last decade."
Pacey, a lawyer and self-described activist at heart, says she plans to continue pushing for other social justice issues too, including fighting federal drug laws, making safe housing affordable for everyone and keeping the police accountable.
How the fight began
The fight began in 2002 when Katrina and other advocates took 100 statements from sex workers to Parliament. Those statements revealed how Canada's laws were depriving sex workers of safety measures that would make their lives and work safer.
Pacey says collecting those statements convinced her the existing laws were hurting one of Canada's most vulnerable populations.
But she was not always passionate or even aware about the dangers sex workers face everyday.
She used to accept, what she calls, society's portrayal of the issue — "that prostitution was wrong, that it should be criminalized, that it's something we should try to eradicate."
"It really wasn't until I sat down with sex workers for many years and listened to their lives and their stories and how the laws affected them that I realized the laws and policy changes that needed to happen."
Pacey says sex workers need access to affordable housing, police protection, health services and employment opportunities.
"If a sex worker wants to transition, that's what she needs. She doesn't need the police chasing around her clients, herself or anyone else."