Lawyer Katrina Pacey takes weekend walk before ultimate legal test on prostitution

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      A lawyer who will argue a landmark sex workers' rights case in the Supreme Court of Canada was among a group of demonstrators marching through downtown Vancouver.

      Katrina Pacey of Pivot Legal Society joined the protest for sex workers in advance of an appeal going before the country's highest court next week.

      The case concerns three Toronto women who won a precedent-setting decision in Ontario Superior Court in 2010 striking down three antiprostitution laws: keeping a common bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution, and communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution.

      In 2011, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the ruling regarding the laws around keeping a common bawdy house and living off the avails.

      However in a 3-2 margin, the panel of judges overturned the earlier decision on communicating in public—basically upholding the Criminal Code prohibition on street soliciting.

      "I think what it's going to take is really articulating clearly to the Supreme Court of Canada what steps sex workers know they can take and would take if the law wasn't there," Pacey told the Georgia Straight. "They're very significant steps. They involve being able to take time to screen clients, referring to a bad-date sheet, standing with others who can spot and check out what vehicle you're getting into, being able to access the police. All of that is life or death kind of stuff. What we're going to have to do is really articulate that absolutely clearly to the court—and make sure that we can show them how the evidence supports that that meaningfully improves sex workers' safety. I think that will make the difference. I don't think the Court of Appeal was convinced that those steps actually improve sex workers' safety, and they absolutely do."

      Pacey, who also argued the matter as an intervenor in the Ontario Court of Appeal, described the case as being of "ultimate significance".

      "It's about whether or not Canada's prostitution laws stay or go, which is really important to sex workers who have lived under a scheme of laws that deprived them of every safety measure that would possibly improve their safety—including being able to work indoors, being able to work together, being able to access police protection, being able to screen clients," she said. "They're deprived of all of that because of the laws. So the argument is that Canada, which respects a person's security and liberty, can't possibly justify laws that then put sex workers at that level of risk."

      The "Nordic" approach of charging clients is not supported by sex workers.
      Charlie Smith


      The red umbrella has become a symbol for those seeking more safety for sex workers.
      Charlie Smith



      Alan Layton

      Jun 9, 2013 at 1:24am

      I totally agree with the cause. It's not about the morality of prostitution, but protecting some the most vulnerable and exposed members of society. They need help, not lectures.

      Fair Dinkum

      Jun 9, 2013 at 12:00pm

      I am not sure what makes these people special. So you like to dink about who cares. Dink away.

      Nemo Hoes

      Jun 9, 2013 at 12:10pm

      There's plenty of gangsters running 'bawdy houses' just look in the usual spots for all those condo micro brothel ads run by organized crime. Clearly the laws are a waste of time and just used to discriminate against the lowest paid sex workers on the streets instead of going after pimps.

      If you go on any of those local mongering forums there are plenty of stories about robberies with gangsters coming in with guns to tax independent sex workers. Criminals use sex workers as their personal ATMs because they know they won't call the police because for some stone aged reason, sex work is still illegal.

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      Nemo Hoes

      Jun 9, 2013 at 12:18pm

      Should also add, even though the police like to tell this nice story in the media they don't discriminate against sex workers here, I've witnessed the opposite.

      A girl that moved into my building 2 yrs ago took a trick home who proceeded to go apeshit punching holes in the walls and threatening her. Cops were called by us when this guy went bezerk and finally when she admitted to being a sex worker they of course shamefully lectured her in front of us (witnesses) with their silly cop morality nonsense and then decided to tell the manager what she was up to and was promptly evicted forcefully to the streets.

      This is why girls don't phone the cops if something goes wrong.

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      Wendy Barrett

      Jun 9, 2013 at 2:09pm

      I really agree with this legal challenge to laws that create so much danger for women who deserve to be treated decently and fairly while doing a job that is clearly part of our society. The profession of sex trade work is "the oldest profession" worldwide and should be regarded as a fact of civilized life. If there were no customers then the profession would die out but that is not the case.
      It is time that we changed our laws to protect these women and men who are providing a service that is needed by a wide variety of people.
      I respect and admire the women within the sex trade profession who are willing to stand up and go to Ottawa and the lawyers who are presenting this case to the Supreme Court. I am proud to live in a city and country where this initiative is happening.
      It is too long that we have ignored the situation that has led to the untimely and horrific deaths of many decent women just trying to make a living. Nobody should have to take the risks that these women take daily.
      I have been guilty of complacency about the situation and have been awoken to consciousness by the advocacy of the Pivot lawyers and the reports by sex trade workers about their recommendations for changes that would give them more safety.
      As a lesbian senior I have experience being part of a formally socially hated and legally disadvantaged group and know first hand how life enhancing legal changes can be.

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      Jun 12, 2013 at 4:10pm

      That's the kind of world you want for your daughters? Any parent who wants their daughters to grow up in a world where women are graded and stamped and sold like meat (and calls it "work") should have their children taken away.

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