Trudeau government's inaction called out on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

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      For many years, Vancouver was ground zero when it came to violence being inflicted on sex workers.

      Predators such as Robert Pickton found it relatively easy to hunt for victims, thanks to Canada's prostitution laws.

      As sex-workers advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton has often pointed out, these villains benefited from a government-obtained court injunction in the 1980s.

      It cleared street solicitation from the heavily populated West End, forcing sex workers south of Seymour Street, where they were more vulnerable.

      But in 2013, sex workers were thrilled by a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling written by recently retired chief justice Beverley McLachlin.

      In the Bedford case, the chief justice struck down three laws: communicating in public for purposes of prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution, and operating a common bawdy house.

      That's because they infringed on sex workers' charter rights to security of the person.

      In her ruling, McLachlin noted that the prohibition on bawdy houses prevented the creation of safe spaces for vulnerable street-based sex workers to ply their trade.

      Hamilton had created one of those safe spaces, Grandma's House, which was acknowledged in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

      "In Vancouver, for example, 'Grandma’s House' was established to support street workers in the Downtown Eastside, at about the same time as fears were growing that a serial killer was prowling the streets—fears which materialized in the notorious Robert Pickton," McLachlin wrote. " Street prostitutes—who the application judge found are largely the most vulnerable class of prostitutes, and who face an alarming amount of violence...were able to bring clients to Grandma’s House."

      However, Grandma's House was shut down after charges were laid.

      "For some prostitutes, particularly those who are destitute, safe houses such as Grandma’s House may be critical," McLachlin stated. "For these people, the ability to work in brothels or hire security, even if those activities were lawful, may be illusory."

      After her ruling was released, the Harper government introduced new legislation tightening the noose.

      The so-called Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act criminalized the sale of and advertising of sexual services between consenting adults.

      It also made it illegal for anyone to benefit financially or materially from the sale of sex between consenting adults.

      To sex workers, this legislation was more draconian than the three laws that were struck down.

      The new law, which was introduced by former justice minister Peter MacKay, basically undid everything that sex workers and their lawyers had fought for in taking the Bedford case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

      Since Justin Trudeau became prime minister more than two years ago, the Liberal government has done nothing to roll back any of its provisions.

      Today (December 17) marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This has renewed calls for reform to Canada's laws governing prostitution between consenting adults.

      For example, Pivot Legal Society board member Kerry Porth told News 1130 that there are at least five or six "bad-date" reports filed every week by Vancouver sex workers.

      According to News 1130, Pivot has called on Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to meet with sex workers to discuss a legal regime that will better protect their rights.

      The group is also considering launching another charter challenge in the face of inaction by the Trudeau government.

      The red umbrella is the symbol of resistance to discrimination against sex workers. This explains why it shows up in so many tweets on December 17.

      You can see some of them below.