Bill C-36 brings out Vancouver protesters who oppose Conservative crackdown on sale of sex
Dozens of sex workers and their allies marched today from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the Downtown Eastside to protest the Conservative government's new prostitution legislation.
Chanting "start with rights, end with freedom", they wanted to send a message that if Bill C-36 becomes law, it will jeopardize the lives of sex workers.
That's because it will become far more difficult for them to work indoors and potentially push them into dangerous locations, where they'll be more vulnerable to predators.
A 2010 Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down three of Canada's prostitution laws. The ruling by Justice Susan Himel pointed out that indoor sex work is far safer than working outdoors.
Despite this decision, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Minister Peter MacKay has introduced legislation that makes it more difficult for prostitutes to negotiate the sale of sex in private.
That's because the legislation criminalizes customers who pay for sex and bans sex workers from advertising in newspapers or online.
It also prohibits them from discussing the sale of sex anywhere someone under the age of 18 might be present.
People convicted under the new law, if it passes, could be jailed for up to five years.
In addition, Bill C-36 would make it impossible for sex workers to hire security staff because it bans anyone from benefiting from the sale sexual services.
The legislation has been praised by Don Hutchinson, former vice president of general counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, for explicitly criminalizing the purchase of sexual services and for offering support through a $20-million government fund to assist those who wish to exit the sex trade.
Pivot Legal Society lawyer Katrina Pacey, on the other hand, told CBC News that Bill C-36 amounts to "full criminalization of prostitution".
"The minister has found various ways to limit all of the safe ways for sex-trade work," said Pacey, who was part of a legal team arguing against the three laws before the Supreme Court of Canada.
She participated in today's demonstration against Bill C-36.
Many of the marchers held red umbrellas, which is the international symbol for sex workers' rights.