Letter : In solidarity with Sex Workers SafeSpace London, ON

Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights is a non-for profit community made up of members who are Sex Workers, advocates, allies, and former Sex Workers. Our main focus in Sault Ste. Marie is to provide harm reduction tools directly to Sex Workers anonymously and discreetly and to create a safe space for workers.

We have spent over three years providing public forums to the community to create sex worker rights conversations and to provide general information about Sex work and the criminalization that negatively impacts Sex workers in Canada.

As a collective we share important information with and amongst Sex workers rights organizations such as SWANS SUDBURY, SAFESPACE LONDON, the PACE SOCIETY in Vancouver – just to make a few. It is fair to say according to Sex workers that billC-36 (the legislation that governs prostitution) is unfair, unjust, unconstitutional, and harmful for sex workers and clients. Criminalizing and potentially convicting human beings for buying services from professional sex workers is dangerous to the sex work profession – if clients are scared to reach out to Sex workers then workers’ income decreases, which means Sex workers are more likely to start working underground for pimps or go from working from their own comfortable and safe homes to working in unsafe environments. It has come to our attention with a recent news article that has been circulating the internet that police in London Ontario are cracking down on buyers of services from sex workers and will be publishing buyers names publicly.

As a community, we are deeply concerned that threatening the clients of Sex workers will increase violence, harmful working conditions, and workers will now work underground which will create even more unsafe conditions. We stand beside SafeSpace London with their concerns in regards to how dangerous it is to shame, further stigmatize, and publicly humiliate clientele of sex workers. We believe in the dignity and anonymity of adult consensual services and we strongly disagree with further marginalizing Sex workers and clients. After all clients are your husbands, physicians, law enforcement officers, retirees, your parents, and even your siblings. Clients of Sex workers should not be criminalized or charged unless they endanger a sex worker in which the worker should have a right to report (but most workers don’t feel safe enough to report to police because we are stigmatized and condemned for the profession we’ve chose).

The police in Ontario have once again created a loud and visual division between Sex workers and the law enforcement. It’s no wonder many Sex workers in our communities do not trust the police. Sex workers rely heavily on income generation from our clients and if our clients are charged with buying Sex then we loose out on income, which means Sex workers won’t be able to pay rent, buy groceries, support their families and ultimately they become even more vulnerable to more unsafe working conditions. The city of Sault Ste. Marie still has not recognized or acknowledged the importance of having a safe space designated for Sex Workers which has created a misunderstanding and interpretation of how Sex work is an important and relevant part of our community here in the north.

The HOPE ALLIANCE in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario uses a saviour approach and is an anti human Sex trafficking organization that works closely with the police and therefore intimidates willing and confident Sex workers to access their services in the downtown core on Gore street where they run out of the neighbourhood resource centre.

The HOPE ALLIANCE was created to abolish Sex workers, not necessarily provide services, compassion, or support to local Sex workers. Sault Ste. Marie Sex workers stands beside SafeSpace London and supports them in their fight to combat police misunderstanding of the sex work profession. Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights has never been asked to join any forum or workshop on the efforts to combat human Sex trafficking, which is ironic considering Sex workers are the most important part of a discussion when it comes to making decisions about how to create safe working conditions for sex workers and how to end human Sex trafficking.

We stand in solidarity with SafeSpace London and all Sex workers’ Rights organizations across Canada and even globally. As proud members of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, we will continue to work diligently to make sure Sex workers are safe and heard. We believe that full decriminalization will benefit Sex workers and clients as well as the overall safety of the profession. We will continue to fight the good fight. Founder of Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights