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GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS FORCES SEX WORKERS BACK TO COURT

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Sex Worker Legal Media Briefing: Monday, October 3, 2022, 1pm, 330 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court)

 

September 29, 2022 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker led groups representing thousands of sex workers across the country — along with several individual applicants, is going back to court to challenge sex work laws next week. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) introduced in 2014 has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violations. In 2014, the Liberal government promised to repeal PCEPA; 7 years later they have failed to act and sex workers have been forced to work in the context of criminalization causes harm to their lives.

 

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“Taken individually and together, the PCEPA provisions reproduce harms of the criminal laws struck down in Canada v. Bedford and causes new harms to all sex workers,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) speaking at a media briefing this morning. “We don’t want to be going to court again, it is a waste of precious community resources and time. This government can put an end to this by proposing a Bill for total decriminalization of sex work that would save lives and protect sex workers’ human rights. The harms of these provisions are extensively documented in our evidentiary record, which includes academic and community research on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, racialized, trans, and migrant sex workers across the country, many of whom work in some of the most difficult conditions.”

Sex worker rights organizations are seeking to strike down criminal prohibitions on sex work arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy, and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. 

Before PCEPA became law, sex workers warned of the dangers of criminalization; the Liberal, NDP, and Green Party rejected the PCEPA as it moved its way through the House of Commons. Once passed, however, there has only been government inaction and many expected harms to sex workers’ lives.

The most marginalized sex workers working in public space feel the brunt of PCEPA. Monica Forrester, a 2Spirit Black and Indigenous sex worker explains, “Clients fear detection by police, which impacts my ability to communicate with them, and make my work riskier. I cannot negotiate prices and services with clients, especially in public spaces, because the police might show up. The fear of police makes me rush and I’m not able to do the screening I need to. PCEPA puts me at risk every day, it must be repealed, let us work safely.”

 

PCEPA criminalizes communicating to sell sexual services in public, communicating to purchase sexual services in any context, facilitating or receiving a benefit related to the purchase of someone else’s sexual services, and advertising sexual services.  

 

“Black sex workers are isolated and criminalized by PCEPA, these racist laws must be repealed” added Ellie Ade Kur. “Black sex workers are often required to rely on existing networks of other Black sex workers for help and support, but due to anti-Black racism, Black sex workers are often characterized as “pimps” when working together, for example, by sharing space, sharing supports, and splitting costs for services like drivers, booking, and screening support. As a result, Black sex workers have reported that they are afraid that helping one another will result in arrest and prosecution for third party offences.” 

 

Sex workers face risk child apprehension, loss of life and life supports, detention and deportation, experience targeted violence, lack of access to health, legal, and social sercices experience human rights abuses as sex workers try to avoid detection by law enforcement, live and work in precarious and unsafe conditions, and do not seek help or report crimes against them. 

 

“Unlike other industries, the criminalization of sex work gives police the power to investigate sex workers’ workplaces, and the impact of their decision touch on all aspects of sex worker lives. This is especially true for Asian and migrant sex workers, these laws must be repealed”, added Elene Lam, founder of Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network explains, “Sex workers are less likely to get help when they need it and the vast majority of Butterfly participants who have been injured in the workplace have not reported the injuries or sought compensation. Both sex workers and managers have indicated that they are afraid of disclosing their involvement in the sex industry, because it threatens their livelihood, and they may lose their immigration status and face deportation.”
 
“The Crown and anti-sex work advocates intervening in the case continue to ignore the realities of the most marginalized sex workers working in the most difficult conditions. This law, that fundamentally denies sex workers’ constitutional rights, needs to be struck down,” says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, co-director of the HIV Legal Network, member of CASWLR.

 

This is the first constitutional challenge to PCEPA provisions initiated by sex workers, and the first to challenge all the provisions individually and together arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. Public hearings at Superior Court begin on October 3rd and continue throughout the week. 

For more information about the case: http://sexworklawreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Infosheet-ENG.pdf

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Heads up, Canada: Colorado wants your drugs

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This item is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.

What’s new?

Colorado is the latest state to apply for a licence to import medicines from Canada, the most recent development in a politically sensitive cross-border issue.

This week the state announced that it asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permission to import 112 medicines from Canada including EpiPens and drugs for cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other ailments.

Because those drugs are cheaper in Canada, the state projects that importing them would save Coloradans an average of 65 per cent per drug.

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“This exciting step means we are closer to savings for Coloradans,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.

What’s the context?

The context is sky-high drug prices. Americans pay more than residents of other countries for medicine, in some cases multiple times more.

That’s in part due to national regulations: Other countries have stricter rules for setting maximum prices and negotiating those with drug companies.

The U.S. has taken limited steps to address this; Years ago it introduced an optional coverage plan for seniors that allowed price negotiations, and the just-passed Inflation Reduction Act includes several cost-saving measures.

The pharmaceutical sector lobbied hard against price controls. The health sector outspent every other U.S. industry in lobbying last year, with drug companies especially funding lawmakers who voted against such reforms.

Americans pay more for medicine, in some cases many times more, due in part to looser national regulations on maximum prices and negotiations those with drug companies. (iStock)

Some U.S. states have taken up another idea: free trade in medicine. Why not just import drugs from abroad?

Six U.S. states have passed laws allowing imports of medicine from abroad, particularly from Canada, and now Colorado is the second of those, after Florida, to have formally requested authorization from the FDA.

It’s applying under a process established by the FDA in 2020. But no state has received an approval yet, as the process is complicated. To help explain the rules, the FDA issued a compliance guide this year.

The reason this matters to Canadians can be summed up in nine letters: shortages.

It’s already a problem: shortages occur constantly and, particularly, at present, scores of drugs are in short supply in both Canada and the U.S.

Ottawa has intermittently voiced fears for years about the potential for the gargantuan U.S. market gobbling up Canadian supplies and clearing out pharmacy shelves.

The Paul Martin government introduced a bill in Parliament in 2005 to bolster the health minister’s ability to freeze exports in the case of a shortage. That government fell soon thereafter, the bill never passed, and the issue remained mostly dormant for years.

But talk of importation has resurfaced in U.S. states lately. And Ottawa resumed its talk of export bans: the Trudeau government, in 2020, drafted regulations to better monitor potential shortages and restrict foreign sales of affected products.

Patty Hajdu, seen here in 2020, was the federal health minister when her department wrote stricter rules for exporting medicine that year. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

What’s next?

The issue now rests with the FDA. It must approve import requests. That’s in addition to complicated requirements that would have to be fulfilled by the businesses importing and exporting.

There are complex rules for industry in both countries.

On the export side — the Canadian government says Canada’s laws require companies to retain records proving that cross-border drug sales won’t cause shortages.

Federal regulations, as well as Canadian food and drug law, allow the government to then intervene to prevent shortages.

On the import side: the current U.S. import process, introduced in 2020, contains numerous hoops American buyers must jump through.

To be eligible for import, a product requires the necessary Canadian labelling; the seller must be licensed to sell drugs wholesale by Health Canada; the seller must also be registered with the FDA as a foreign seller; and the U.S. importer must be a wholesale distributor or pharmacist licensed in the U.S.

Then there are various testing and security requirements for shipments.

The Canadian government says it’s still working with the U.S. to understand the FDA’s plans for implement drug importation.

To date, says the Canadian Embassy in Washington, no state plans have been approved by the FDA.

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Canada’s ‘most beloved’ restaurants: OpenTable

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A new list by OpenTable shows the 100 “most beloved” Canadian restaurants in 2022, based on more than one million reviews.

The restaurant reservation company says it analyzed reviews and ratings by diners who used its service from Oct.1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. The list was determined by overall rating, user-based “klout,” total number of reviews and regional overall rating.

“We’re seeing a strong interest in a variety of dining establishments and experiences this year, and strong representation from traditional continental to diverse international cuisines,” said Matt Davis, Country Director at OpenTable, in a news release.

Ontario dominates the list with 49 restaurants, followed by Alberta with 23, British Columbia with 18, Quebec with nine and New Brunswick with one.

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These are top 100 restaurants featured by OpenTable, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. 1 Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  2. Akira Back – Toronto, Ont.
  3. Alloy – Calgary, Alta.
  4. Amal Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  5. Anejo Restaurant – Toronto (King St) – Toronto, Ont.
  6. Auberge du Pommier – Toronto, Ont.
  7. Bar George – Montreal, Que.
  8. Bar Isabel – Toronto, Ont.
  9. Baro – Toronto, Ont.
  10. BLOCK ONE Restaurant at 50th Parallel Winery – Lake Country, B.C.
  11. Blu Ristorante – Toronto, Ont.
  12. Bocado Restaurant – Prince Edward County, Ont.
  13. Bonaparte – Montreal, Que.
  14. Botanist – Vancouver, B.C.
  15. Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  16. Bridgette Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  17. Byblos – Downtown – Toronto, Ont.
  18. Bymark – Toronto, Ont.
  19. Café Boulud – Toronto, Ont.
  20. Cano Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  21. Canoe Restaurant and Bar – Toronto, Ont.
  22. Capocaccia Trattoria – Toronto, Ont.
  23. Cardinale – Calgary, Alta.
  24. Carisma – Toronto, Ont.
  25. Chairman’s Steakhouse – Calgary, Alta.
  26. Charcoal Steak House – Kitchener, Ont.
  27. Chuck’s Steakhouse – Banff, Alta.
  28. Crossroads Restaurant – Rousseau, Ont.
  29. Cucci Ristorante – Oakville, Ont.
  30. D.O.P. – Calgary, Alta.
  31. Damas – Montreal, Que.
  32. Dolcetto – London, Ont.
  33. Don Alfonso 1890 – Toronto, Ont.
  34. Earth to Table: Bread Bar – Guelph – Guelph, Ont.
  35. Elora Mill Restaurant – Guelph, Ont.
  36. Estiatorio Milos – Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  37. Gibbys – Old Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  38. Giulietta – Toronto, Ont.
  39. Grey Gardens – Toronto, Ont.
  40. Haven Kitchen + Bar – Langley, B.C.
  41. Hello Sunshine Japanese Restaurant + Private Karaoke Rooms – Banff, Alta.
  42. Home Block at CedarCreek Estate Winery – Kelowna, B.C.
  43. Homer Street Cafe & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  44. Hoogan & Beaufort – Montreal, Que.
  45. Hy’s Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  46. Ibérica – Montreal, Que.
  47. Italian by Night – Saint John, N.B.
  48. Joe Fortes Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  49. Ki Modern Japanese + Bar – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  50. Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyards – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
  51. La Vecchia – Marine Parade – Etobicoke, Ont.
  52. Lee – Toronto, Ont.
  53. Locale King City – King City, Ont.
  54. Lonely Mouth Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  55. Lulu Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  56. Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca – Vancouver, B.C.
  57. Maison Boulud – Montreal, Que.
  58. Maison Selby – Toronto, Ont.
  59. MAJOR TOM – Calgary, Alta.
  60. Marked – Toronto, Ont.
  61. Mercato – Mission – Calgary, Alta.
  62. Miku Restaurant – Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  63. Minami Restaurant – Vancouver, B.C.
  64. Modavie – Montreal, Que.
  65. Model Milk – Calgary, Alta.
  66. MODERN STEAK – Southport Rd – Calgary, Alta.
  67. Morton’s The Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  68. Osteria Giulia – Toronto, Ont.
  69. Osteria Savio Volpe – Vancouver, B.C.
  70. Pepino’s Spaghetti House & La Tana – Vancouver, B.C.
  71. Raven Bistro – Jasper, Alta.
  72. REIGN – Toronto, Ont.
  73. Riviera – Ottawa, Ont.
  74. Sabor Restaurant – Edmonton, Alta.
  75. Sassafraz – Toronto, Ont.
  76. Scaramouche Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  77. Shook Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  78. Sofia – Toronto, Ont.
  79. Sorrel Rosedale – Toronto, Ont.
  80. St. Germain’s – Casino Rama Resort – Orillia, Ont.
  81. Sukiyaki House – Calgary, Alta.
  82. Tableau Bar Bistro – Vancouver, B.C.
  83. Tea at The Empress – Victoria, B.C.
  84. Teatro Restaurant – Calgary, Alta.
  85. Ten Foot Henry – Calgary, Alta.
  86. The Bauer Kitchen – Waterloo, Ont.
  87. The Bison Restaurant – Banff, Alta.
  88. The Butchart Gardens – The Dining Room – Brentwood Bay, B.C.
  89. The Good Earth Vineyard And Winery – Beamsville, Ont.
  90. The Keg Steakhouse + Bar – Oshawa – Oshawa, Ont.
  91. The Lake House – Calgary, Alta.
  92. The Nash – Calgary, Alta.
  93. The Story Cafe – Eatery & Bar – Richmond, B.C.
  94. Three Bears Brewery – Banff, Alta.
  95. Trattoria Timone – Oakville, Ont.
  96. Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine- Niagara on the Lake – Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont.
  97. Tutto Restaurant & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  98. Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant – Vineland, Ont.
  99. Vintage Chophouse & Tavern – Calgary, Alta.
  100. Zarak by Afghan Kitchen – Vancouver, B.C.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta. 

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Alberta NDP says premier’s rejection of federal authority lays separation groundwork

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Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith‘s comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation.

Rachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority.

“It’s not like Ottawa is a national government,” Smith told the house at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

“The way our country works is that we are a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions. They are one of those signatories to the Constitution and the rest of us, as signatories to the Constitution, have a right to exercise our sovereign powers in our own areas of jurisdiction.”

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Notley, speaking to reporters, said, “At 12:30 last night when she thought nobody was listening, the veil was lifted and Danielle Smith’s interest in genuinely pursuing initial steps toward separation were revealed.

“(They) demonstrate that her view is actually that which is aligned with these fringe separatist wannabes like folks who drafted the Free Alberta Strategy.

“Those comments are utterly chaos-inducing.”

Free Alberta Strategy was a 2021 policy paper drafted in part by Smith’s current top adviser Rob Anderson.

The authors of the paper argue that federal laws, policies and overreach are mortally wounding Alberta’s development.

They urge a two-track strategy to assert greater autonomy for Alberta within Confederation, while simultaneously laying the policy and administrative groundwork to transition Alberta to separation and sovereignty should negotiations fail.

The strategy was the genesis for Smith’s controversial sovereignty bill that stipulates the Alberta legislature, rather than the courts, can pass judgment on what is constitutional when it comes to provincial jurisdiction.

The bill also grants cabinet the power to direct municipalities, city police forces, health regions and schools to resist implementing federal laws.

During question period, Smith rejected accusations the bill is a separatist Trojan Horse, noting its intent is contained in the title.

“The name of the bill is Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act,” said Smith.

“The (act) has nothing to do with leaving the country. It has everything to do with resetting the relationship (with the federal government).”

Political scientist Jared Wesley said it appears constitutional chaos and baiting the federal government are the actual aims.

“When you start to deny the legitimacy of the federal government, that is part of the worrying trend that ties all of this to the convoy movement and the separatists,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

“Albertans need to know those comments are inappropriate and misleading at best and sparking a national unity crisis at worst. Sooner or later, someone’s going to believe her.”

Wesley added that there is a sentiment among a small group of people in Alberta, including the premier, who “are just tired of losing and don’t want to play the game anymore,” he said.

“The sad thing is that that game is democracy and the rule book is the Constitution, and they’re just ignoring all of it now.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt said Smith was not describing Canadian federalism.

“She is confusing the European Union with Canada,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary. “Canada is not made up of sovereign provinces. We share sovereignty between orders of government.”

Political scientist Lori William, also with Mount Royal University, said the comment “betrays a profound lack of understanding of Canada, of federalism, of what powers belong to the federal and provincial governments.”

During question period, Smith waved away Opposition demands that she refer the bill to Alberta’s Court of Appeal to determine if it is onside with the Constitution.

Smith told the house that Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, a lawyer, wrote the bill and that the government received independent advice from constitutional lawyers to ensure it was not offside.

“The constitutionality of this bill is not in question,” Smith said.

The bill was introduced by Smith a week ago as centrepiece legislation to pursue a more confrontational approach with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government on a range of issues deemed to be overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.

It was a short, brutish ride for the bill.

Smith’s government, due to a public outcry, had to bring in an amendment just days after introducing the bill to reverse a provision that gave it ongoing emergency-type powers to unilaterally rewrite laws while bypassing the legislature.

Alberta’s First Nations chiefs have condemned the bill as trampling their treaty rights and Smith’s Indigenous relations minister has said more consultation should have been done.

Smith told the house she met with Indigenous leaders just hours earlier to discuss concerns and shared goals. She rejected the assertion the bill doesn’t respect treaty rights.

“There is no impact on treaty and First Nations’ rights. That’s the truth,” she said.

Law professor Martin Olszynski said the bill remains problematic because it must be clear the courts have the final say on interpreting the Constitution in order to stabilize the checks and balances of a democratic system.

He said Smith’s bill threatens that, perhaps putting judges in the awkward position of having to decide whether they are the ones to make those decisions.

“Can that judge exercise their judicial function without being affected by that very politicized context?” said Olszynski, with the University of Calgary.

“It essentially politicizes the judicial process.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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