Former sex worker claims MLAs, judges, police officers, lawyers, and doctors have been clients of prostitutes

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      At yesterday's Red Umbrella march in Vancouver, a former sex worker condemned federal legislation that criminalizes clients.

      Sheryl Kiselbach, the violence-prevention coordinator at the PACE Society, said that she and other current and former sex workers in the crowd have "dated" doctors, police officers, lawyers, judges, and MLAs.

      Kiselbach didn't name names, and instead emphasized the importance of supporting current sex workers who face greater dangers because of legislation passed last year by the Conservative government.

      "We need to help them stay safe and we need to support them," she said.

      The red umbrella has long been a symbol of sex workers' safety, which explains the name of yesterday's protest.

      Kiselbach told the crowd on the south side of the Vancouver Art Gallery that she became a plaintiff in a charter challenge against prostitution laws because she didn't want sex workers to suffer the same injustices that she endured.

      "The laws did not protect me when I reported many violent crimes, including attempted murder," she said. "Instead, I was treated with contempt, ridicule, discounted, and dismissed. I was treated as a criminal—as though I deserved to be treated this way."

      Supporters of sex workers wore red to yesterday's march.
      Charlie Smith

      The new legislation makes it illegal for anyone linked to a sex worker to benefit from any payment for sexual services. Kiselbach said it simply replicates problems inherent in former laws that were struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court of Canada.

      "It reinforces whorephobia and the idea that prostitution is a social ill and a form of men's violence against women," she stated. "Under the guise of protecting women and children in this country, the new bill is irrational and undermines our constitutional rights."

      Stephen Harper's presence loomed large over the protest.
      Charlie Smith

      She delivered some of her most scathing comments against evangelical Christians who have made it their mission to rescue women from the sex trade.

      "They have nothing to teach us, but will only discriminate, shame, and judge us," she declared. "We don't want your rescue, nor do we need it. We are not lost animals."

      In addition, Kiselbach claimed that lawmakers completely discounted sex workers in crafting the new legislation. She maintained that sex workers were not looked upon or valued as human beings.

      "They did not accept that we were experts in our own experience," she added. "They didn't view sex or the selling of sex as necessary, like any other occupation, but as dirty and immoral, and actually stated that no one would choose to do it."

      Conservative MP Joy Smith led the charge to criminalize the sale of sex.
      Charlie Smith

      Kiselbach claimed that the intent of the Conservative government's legislation is to do away with the sex trade.

      "How could anyone in their right mind even consider that you could abolish prostitution?" she asked. "This bill lacks insight, totally disregards evidence-based research, and is a deliberate and unrealistic attempt to abolish prostitution."

      Stephen Harper was seen as even more prudish than Queen Victoria.
      Charlie Smith




      Jun 14, 2015 at 4:44pm

      The government has not right to say what two adults can do in their bedroom.


      Jun 14, 2015 at 9:20pm

      I think Sheryl said that "it reinforces whorephobia and that prostitution is a social ill", not "homophobia" :)

      Edward Bernays

      Jun 15, 2015 at 2:11am

      Sex work is genderless. I hope these events (or at least those who report on them) in the future will give equal emphasis to male and trans sex workers.

      Charlie Smith

      Jun 15, 2015 at 8:34am

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the correction. She was speaking through the megaphone and that word was hard to pick up on my tape recorder. I made an adjustment in response to your comment.


      Jun 15, 2015 at 9:37am

      The headline is about as shocking as "Rain Expected In Vancouver This Winter". Of course well paid men and men in positions of power use hookers. Who did anyone imagine were the clients, the mcjobs set?

      Legalize it and marijuana too. No one but throwbacks to the Victorian era care about either being a crime any more.

      Bill Williamson

      Jun 15, 2015 at 12:49pm

      The situation will not change until sex workers 'out' those who use their services but oppose their rights! Name names if you can prove it.


      Jun 15, 2015 at 3:02pm

      We know one individual, not local but a national figure, who admitted visiting a massage parlour and being caught in a police raid. He even apologized for being there but assured us that his visit was entirely therapeutic and the media gave him a free pass. They did such a good job spinning Jack's mistake that most NDP supporters believe the story was a hoax: apparently they are unaware of Happy Jack's apology press conference.


      Jun 15, 2015 at 6:29pm

      OMG! Legalized prostitution will eats our childrens!

      Straw man meets slippery slope.

      Amazing such Puritanism persists into the year 2015. Considering its history so far, our technological civilization can comfortably bear any social costs of prostitution, real or imagined. To portray one of the world's oldest professions as any sort of hazard to the order of things is absurd.

      Service professionals are legit, and should be treated accordingly, regardless of the service offered. Duh.


      Jun 15, 2015 at 6:44pm

      No one should be forced to work in cars of strangers, dark corners of the city and without a strong network of supports. Sheryl is an inspiration and a strong voice for a marginalized community. PACE'S violence prevention courses are so helpful but they are just the start to addressing the many safety concerns with the job. Sex workers should have the power to choose who their clients are and not have to work in the shadows.
      Thank you PACE, PIVOT and everyone who attended the demonstration.

      Barry William Teske

      Jun 16, 2015 at 7:49am

      I have often wondered why the Canadian Government over the many years ( no not just the Conservatives ) has kept in place or wants such draconian laws toughened up.
      Seems to me the link is obvious...
      Just look at the headline.
      It is about time more than a few do get outed with their pants down.
      Could not happen soon enough.