Rally for sex workers' rights at Canada's top court

Today, sex workers and allies will gather outside the Supreme Court of Canada to show their support for sex workers who have come from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver to fight for their right to challenge Canada’s prostitution laws.

The Supreme Court is hearing the federal government’s appeal in the case of SWUAV & Kiselbach v. AG Canada. At issue is whether Sheryl Kiselbach, a former sex worker with 30 years of experience in the sex industry, and the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society (SWUAV) have the right to challenge Canada’s criminal laws relating to adult prostitution.  

“For the past four years, the federal government has been blocking our case from being heard,” says Sheryl Kiselbach. “It has been an uphill battle. At every turn the federal government has used it’s enormous resources to try to keep us from having our day in court. Knowing that there are so many people here to support us gives me energy and inspiration to keep up the fight for safety and rights for sex workers in Canada.”  

The case began in 2007, when SWUAV, a non-profit organization run by and for street-based sex workers, and Ms. Kiselbach filed a constitutional challenge to the communication law, the bawdy house law and some aspects of the procuring law. Before the case was able to get to trial, the federal government brought a motion to have the case struck out of court. In October 2010, the BC Court of Appeal ruled that SWUAV and Kiselbach have public interest standing to challenge the prostitution laws. However, the federal government went one step further and appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.   

“It is wonderful to be at this rally, where Ottawa and Vancouver sex workers are standing together in the fight for sex workers’ rights,” says Katrina Pacey, litigation director for Pivot Legal Society, and counsel for SWUAV and Kiselbach. “It is so tragic that Ottawa sex workers continue to be targeted by police, despite the warning of a potential serial killer in this city. We hope to send a strong message that the criminalization of sex workers must immediately stop in order to increase their health and safety.”

SWUAV and Ms. Kiselbach are represented by Katrina Pacey, Joseph Arvay, QC and Elin Sigurdson.

The hearing is scheduled for January 19, 2012 at 9 am EST at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. The rally begins at 12:30 pm on the front steps of the SCC buildling.

Ms. Pacey and Ms. Kiselbach will be available for comment during the rally.

For further comment:
Katrina Pacey - 604 729 7849