PCEPA continues the harms of criminalization, does not increase safety for sex workers

March 11, 2019   |   Blog

A recent feature in The Star investigated the impacts of criminalization of the sex industry in Canada, and featured new research from the CGSHE.  The study demonstrates that sex workers across different types of work environments are not seeing an improvement in their safety after the enactment of the PCEPA, and in fact many are experiencing harms related to the new laws. 

This new research, led by Sylvia Machat and Dr. Shira Goldenberg, is part of the assessment of the impacts of PCEPA being conducted within the ongoing AESHA (An Evaluation of Sex Workers Health Access) Project, the CGSHE cohort study with Metro Vancouver sex workers. Among sex workers who were working in the area before and since the passing of the PCEPA, over 25% reported experiencing a worsening of their work conditions after the new laws came into place.  Other sex workers reported that there had been no change, including no improvements in safety.

In 2014, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) was enacted by the Canadian government.  These new laws had been drafted in response to the Supreme Court of Canada finding that the previous laws pertaining to sex work were unconstitutional and infringed on the human rights of sex workers, documented in the landmark Bedford v. Canada decision. 

Based on their findings, researchers recommend an evidence-based approach to the legal framework for sex workers.  Prioritizing occupational health and safety rather than criminalization of sex workers and clients would support improved outcomes for people who do sex work and their communities.