The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform has taken to the Ontario Superior Court to fight for the decriminalization of sex purchase.
Under the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), selling sex is legal, but buying is not.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the prohibition on prostitution in 2013 after lawyers argued existing provisions were disproportionate, overbroad and put sex workers at risk of harm.
As a result, the groups say clients are more hesitant to provide details about themselves, making screening difficult and forcing sex workers to operate in unsafe and isolating work environments.
Lawyers representing the alliance argued the new laws are more restrictive than what they replaced and continue to criminalize sex work.
Jenn Clamen with the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform said it is not the work itself that is risky, but the laws criminalizing clients and third parties that put sex workers at risk, particularly Black, Indigenous, migrant and trans sex workers.
“Criminalization is the main cause of harm,” Clamen said at a rally outside the courthouse on University Avenue. “The PCEPA sends a strong message to society that sex workers are undesirable and must be eliminated.”
“We’re in court today because parliament failed to protect workers’ rights, government inaction and indifference,” Clamen said.
Michael Rosenberg added that the laws making it illegal to advertise or communicate about buying or selling sexual services are “unacceptably dangerous,” in part because they prevent health and safety checks, or meaningful conversations about consent, from happening.