Crackdown on sex advertising harming workers in Sask. and beyond, says study

A study on sex work in Canada shows that the crackdown on advertising sex work in both Canada and the U.S. is making the work less safe, with data gathered in Saskatchewan as well.

Researchers gathered data on prairie provinces, a website primarily used to sell sex, was shut down in April. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

A study on sex work in Canada shows that the crackdown on advertising sex work in both Canada and the U.S. is making the work less safe. 

The study also gathered information about Saskatchewan, a place that is often left out of these kinds of studies. 

Chris Atchison,​ research associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria, said that what he found in Saskatchewan was particularly interesting.

"We see these things that are meant to curb the suspected trafficking, but actually what they're doing is they're impacting people who are not involved in trafficking in any way, shape, or form and that's making life dangerous," Atchison said. 

"It's forcing many to go back to selling sex on the streets which we already know is the most dangerous environment for anybody to be existing in."

A woman (requested to withhold her name) holds a sign during a rally at Allan Gardens park to support Toronto sex workers and their rights in Toronto, Friday December 20, 2013. Canada's Supreme Court struck down on prostitution laws in a unanimous 9-0 ruling on Friday, giving Parliament a year to produce new legislation. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)

The study found that the criminalization of advertising sex work has had a negative effect on sex workers. The changes came about in 2014, when the government introduced its prostitution law, Bill C-36. 

The advertising portion of the bill says that "knowingly advertising an offer to provide sexual services for consideration" is illegal, but those selling "their own sexual services are protected from criminal liability."

He said the inability to communicate via advertising is making it much more difficult for sex workers and clients to define things like boundaries and price. 

"It's pushed things into a more unclear and contested background."

It is Atchison's hope that his research will be used to inform policy changes going forward. He noted U.S. laws around advertising also affects sex workers in Canada, which he feels something that policy makers should be aware of.

"We would like for the government to take this data and the wonderful data that's being collected by other researchers across Canada and use it to revisit our laws and to also position ourselves so that we're a little more shielded from the negative impacts of laws of the United States."

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition