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Recommendations for the Protection of Vulnerable Sex Workers in the City of Toronto - Methods of Prevention & Treatment for Health & Safety in the Sex Market

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Methods of Prevention & Treatment for Health & Safety in the Sex Market

November 24, 2015




Purpose of Study4


Effects of Bill C-365

        Health & Safety Risks for Sex Workers5

                Methods of Risk Prevention & Treatment5






This study offers an analysis of the impact of Canada’s newly implemented sex law, Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act in relation to the health and safety of Canadian sex workers. This new legislation was put in place with the goal of providing protection to sex workers, though has been projected to have a negative impact on their safety in Canada due to its focus on charging clientele and traffickers, therefore limiting the opportunities for situations of trafficking to be revealed to the authorities. This report discusses the accompanying health and safety risks involved for sex workers in the country, and details what initiatives may be undertaken by Toronto Public Health in order to reduce the risks of disease and violence among local sex workers. The central recommendation brought up entails sustaining a sense of community with the sex workers of Toronto. This could be accomplished through the organization of a variety of interactive activities, drop-ins, opportunities for education, violence-prevention, and treatment of physical and mental health issues. Through these efforts, sex workers would have the opportunity to find a sense of empowerment in their identities and develop the motivation needed to seek safe work practices.


Prostitution, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is “the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment”. Although one of the earliest practiced professions, prostitution remains an extremely controversial and debatable topic in today’s modern society. Sex work is a sort of paradox in contemporary urban settings – its workers are at once considered “at-risk” and “risky” in their communities (Wright, 2015). For that reason, the question arises; should Canada adopt restrictive laws in the attempt of reducing the amount prostitution carried out in urban settings, or should the focus be placed on ensuring the safety of individuals in the sex industry as these workers carry on in their practices?

The Conservative Government recently established new sex trade laws by implementing Bill C-36 – the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. The goal of this new legislation, (as outlined by the National Post) was to “reduce the demand for prostitution by ‘discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible’,” (Warnica, 2015). This law currently restricts persons from paying for sex practices, though it does not prohibit workers from selling it. Although the mandate is currently causing sex buyers to avoid the sex market, research analysts in the field speculate that these effects will not last much longer. It is assumed that people will discover measures around these government policies, and the market will emerge as one kept even further underground, and ultimately much more dangerous to those providing the sex services.

Purpose of Study

This study intends to analyze the negative effects of Canada’s newly implemented legislation, Bill C-36: the
Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act in relation to the health and safety of Canadian sex workers. Through this investigation, this report will then illustrate certain initiatives that Toronto Public Health may undertake in order to aid in the protection of local sex workers. The ultimate goal of this study lies in the evaluation of a variety of methods that will reduce the risks of disease and violence within the industry, and effectively identify the most immediate plan of action to be pursued by Toronto Public Health in this risk prevention and treatment.


Effects of Bill C-36

The newly-implemented Bill C:36 focuses accusation in the sex market on clients and traffickers (those “exploiting” the workers) rather than on the selling of sex or on the sex workers themselves, in an effort to minimize the practise of prostitution, and therefore eliminate violence against sex workers. While this new legislation was put through in the attempt to make community spaces safer, these changes are projected to put sex workers at greater risk of violence and exploitation.

Evaluated in the short term, this new legislation is effective in discouraging clients from participating in payment for sex work, though this is not estimated to last long. The sex market in Canada is known to go through periods of low activity whenever a change in sex laws is brought about. Clients tend to refrain from pursuing new services until they have gauged the impact of the new amendments and discovered how they may navigate the gaps in the system.

The largest projected issue with this new law is that when the sex market begins to start up again, it will reform in ways that are more discreet and thus less safe for sex workers. By criminalizing the act of buying sex, the government has created an environment in which clients will be less likely to come forward when they witness situations of abuse of forced trade, as they will then be charged along with the trafficker.

Health & Safety Risks for Sex Workers

This new legislature alienates sex workers from their communities – they feel as though they must act secretively to best suit the needs of their clients (who are avoiding contact with the police). This limits the workers’ ability, drive, and likeliness to reach out to the health and safety resources that they need, in the fear that they may lose business. It also encourages workers to provide their ‘sexual services’ in more dangerous places that are hidden to the public – thus making the workers more vulnerable to violence and health issues.


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