Sudbury

Sudbury sex worker groups worry over pending legislation

A group promoting harm reduction for sex workers in Sudbury is worried that its operations could be affected by the government's new prostitution bill.
Since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's prostitution laws, the federal government is relying on Bill C-36 to replace them. But the Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury is worried that the bill could push the industry further underground. (Dan Riedlhuber/Reuters)

A group promoting harm reduction for sex workers in Sudbury is worried that its operations could be affected by the government's new prostitution bill.

One of the founding members of the Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS) said the proposed legislation could spell problems for how it reaches out to sex workers.

“There goes the connections that we've made with these people,” said Sati Raitis.

They would have nowhere to run to, no one to turn to.- Sati Raitis, Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury 

“There goes the funding and the tools and the educational materials that we hand out to them to keep them safe and let them know that we're here for them. Our future is in limbo.”

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's prostitution laws last December.

The federal government has until the end of the year to bring in new legislation. It’s hoping Bill C-36 will be approved.

Raitis said she worries the bill could push the industry further underground.

"[Sex workers] would have nowhere to run to, no one to turn to."

Bill C-36 would also criminalize Johns.

SWANS advisor and facilitator Tracy Gregory said that would limit the amount of time a sex worker has to screen her clients.

"She has to be able to assess that person and make sure that there's not two other people hiding in the back seat,” she said.

The co-founder of Project Peace in Sudbury, Christine Schmidt, said she thinks the conversation about sex work needs to change.

“What does sex work look like as a future in Canadian society? Is this something that we want normalized?"

The federal government has until the end of the year to listen to those conversations before bringing in the new prostitution legislation.       

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