The National Partnership on Gender, Work, and Health in the Sex Industry: Evaluating the Impact of PCEPA on Sex Workers’ Health, Safety, and Human Rights aims to evaluate the impact of new criminalization laws on the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers across five cities in Canada. Funded by SSHRC/CIHR in a Phase I grant for July 2016 to June 2018, the project will develop a national community-academic partnership and conduct community-based research with sex work partners to inform gender-responsive solutions that will improve working conditions and occupational health and safety for sex workers in Canada.
In blatant disregard of the science, and the landmark and unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013, the former Conservative government passed legislation in late 2014 (the Protection of Community and Exploited Persons Act, or C-36) that criminalized the buying of sex and a number of other aspects of sex work such as third-party advertising while leaving the selling of sex legal. This type of “end demand” legal regime has been increasingly adopted in EU countries and elsewhere in spite of limited research on the impact of such approaches on sex workers’ working conditions, health, and safety (see GSHI academic open letter).
Building on GSHI’s long-term work with the AESHA Project, which is currently evaluating PCEPA in Metro Vancouver, this new national partnership will aim to evaluate the impact of the laws across five diverse settings (urban and rural) to offer some of the first comparative research of how the laws impact sex workers’ labour rights and occupational health and safety. Research sites include Sudbury, Ottawa, and Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; and Surrey, BC.
Facilitated and housed by GSHI and the University of British Columbia (PIs: Drs. Kate Shannon & Chris Bruckert), the national partnership includes team members from the University of Ottawa, Stella, Maggie’s, POWER, Butterfly, SWUAV, SWAN, PACE, Hustle, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and a number of other university collaborators. Anna-Louise Crago is the Research Coordinator and Kerry Porth is the Administrative Coordinator.
The majority of the research team members straddle academic and sex work experience. To ensure the inclusion of diverse and marginalized voices, four advisory groups of migrant, Indigenous, Black, and trans sex workers have been set up to provide guidance to the research team, co-chaired by Robyn Mayard and Anna Aude Caouette. Over the first few months of 2017, the research team is convening input and guidance from sex work organizational partners and advisory groups to set the inquiry priorities and questions to consider over the coming year.
The Gender and Sexual Health Initiative (GSHI) is independent from government and immigration authorities, law enforcement, and religious organizations. GSHI is committed to research that promotes gender and sexual equity and includes access to safe, non-judgmental health care free of stigma and discrimination. GSHI supports the evidence-based policy including full decriminalization of sex work. In 2013, GSHI legally intervened in the Bedford case at the Supreme Court of Canada, and organized an Academic Open Letter signed over 500 scientists strongly opposing Bill C-36.