Three things everyone should know about sex work in Canada:
- Until recently, the sale of sex was not actually illegal under the Canadian criminal code, but everything surrounding it was: living off the avails, procuring, soliciting and maintaining a bawdy house. As a result, many sex workers argue that they feel there are forced to operate ‘underground’ and are afraid to openly disclose their profession to those who can help them. Sex workers cannot legally hire bodyguards or drivers or work in public, and, in some instances, even have trouble securing child care. Moreover, despite the fact that Edmonton, like many other cities, sells licenses so a sex worker can sell her services, sex workers are considered independent contractors and therefore are not entitled to employment benefits or protections.
- On December 21, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that current Canadian legislation against solicitation was unconstitutional after finding that they negatively impacted the security and safety of sex workers. It was argued that if sex workers were able to establish a regular place of business and hire body guards, then they would be able to more safely practice their business. The Court has given Parliament one year to come up with a new legislative scheme before the old laws became unenforceable.
- The sex industry is highly stratified, just like any other industry. Different occupational profiles are associated with different levels of risk and earnings. Independent escort workers are typically the highest earners, while sex workers working for an agency typically have to follow house rules and pay a percentage to their operators. Meanwhile, the lowest earners, and the most at-risk to violence and addiction, are generally street workers.