Public health calls for repeal of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
In a position statement released today, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) calls on the federal government to fully decriminalize sex work by repealing the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) and removing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provision prohibiting migrants in Canada from doing sex work.
The Association further calls on the federal government to ensure that sex workers are substantively consulted in the design of laws, policy and programming that bear directly on their health, safety and well-being, with assurance that their identities will be protected during consultation.
The position statement includes recommendations for provincial/territorial and regional/local governments, police and law enforcement agencies, professional bodies in health care, mental health, and social service-related fields, and research funding bodies.
Amid a rising tide of intolerance and violence against sexual, ethnic and racial minorities, many other equity-deserving populations have cause to worry whether Canada’s laws and institutions will protect their own health and well-being. Protecting sex workers’ rights to health and security is part of this larger, urgent struggle to protect minority rights.
CPHA calls on the federal government to:
- Fully decriminalize sex work by repealing the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) and removing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provision prohibiting migrants in Canada from doing sex work.
- Ensure that sex workers are substantively consulted in the design of laws, policy and programming that bear directly on their health, safety and well-being, with assurance that their identities will be protected during consultation.
CPHA calls on provincial, territorial and regional/local governments to:
- Ensure that health and social service agencies improve the quality of service provided to sex workers by:
- Training public-facing employees in non-judgemental, trauma- and violence-informed care;
- Engaging persons with lived experience as sex workers to design and deliver training to eliminate sex work stigma and increase understanding of the diversity of sex workers’ situations and needs; and
- Implementing operational policies that maintain non-judgemental and culturally-specific services and supports as needed, facilitate access to services, preserve confidentiality of personal information, respect the decision-making agency of clients who do sex work, and recognize that they have physical, emotional, social and psychological health concerns both related and unrelated to their work.
- Fund community sex worker groups to advocate, educate, and deliver programming supportive of sex workers’ security, health and well-being.
CPHA calls on police and law enforcement agencies to adopt training and robust policy measures to eliminate harassment, violence, stigma and discrimination against sex workers by their personnel, and to ensure that police serve appropriately to protect sex workers from violence and coercion.
CPHA calls on professional bodies in health care, mental health, and social service-related fields to require that professional training programs include education about diversity among sex workers, trauma- and violence-sensitive engagement with vulnerable populations, and cultural humility.
CPHA calls on research funding bodies to assess existing gaps and imbalances in research into sex work in Canada, and change funding practices to establish a research agenda that studies the diversity of sex worker populations and health needs, and produces evidence-based policy recommendations and interventions that advance high-quality and accessible health care and social services for sex workers.
In order for Canada to live up to its commitment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to guarantee everyone in this country the rights to life, liberty and security of the person, institutions and individuals must re-examine longstanding and highly harmful attitudes towards sex work.
Natalie Brender, Director of Policy, CPHA
The systemic stigmatization of sex work and sex workers must be eliminated through enhanced education and training for health and social service providers as well as law enforcement agents in every jurisdiction. Sex workers should be at the centre of planning programs and services that support their health and well-being, and research funding bodies should redress gaps and imbalances in sex work research.
Ian Culbert, Executive Director, CPHA