In Canada, sex workers are allowed to sell their services, but the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, passed in 2014, criminalizes aspects of this work.
A sex worker in Nova Scotia is suing for non-payment for services in Small Claims Court. She hopes this case will change the perception of sex work in Canada.
Brogan, whom we have chosen to identify only by his first name for his protection, says he spent an evening with a client in January 2022. He left her a card with her PIN so she could go and withdraw money. Once at the counter, she realized that the code was wrong and she would not be paid.
“It's quite humiliating not to be paid after giving so much to someone. And it's also frustrating not having more protection.
— Brogan, Sex Worker
It wasn't the first time a client didn't pay her, but this time Brogan wanted to take action to try to change things.
I am passionate about the rights of sex workers, she says. And so, when I didn't get paid, I saw it as an opportunity to show others that sex workers have rights too.
In Canada, sex workers sex workers are allowed to sell their services, but the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, passed in 2014, criminalizes some aspects of their work.
Sex workers in Canada cannot legally offer their services in certain public places.
Sex workers cannot advertising sexual services or communicating about such services in a public place. Purchasing sexual services is also an offence.
This law prevents sex workers from having contracts for their services, explains Jessica Rose, an attorney at the Elizabeth Fry Society, which represents Brogan.
She explains that a contract usually cannot be made if either party has to do something illegal.
Sex workers need economic stability like any other worker in Canada, and since they cannot easily contract their services, they are at a real disadvantage when it comes to paying the money their clients owe them. , specifies the lawyer.
A stock image of a man who appears to want to pay for services.
Jessica Rose explains that the intent of sex work laws is to protect workers, which could create a legal avenue for maintaining contracts between them and their customers.
It is in the interests of sex workers to be paid for their work, and we can safely say that this type of illegal contract must always be enforced. This is what we will defend.
The allegation has not yet been presented in court. The pre-hearing date for the case is July 13. Several attempts were made to contact the accused, to no avail.
Brogan laments that buying sex is illegal because he believes it makes it difficult to verify the identity of clients.
You have absolutely no idea who you're dealing with, she said.
And a lot of people still think that payment defaults are part of the risks that come with sex work.
They are rare, the people who treat me as if I had an ordinary job.
Yet Brogan reminds us that there is a big difference between sex work and sexual exploitation.
She was a victim of sex trafficking when she was younger and she says today that she had no self-control at that time. She now feels more comfortable with what she does.
None of my money goes to anyone other than me. And that's the main thing for me, says Brogan.
Emma Halpern is the director of the Elizabeth Society Fry.
There are some very, very problematic ways to buy sex in this country, says Elizabeth Fry Society chief executive Emma Halpern.
You can recognize this, challenge it, and see that there are also spaces where a woman has the autonomy to choose to sell sex.
This civil lawsuit would be the first of its kind in Canada.
In 2021, a coalition of 25 organizations launched a constitutional challenge to the current legislation.
The federal government has opposed the move and the initial date for this trial is set for the end of 2022. If successful, this challenge could lead to the cancellation of the law.
As for Brogan, she believes her experience is proof that sex workers need to be better protected.
I think the rights of sex workers need to be taken much more seriously, she said. In my opinion, this work should be legalized to be safer.
With information from Moira Donovan, by CBC