Dear Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne,
My name is Naomi Sayers and I am an Indigenous woman, who also has experience working in the sex trade. As you may know, Bill C-36, For the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, received Royal Assent last week. Within the next 30 days, it will officially become law just in time for the December 19 deadline set by Canada’s highest court. This same court ruled only three small sections of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional. Some people are misled by misinformation by supporters of the law who continue to say that the Supreme Court Decision ruled all of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional. This is the furthest thing from the truth. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the bawdyhouse law, the communication law and the living on the avails law sections violated sex workers’ right to life, liberty and security of person.
Unsurprisingly, the current Conservative government enacted very similar laws under the guise of gender equality. This new law does nothing for gender equality. While some may agree that prostitution isn’t exactly everyone’s dream job or end goal, the goal of any gender equality bill should not be making something unsafe in an effort to abolish it. As Senator Donald Plett said, “Of course we don’t want to make life safer for prostitutes, we want to do away with prostitution. That’s the intent of the bill.” This is the danger inherent in this law and it is that the law will make prostitution inherently dangerous.
I know you support efforts to ending violence against women, in particular violence against Indigenous women and girls. However, this new law will not protect Indigenous women and girls from violence, specifically police violence. We know from the Missing Women Inquiry report authored by Wally Oppal that the criminal regulation of prostitution contributes to the marginalization of women. This law will contribute to the ongoing marginalization and alienation of sex workers, especially Indigenous sex workers, which will contribute to the violence that sex workers experience. I am asking you, both as an Indigenous woman and as a former sex worker, as Ontario Premier to refer these laws to the Ontario Court of Appeal for constitutional reference.