The covid erra has been hard on us all. It has affected every type of business, home and relationship. It is a well known fact that we will be recovering from covid for many genrations to come. As a business ownwer of a brothel during this time, it has been a daily struggle to survive, and tomorrow is far from promised. Unlike other business owners I commit a crime every day I go to work, the sex workers I work for, their clients also commit a crime, just by the simple act of purchasing their "legal services". Anxiety, stress, insomnia, selling off assets are all things I have had to sacfrice so that I could continue to keep a dream of running an ethical escort agency alive. While struggling with the daily desire to give up, I am reminded regularly of how important what we do is, and I am filled with a bit more motivation to try and survive another day. PROS.NEWS was created to share our stories, to normalize the fact that we are valued members of your community, and not the ciminals the government has made us. My new friend Jon was kind enough to share his recent first experience, stories like this sum up why we do what we do.
I am a 70-year-old father and grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and an ex-husband – and now I’m discovering, according to the Canadian government, I’m also a criminal.
The events that made me a criminal for the first time in my life, occurred just last week when, for the first time, I booked some time with a sex worker via SweetVIPs – an escort agency operating in downtown Victoria. This was not a spur of the moment decision but rather something I had been hoping for and then planning, for quite a while.Jon
When my long-term relationship came to an abrupt end in December 2019, I took the time to grieve and reflect and confirm what we all know – that only time can help us heal and to absorb such a massive loss and change… And though this may sound “too soon” to many judgmental people – by late 2021, I started to feel the inklings of wanting a relationship again.
But needless to say, mid pandemic, there was no dating scene and no opportunities for that to happen – not for those of us trying to be careful – and especially not for seniors it seemed.
And so, still with zero success in striking up a new relationship by the middle of 2022, and still very much missing intimate contact and touch, I resolved to treat myself to a session with a professional – just to remind me of what physical intimacy felt like and that it could still be possible for someone of my vintage.
Up to that point, I hadn’t broken any laws. But as soon as I started going online and checking out descriptions and rates and images and as soon as I communicated with that escort service in Victoria, I started breaking several laws. And these laws had severe consequences – like landing me in jail for five years….!
Bill C-36 enacts new prostitution offenses and modernizes old ones:
1) Purchasing Offence:
- Obtaining sexual services for consideration, or communicating in any place for that purpose (section 286.1)
- Those who sell their own sexual services are protected from criminal liability for participating in the commission of this offense if the offense relates to their own sexual services (subsection 286.5(2))
Adult victim (subsection 286.1(1))
- Dual procedure offense with maximum penalties of 5 years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment and 18 months if prosecuted by summary conviction
- Escalating mandatory minimum fines starting at $500 on summary conviction for a first offense, including higher mandatory minimum fines if the offense is prosecuted by indictment, is a subsequent offense or is committed in a public place that is or is next to parks, schools, religious institutions or places where children can reasonably be expected to be present
Child victim (subsection 286.1(2))
Indictable offense with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and mandatory minimum penalties of 6 months imprisonment for a first offense and one year for subsequent offenses
This offense criminalizes purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose, for the first time in Canadian criminal law. Since prostitution is a transaction that involves both the purchase and the sale of sexual services, the new purchasing offense makes prostitution illegal; every time the prostitution transaction takes place, an offense is committed by the purchaser.
Now don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t caught up in a raid where us Johns were lined up against the wall and then tossed into a paddy wagon and driven downtown to get “booked” by Danno…
Quite the opposite – my encounter with the lovely Toni at a discrete downtown Victoria location was calm, serene, and, most importantly, uninterrupted.
But while the specter of illegality did hang over the entire event, it was definitely eclipsed by an aura of professionalism and a very tangible commitment to the safety and security of all parties involved – for the service providers of course, but also for me as a valued and respected client.
To me it was a very surprising paradox – that while the powers that be are concentrating on casting this activity in a criminal light – they seem to be effectively sidestepping any responsibilities to make sure that things are safe, clean, and protected from abuse and exploitation.
Imagine a hardware store that couldn’t call the police if someone decided they didn’t want to pay. Or a furniture store where someone threatened the cashier with violence if they didn’t give him more furniture than what he was willing to pay for..? I don’t think these retailers would be willing to operate – to do business – under those circumstances.
But here was a business that had the courage and the wherewithal and the smarts to do all of that and much more;
Identity verification without it feeling compromised; getting the money upfront in a way that felt secure to all parties; prompt polite and discreet communication; and delivering the services on time, and on budget while exceeding all expectations. Isn’t that what successful business is all about..?
And this without all of the infrastructure support services normally provided by municipal, provincial, and federal governments – let alone accomplishing all of the above whiles under the threat of prosecution if, on a whim, someone decided they want to apply the letter of the law.
While I’m reluctant to get into any of the details of this close encounter of the special kind suffice it to say that it was a lifesaver and a game changer for my mental and spiritual well-being.
While I’m not looking for pity, even of the anonymous kind, it was a very difficult time for me. As it was for many people, the isolation and lack of contact during the pandemic took its toll. But add to that the extra stress of having lost an intimate partner, without being able to talk to someone about it face-to-face, left me in pretty dire straits on a personal level.
I am just so appreciative that there are people out there that recognize this kind of unspoken – and yes, I will say it, taboo – need and are willing to go the extra mile to make it available, in spite of all the hurdles being thrown up by the morality police in this country.
I’m old enough to remember the words of Trudeau Senior vehemently declaring that the government did not belong in the bedrooms of its citizens – and I would just remind Trudeau Junior that that declaration is still very, very true today.
How does the government of Canada prevent sex workers from working safely?
In 2014, following the Supreme Court of Canada’s Bedford decision, the federal government adopted Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (“PCEPA”), continuing the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers.
Read Pivot’s 2016 report on PCEPA.
PCEPA required the federal government to review this new suite of ‘prostitution’ laws five years after the passage of the bill. Thus, the review should have started in 2019 but it was not until February 2022 that the hearings actually began. After years of radio silence about the review process (despite repeated requests from Pivot and others), the review started abruptly with a scant few weeks’ notice.
Pivot co-wrote submissions with PACE and presented to the Committee on March 1, 2022.
The government’s response to our request for safer sex work
Change is coming, are you ready to support it?
The Sex Worker Law Reform has been fighting for all Canadian’s rights against the unconstitutional BillC36. After years of research and community input from sex workers and their supporters, they presented a constitutional challenge to the government of Canada with the following recommendations.
The next hurdle is to wait for the Government’s response to this report, which won’t happen until fall 2022 when the House returns from its summer break. We can only hope that this is not another report with recommendations that wind up gathering dust on a shelf.
Sex workers certainly didn’t achieve their goal of decriminalization through this review process but the repeal of certain Criminal Code provisions, as well as some Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, is a foot in the door if these changes actually do occur. We continue to fight alongside sex workers in the hopes that one day, sex workers will be able to open that door and walk through to a fully decriminalized future.