Toronto, August 24, 2022 – Canada’s sex work laws are discriminatory and exacerbate harms to sex workers, says the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).

LEAF filed intervener submissions before the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario to highlight the discriminatory impacts of the Criminal Code’s sex work provisions on sex workers.

In 2014, Parliament passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). PCEPA established Canada’s current sex work laws after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the previous sex work laws in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford for violating sex workers’ Charter rights. The implementation of PCEPA not only criminalized clients, but criminalized the exchange of sex work for consideration (such as money) for the first time in Canada.

In March 2021, the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, along with individual sex workers and a third party provider, filed a Notice of Application at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s sex work laws. LEAF is intervening in the case to provide assistance to the Court on the correct approach to interpreting and applying the equality guarantee in s. 15 of the Charter.

LEAF’s submissions emphasize the importance of taking an intersectional approach when assessing the impact of the laws.

“Laws criminalizing sex work have a discriminatory impact on sex workers, most of whom are cis and trans women. Many also face racism, poverty, and ableism. PCEPA enables constant police surveillance, prevents sex workers from implementing safety measures, and enacts barriers to accessing and maintaining housing and government supports,” says Pam Hrick, Executive Director and General Counsel of LEAF.

In its submissions, LEAF also urges the Court to take into account the impact of stigma that results from the current laws. “The current laws increase and legitimize the stigma against sex work and sex workers. They reinforce harmful stereotypes against sex workers as a group lacking in agency and in need of rescue,” says Hrick.

Download LEAF’s factum here.

Pam Hrick, Rosel Kim, and Dragana Rakic (Stockwoods LLP) are representing LEAF in this intervention.

LEAF’s arguments are informed and supported by a case committee composed of academics and practitioners with expertise in relevant issues. LEAF is grateful to the members of the case committee that helped to shape this intervention: Gillian Calder, Julie Kaye, Ummni Khan, Kate Shannon, and Adriel Weaver.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Pam Hrick
Executive Director & General Counsel, LEAF
416-595-7170 ext. 2002
[email protected]

About the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) 
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is a national not-for-profit that works to advance the equality rights of women, girls, trans, and non-binary people in Canada through litigation, law reform, and public legal education. Since 1985, LEAF has intervened in more than 100 cases that have helped shape the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To find out more, visit www.leaf.ca.