Open Letter in Support of Sex Workers Who Were Arrested

A call to Stop the Arrests and end ongoing media harassment

Sex Workers Action Group (SWAG) Kingston (Ontario, Canada) have published an open letter to support the 9 sex workers who were arrested in Sault Ste Marie. 

A summary of the issues and the demands follows below.  For the full text of the open letter see here.

TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THE OPEN LETTER, PLEASE SIGN IN THE COMMENT SECTION ON THE SWAG WEBSITE, OR EMAIL sault.on.redumbrellacampaign@gmail.com

Background:

In March this year the Ontario Court of Appeal (revisiting a previous ruling by the Superior Court in 2008) ruled that, Section 213, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, ‘does not violate the prostitute’s rights and is a reasonable limit on the right to expression’. This means street based prostitution, where ‘prostitutes’ solicit business in public, still remains effectively illegal.

In August 9 local women were arrested and charged under this outstanding and highly contested area of prostitution policy contained in the Criminal Code. In reviewing the media coverage, we were shocked and disturbed to see that the women’s full names and home addresses had been published. It has become a full-out police and media witch-hunt. We are very concerned about the safety of these community members, and the street sex working community at large. Major violations of sex workers’ rights and privacy have been committed without any public outcry!  This is a letter to the community of Sault Ste Marie asking for solidarity and support of these 9 women and all other sex workers within the community. It is also a letter demanding that these arrests be put to a STOP!

Our demands are:

  • That a citywide moratorium be put into effect to halt the arrests of sex workers in Sault Ste Marie, ON, including but not limited to solicitation based offenses. We request that this moratorium be kept in place until the aforementioned status of the Federal appeal is known, and counter Constitutional challenges heard and adjudicated upon before the Supreme Court of Canada (namely the communicating law).
  • This is also a call out to the media to stop putting these workers in further jeopardy by publishing personal  information.  You are putting lives at risk!
  • We are demanding that Sault Ste Marie Police Services put an end to leaking arrests and the personal information of those arrested.
  • Community based consultation and considerations on social impacts are a must and need to be inclusive of sex workers at every level.  Nothing about us without us!
  • We are calling for a red umbrella campaign©.  We invite Sault area residents, City officials and service providers to participate in a district wide Red Umbrella Campaign. Wear a red umbrella as a sign of care and respect for the rights of the 9 Sault Ste Marie women who were arrested mid-August, and out of recognition of the well being of individuals with lived experience (past or present).
Source (institute/publication): 
SWAG Kingston, Ontario