Sex workers further victimized by deportations, groups say
Ottawa police raided massage parlours in late April leading to 11 deportations
Sex workers who work in Canada illegally are more vulnerable to violence and won't come forward as witnesses if they fear deportation, say groups who push for sex workers' rights.
On Friday, Ottawa police announced 11 women would be deported after a human trafficking investigation into commercial massage parlours and body rub facilities. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is also involved in the investigation.
Officers visited 20 locations in late April and some received bylaw charges for improper licensing. No criminal charges were laid.
Police said 11 women were detained and later received removal orders for working without a valid permit. It is not known when the women will be deported.
Police have not confirmed whether the women facing deportation were sex workers, but sex workers' rights groups sent out a news release on Monday denouncing deportations as a proper response.
They believe migrant sex workers won't come forward to report crime if police raid massage parlours and body rub facilities.
"People swept up in human trafficking investigations should be offered permanent residency and immediate immunity from deportation," said Jean McDonald, who works with Maggie's — the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project.
Bill C-36 blamed for police response
The groups said migrant sex workers are targets of robbery and assault who are often afraid to report those crimes in fear of immigration issues.
Police raids make the situation worse, they added.
- Bill C-36: Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
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"It makes people hide further underground, makes them more vulnerable to violence and endangers their safety," according to Etienne Lam, who works for the Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network.
Police said more investigations have begun after the raids, which could lead to criminal charges. The sex workers rights groups also said it could lead to more deportations.
This move comes after Bill C-36, the Protection of Community and Exploited Persons Act, was assented in November.
Sex workers rights groups were very critical of this new bill, which came about after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's old prostitution laws. This bill is expected to face more legal scrutiny in the years to come.
The groups said these raids show how the new laws threaten "detention and deportation."