Sex Work Is Work

So let’s talk about sex…but let’s be serious.

Bill C-36 came Into force in 2014 on December 6. Now a quick run-down will show you why Prostitution Criminal Law Reform: Bill C-36, ‘the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act’, does a lot less to help sex workers than you’d think.

Simply put, prostitution, or sex work, is still technically criminalized under this bill. But, in order to fully understand this act and what it means, let’s start at the beginning.

Sex work can be defined as “The exchange of sexual services for money or goods. These services are income generating even if they are not the individual’s primary source of income.” This definition is not limited to those who may be working in prostitution or strippers. These may be cam-workers, sugar babies, or escorts as a few. 

Bill C-36 initially came into effect as a way to “protect” sex workers and, at the same time lessen the demand for sex work. By making it illegal to purchase sexual services and businesses that profit from the sex work transaction also illegal.

The act does not criminalize the sale of sexual services. They also protect those who sell their own sexual services from criminal liability for any part they may play in the prostitution offences that prohibit purchasing, advertising, receiving a material benefit or procuring others for the purpose of prostitution.

And this is where the act begins to replicate similar limitations as the old law before it. Sex workers are still forced between a never-ending dilemma of personal safety and obeying the law. While these changes in laws are meant to help workers, it does the opposite. Many studies have supported the well-known fact, sex work has only been pushed more into the dark and uncovered. 

Rather than aiding sex workers, police harass, degrade, and many times part take in the very sexual harassment, and violence many sex workers seek shelter from. Sex workers are thus forced into more dangerous and violent situations as a result of this exploitation, feelings of mistrust, abuse of power. The list goes on. Yet the laws remain, Sex work must be decriminalized in order to properly protect all sex workers. 

Studies have continuously shown sex workers are forced into poverty as a result of their working conditions. The repetitive cycles of systemic and cultural oppression hinder the ability of sex workers to make enough to provide and force many into homelessness.  

Maggie’s was founded in 1986 following decades of sex worker activism in Toronto. 

Peggy Miller and Danny Cockerline worked to build an organization that provided room for Sex Work advocacy while creating space for community support, outreach and education by and for local sex workers.

This Toronto group, by and for sex workers, conceptualizes why Sex work is Work incredibly:

Our movement for Sex Work (SW) justice often uses the phrase “SW is real work.” We believe SW is real, legitimate and valuable work in our communities. All SW is equally valid,… we are entitled to labour rights; the right to form unions or professional associations; the right to work independently, collectively or for a third party; and the right to occupational health and safety. We are an important piece of local and International labour movements...”

We must do what we can to stand alongside our own local groups and teams such as SWANS: Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury.

Whose sole purpose is to”…support sex workers where they are at in terms of their own self-determined needs assessment. We continue to offer educational training and information to service providers who want to make their services more accessible and relevant to sex workers. We are a by sex workers for sex workers organization who has developed strong allied relationships with community members who understand that sex work is work and who respect people with lived experience as the holders of valuable knowledge, wisdom and experience.” You can find out more about them and their services here:

With this we urge you to check out these groups to take action today and show solidarity for sex workers:

Take action with Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and Sign their solidarity statement with sex workers and share it with other allies!

We here at The Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre, are a group of individuals and organizations who have come together to show our solidarity for sex workers’ rights. We have listened to the voices of sex workers and recognize the harms being caused by criminalization, policing and discrimination. We stand in solidarity with sex workers in their fight for their rights and justice.

1) We acknowledge sex workers as experts in their own lives. We respect their decision to engage in sex work.

2) We call for the full decriminalization of all aspects of sex work, including sex workers, third parties and clients, as a necessary part of defending the human rights and safety of sex workers. 

3) We call for an end to the policing, surveillance, racial profiling, harassment and raids against sex workers by law enforcement, including by immigration enforcement.  

4) We call for an end to the over-regulation and shut down of businesses which are associated with sex work, such as massage parlours, escort agencies and strip clubs. 

5) We affirm sex work is work and fight to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against sex workers, including state violence.  

6) We join sex workers to fight against all systems of oppression including colonialism, sexism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia, whorephobia and classism. 

7) We call for solidarity with sex workers.


Take action and join us today:

Demand the Ford government take responsibility for the extreme levels of poverty and homelessness in our community and give justice to sex workers!

There will be a powerful short theatre performance by members of the Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS).

200 Brady St at 1 PM