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Sex Workers Demands Full Decriminalization of their Work

Criminalization Sex Work Sign

Sex workers cannot be ignored anymore. In unceded territories that we call Canada, like elsewhere around the world, they continue to be targeted by harmful policies that criminalize sex work and sex workers, under the guise of saving them from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Far from reaching their goals of eradicating the sex industry, these policies instead marginalize and isolate sex workers from social and legal services, and increase their vulnerability to violence. In response to this repression, sex workers organize to demand better working conditions and equally, worker status with the rights and social protections that comes with that. We argue that it isn’t the nature of the work itself (the exchange of sexual services for money) that exposes sex workers to violence, but rather the repressive laws that govern it. 

The implementation of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) in 2014 made sex work illegal for the first time in Canada. The PCEPA prohibits communicating for the sale of sex in a public space; prohibits advertising the sexual services of another person; prohibits profiting materially from sex work; and criminalizes the purchase of sexual services in any and all contexts. This legislative regime, advocated by many anti-prostitution feminist groups, claims to eliminate demand by criminalizing clients and third parties in order to abolish the sex industry. In fact, since its passage, this law has made sex workers more precarious and vulnerable to violence. By representing sex workers as victims, these laws normalize rather than combat violence against them.

Indeed, these laws create unsafe and exploitative work environments and maintain substandard working conditions. These conditions are the source of sex workers’ daily worries, ranging from difficulties in getting paid to the impossibility of denouncing violence by clients, employers and law enforcement through legal procedures. For those who work independently, criminalization remains an issue, as clients are less likely to provide important security information such as their real identity. This makes it difficult for sex workers to create and maintain important safety mechanism at work, and has led to the murder of several sex workers. For those who work on the street, the prohibition on communicating for the sale of sexual services in public spaces (near parks, schools and daycares) means that they end up working in secluded, poorly lit areas – out of reach of being witnessed – putting them at greater risk of violence. Immigration laws in addition to criminal provisions around sex work encourage more surveillance of migrant sex workers in the industry, and as a result, they may face loss of status, detention, and deportation if their work is discovered – even if they work in legal sectors of the industry such as licensed massage parlors and strip clubs. 

 Decriminalization was implemented in New Zealand 20 years ago, and as a result, sex workers are able to put safety mechanisms into place for their work and seek recourse when they experience violence on the job. This government has just started to initiate its mandated task of studying the impacts of PCEPA, even though it should’ve been done five years after its implementation. Time is running out, as sex workers continue to suffer the impacts of criminalization!

We need to repeal the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act and decriminalization of sex work now! 

Protest Militantes
Sign the open letter here!

This letter was signed by 77 individuals and 56 organizations, all over the unceded indigenous territories that we call Canada, in different sectors: unions, academic, arts, harm reduction, STI prevention, women, migrant, indigenous and trans rights.


  1. Tables des organismes montréalais de lutte contre le sida (TOMS)
  2. Stella, l’amie de Maimie
  3. Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC)
  4. Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC)
  5. Answer Society
  6. HIV Legal Network
  7. Peers Victoria Resources Society
  8. Projet LUNE
  9. Solidarité Sans Frontière 
  10. Après l’Asphalte
  11. Tout.e ou pantoute podcast
  12. Closet space Winnipeg
  13. Defund the police
  14. Plein Milieu
  15. Centre Associatif Polyvalent d’Aide hépatite C (CAPAHC)
  16. Chapitre Montréalais des Socialiste Démocratiques du Canada 
  17. Projet Intervention Prostitution Québec (PIPQ)
  18. Fondation Filles d’Action
  19. AlterHéros
  20. 2fxflematin
  21. Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs en intervention communautaire (STTIC-CSN)
  22. Aide aux trans du Québec (ATQ)
  23. No Borders Media
  24. Queer McGill
  25. Midnight Kitchen
  26. Collectif Un Salaire Pour Toustes les Stagiaires (SPTS)
  27. Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière (COBP)
  28. REZO -santé et mieux-être des hommes gais et bisexuels, cis et trans
  29. BRUE
  30. PIAMP
  31. Pivot Legal Society
  32. Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal (RAPSIM)
  33. Sphère – Santé sexuelle globale
  34. Dopamine
  35. AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM)
  36. Defund Network 604
  37. Projet de Travailleurs de Soutien aux Autochtones (PTSA)/Indigenous Support Workers Project (ISWP)
  38. Indigenous Sex Work and Art Collective (ISWAC) 
  39. Game Workers Unite Montréal
  40. Rue Action prévention (RAP Jeunesse)
  41. Sex Worker Aotearoa Network
  42. Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
  43. PIECE Edmonton
  44. Moms stop the harm
  45. Collectif NU.E.S
  46. Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity
  47. AGIR: Action LGBTQ+ avec les immigrant.es et les réfugié.es
  48. Comité d’intervention infirmière anti-oppressive (UdeS)
  49.  Les 3 sex*
  50. Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Condordia
  51. Association des travailleuses et travailleurs de rue du Québec (ATTRueQ)
  52. Sex Workers Industrial Movement (SWIM)
  53. Collages féminicides Montréal
  54. IRIS Estrie
  55. HIV Community Link Society
  56. Syndicat Associatif des Travailleu.ses.rs Autonomes du Québec (S’ATTAQ)


  1. Maria Nengeh Mensah – Professor
  2. Dr Gary Kinsman
  3. Kamala Kempadoo – Professor
  4. Dr Mary Sherman – Co-coordinator of the Indigenous Support Worker Project
  5. Mollie Bannerman – Director of Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative
  6. Louise Toupin – Ally
  7. Marlihan Lopez – Coordinator of  Simone de Beauvoir Institute et vice-president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ)
  8. Ted Rutland – Professor et writer
  9. Kiki Lafond – Coordinator of the sex work programm at RÉZO
  10. Robert Paris – Director of Pact de Rue
  11. Audrey Monette – Criminologist
  12. Mary-Anne Poutanen
  13. Christine Wingate – Director of Moms Stop The Harm
  14. Petra Schulz – Cofounder of Moms Stop The Harm
  15. Fadwa Bahman – Communications coordinator for Queer McGill
  16. Dr. Jess Rowan Marcotte – Community organizer and artist
  17. Émilie Roberge – Community organizer on overdose prevention at TOMS and student in social work
  18. Laura Augustin –  Researcher
  19. Pam Plourde – Sexologie doctoral candidate
  20. Alexandre Lamontagne – Student in social work
  21. Chacha Enriquez- College professor
  22. Marie LaRochelle – NPO consultant and podcaster
  23. Laurence Bouchard – Special educator
  24. Seeley Quest – Activist
  25. Ana Vujosevic – Coordinator of the Women and HIV/AIDS Initiative (WHAI) Coordinator at Moyo Health and Community Services
  26. Jean-Philippe Bergeron – Outreach worker at Dopamine
  27. Dr. Nathan Dawthorne – Anthropologist, male sex work researcher, mental health advocate
  28. Angela Carter – Outreach worker
  29. Donny Basilisk – Sex woker
  30. Zakiyyah Boucaud – Student and sex worker
  31. Dawn-Marie – Community helper
  32. Megane Christensen – Outreach worker
  33. Amélie Ouimet – Sexologist
  34. Anaïs Gerentes – Candidate à la maîtrise en travail social
  35. Tonye Aganaba – Musician and community worker
  36. Britany Thiessen – Union officer
  37. Rosalie Vaillancourt – Comedian
  38. Mallory Lowe – Visual Artist
  39. Léo Mary- Communication coordinator at TOMS
  40. Anne Archet- Writer
  41. Sandrine Blais – Counselor
  42. Josée Leclerc – Counselor
  43. Melina May – Sex worker and activist at SWAC
  44. Adore Goldman – Sex worker and activist at SWAC
  45. Samantha Knoxx – Sex worker
  46. Pandora Black – Sex worker and activist
  47. Kristen Wiltshire – Activist
  48. Jelena Vermilion
  49. Francis Sheridan Paré
  50. Maxime Holliday
  51. Sam Funari
  52. Magdalene Klassen
  53. Jesse Dekel
  54. Lana Amator
  55. Rida Hamdani
  56. Gaëlle Anctil-Richer
  57. Ellie Ade Kur
  58. Valérie Comeau
  59. Mason Windels
  60. Lysandre M.G.
  61. Éliane Bonin
  62. Nadia Duguay
  63. Moriah Scott
  64. Virginia Potkins
  65. Chanelle Deville
  66. Sophie Hallée
  67. Ivy Sinclair
  68. Catherine Desjardins-Béland
  69. Jonathan McPhedran Waitzer
  70. Rev David Driedger
  71. Roxane Barnabé
  72. Raphaëlle Auger
  73. Mallory Bateman
  74. Juliette Pottier-Plaziat
  75. Charlie Fraser
  76. Geneviève Smith-Courtois
  77. Heather Day