Pivot Legal Society - Equality Lifts Everyone


Bringing the fight for safer sex work to Toronto

Yesterday, when my plane touched down, I felt a flutter in my stomach. I have come to Toronto to make submissions before the Ontario Court of Appeal.  I am here on behalf of Pivot, PACE and the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society to intervene in the case of AG Canada v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott.

You may remember that last September, Justice Himel of the Ontario Superior Court heard the case and struck down three laws related to adult prostitution; the communication law, bawdy house law and living on the avails law.  She found that these laws violate sex workers’ constitutional right to safety, liberty and freedom of expression. Now the federal government is appealing that decision.

Pivot, PACE and SWUAV felt it was really important to put our full support behind the sex workers who have made this case possible. For the past several months, our amazing legal team including Joseph Arvay QC, Elin Sigurdson, Kat Kinch, Lisa Glowacki, Lisa Kerr and Maia Tsurumi, has been busy preparing  our submissions.

On Thursday, I will do my best to convince five justices of the Ontario Court of Appeal that these laws have a very significant and negative impact on sex workers' safety, and particularly those sex workers at street level. Our submissions will focus on the violent and disempowering circumstances experienced by sex workers in the DTES. I will argue that by striking down these laws, sex workers in all aspects of the industry will be able to take steps to reduce the violence and other harms that they currently experience as a result of criminalization.

It’s sure to be a very interesting week. We will hear from the Attorney General of Canada, the Attorney General of Ontario and Alan Young who is counsel for the three courageous sex workers who brought this challenge before the Court. Then the intervenors will have their chance to speak, including Maggie's, POWER, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

After it’s all over, we will await a decision and then, even if we are successful, it’s likely to be appealed again to the Supreme Court of Canada. Meanwhile, I will be heading to Montreal on Friday to meet with local sex workers to discuss how to carry on the fight for sex workers rights in Canada.