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Sex workers say Canada's laws put them in danger — and demand the new government fix them – Global News

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She starts by screening them.

Whenever Mari receives online booking requests from new clients, the dominatrix and sex worker asks them to email her their government identification or a piece of work ID.

She also accepts references clients may have from other sex workers. If a client is known to others as a bad date, she won’t see them.

But Mari, who asked Global News to identify her by first name only, says not all sex workers have the “privilege” of screening clients in this way.

Those who work on the street may not have the ability to screen at all, or have to negotiate services in unsafe environments since aspects of communicating about sex work are criminalized.

“It makes our work less safe,” Mari says.

WATCH BELOW: (April 18, 2018) Backpage shutdown has B.C. sex trade workers concerned






Sex workers and legal experts argue that Canada’s sex work laws are prohibitive and doing the opposite of what they’re supposed to do — instead of protecting “human dignity,” the laws push sex workers into dangerous situations by criminalizing nearly every aspect of their job.

Built into Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), is a commitment to review the laws by the end of 2019. That time is now, and advocates say nothing has happened.

The Canadian Alliance of Sex Work Law Reform is calling on the Liberals to start that review process and act on decriminalization. The group also wants to see provincial and territorial employment laws regulate the sex industry as a form of labour.

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The organization, which is made up of sex workers’ rights groups from across the country, also says sex workers need to be part of legal reform. They are the ones who know how to best protect their rights, the alliance argues.

READ MORE: Sex worker advocacy group says police violated their privacy

“Despite the stated commitment in 2015 to replace the PCEPA and to reform prostitution laws, the Liberal Party of Canada has yet to take meaningful steps,” the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network recently wrote to the government.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada said it is a governmental priority to ensure that “our laws are effective in meeting their objectives, promoting public safety and security, and are consistent with our constitutionally protected rights.”

“With regard to the five-year review, the Act provides that it is Parliament’s responsibility to establish or designate a committee to study the matter,” the spokesperson said.

“As Parliament has just opened, the House is currently in the process of forming Committees. In the interim, we continue to engage with those involved.”

Sex work laws in Canada

Bill C-36 criminalizes the purchasing of sex but decriminalizes its sale. Known as an “end-demand” model, it also forbids negotiating sexual services in certain public places, such as near schools, financially benefitting off the sale of someone’s sexual services or knowingly advertising sexual services.

Bill C-36 came into effect in 2014 under a Conservative government after the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s previous laws in 2013 for being unconstitutional.

The court found the old laws imposed “dangerous conditions on prostitution” and prevented people engaged in a “risky, but legal, activity from taking steps to protect themselves.”

The Conservatives’ solution was PCEPA, which “treats prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately impacts on women and girls.”

In 2014, then-Liberal MP Justin Trudeau voted against Bill C-36, and the Liberals promised to reform sex work laws throughout the 2015 campaign. Despite this, the Liberal government made no changes to the law during Trudeau’s first mandate.

At the 2018 Liberal Party convention, the Young Liberals of Canada called for the decriminalization of consensual sex work. The organization argued the “current prohibition of buying consensual sex work does not address the underlying issues that make sex work dangerous, but rather creates a climate that makes sex workers unlikely to work with the police and be involved with more serious crimes.”

WATCH BELOW: Young people with disabilities aren’t being taught sex-ed







But sex work wasn’t a much-debated topic during the recent 2019 federal election campaign, despite efforts from more than 150 human rights groups that called on the winning party to decriminalize sex work. Sex work law reform was also not a part of the Liberals’ 2019 campaign platform.

Alice, a sex worker who asked Global News to change her name to protect her identity, says Maggie’s, the Toronto-based sex workers’ rights organization, even tried to host a panel with local MPs to raise its concerns.

The event was cancelled by Maggie’s due to poor response from politicians.

The laws essentially criminalize “almost every facet of sex work,” says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, director of research and advocacy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

“They make it incredibly difficult for sex workers to organize, to work in safety, to work together, to work with third parties who could promote their safety, and to even communicate with clients,” Chu says.

Some research shows how Canada’s end-demand model is harmful.

READ MORE: Demands grow for Canada to decriminalize sex work after the election

Research presented at the 2018 International AIDS Conference found that going after the men who buy sex does not actually help sex workers. Instead, researchers said it makes it harder for sex workers to negotiate terms of service, including condom use.

“The criminalization of sex work makes the environment of sex workers’ labour criminal by criminalizing relationships with clients and third parties and sex work income and workplaces,” another recent report by Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network found.

“While the PCEPA immunizes some sex workers from criminal prosecution, sex workers continue to experience ongoing human rights abuses perpetuated by both the presence and practice of law enforcement in the course of their work.”

New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003, which has lead to improved conditions for sex workers, including safer working environments and better relationships between workers and police, a 2008 study found.

Another 2009 study found New Zealand’s laws also did not lead to an increase in sex workers, as numbers in the industry stayed around the same.

This is not surprising to Mari, who says Canada’s end-demand model ignores the fact there’s always going to be people who purchase sex.

“And that’s why the model is a very bad model to be following; it restricts our movements and our rights.”

Advertising and communicating about sex work is incredibly hard

For sex workers who find clients online, laws around advertising make it very difficult to explicitly outline services. Bill C-36 criminalizes advertising the sale of sexual services, including through print media, on websites or in “locations that offer sexual services for sale,” like strip clubs.

While sex workers are protected from criminal liability for advertising their own sexual services, website administrators can be charged for hosting such ads, which means sites are less likely to host sex workers’ websites. Content in violation of Canada’s laws can be taken down at any time and seized by the authorities.

This results in sex workers having to use more vague and coded terms so their content is not reported.

WATCH BELOW: (November 9, 2017) App could offer some safety to sex trade workers







“Advertising is very important for business and for openly communicating terms of service and determining consent,” says Anne Margaret Deck, vice-chair of the board at Maggie’s.

While prohibitive for all sex workers, those who work on the street may experience even further challenges.

Canada’s laws also make it illegal to communicate “for the purposes of offering or providing sexual services for consideration” near school grounds, playgrounds or daycare centres.

Kerry Porth, a former sex worker and sex work policy consultant at the Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, says even though communication laws are directed at clients, they harm sex workers, too.

“Even if you only criminalize one party, that communication becomes criminalized and very difficult,” she says.

What’s more, the fact that a third-party cannot advertise on behalf of a sex worker is also harmful, she says. Porth highlights that some sex workers lack resources or the ability to work independently and prefer to work for an escort agency, for example.

READ MORE: SafeSpace London fears naming johns could increase danger for sex workers

Chu, the lawyer, says that for migrant sex workers, for whom language barriers may be a factor, the laws are especially damaging.

“The most marginalized people who do sex work, they’re probably under the most scrutiny because they don’t have access to some of the things that less marginalized people do,” she says.

Screening clients can be hard

Because it’s illegal to purchase sex, Mari says clients have a lot of fear around divulging their identity.

This makes it difficult for sex workers to screen clients in a comprehensive way, which ultimately jeopardizes their safety.

“If [clients] do not want to divulge their identity, their places of work and their reasons for coming to see us, it creates danger for the worker because you do not have any information about your client,” Mari says.

“In any other workplace or any other business, you have information about your clients.”

Those who work in rural communities may have greater difficulty getting clients to offer their personal information ahead of a meeting, especially in places where sex work is heavily policed.

Porth echoes this and says sex workers who work online — who are generally independent indoor workers — are also concerned they might be communicating with a police officer masked as a client.

WATCH BELOW: Canada’s failure to end violence against women







“There’s been a number of sting operations online and so those concerns are valid,” she says.

Violence and sexual harassment are also a legitimate concern.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 294 homicides of sex workers between 1991 and 2014. A third of those murders were unsolved as of 2016, more than 10 per cent higher than the unsolved rate for murders that do not involve sex workers.

Sex workers who are transgender, Indigenous or people of colour are even more vulnerable to violence.

Predators are aware that police are less inclined to investigate the disappearances of sex workers, the Canadian Alliance of Sex Work Law Reform says, and they also know Indigenous and migrant women often fear police detection and apprehension.

READ MORE: ‘It’s time to stop the moral panic’ — Sex worker sounds off on body politics

“Street-based sex workers or sex workers that don’t have an established business and are working independently might have to compromise their safety in order to simply get business and pay their rent,” Deck says.

“And predatory clients know this; they know what they can get away with.”

Efforts to squash stigma

Outside of legal barriers, the stigma around sex work is one of the biggest issues sex workers face. Industry experts argue the laws paint all sex workers as “victims” that need to be “saved” from sex work.

Human trafficking is also often conflated with sex work, even though they are two different things, Porth explains.

While there are instances in which women are trafficked into sex work, that is not the reality for many sex workers who simply want to be able to work safely and on their own terms.

READ MORE: Regina aims to restrict body rub parlours to industrial areas only

Alice says the stigma affects many aspects of her life, including the ability to secure housing and travel. Landlords don’t like renting to sex workers, and health-care providers may pass judgment, too.

Sex workers deserve the right to work in safe conditions just like any other Canadian worker, Deck says.

“Having these laws in the Criminal Code at all just continues to criminalize the industry, push it underground, further isolate sex workers and contribute to stigma.”

— With a file from Rachel Browne

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

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Coronavirus numbers are surging in Canada. But who’s getting sick and why? – Global News

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As Canada grapples with rising novel coronavirus numbers, experts say mounting evidence points to young people as the driving force behind the spike in cases.

The data doesn’t lie. The latest available data from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed 56.6 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus were younger than 50 years old.

People aged 20-29 accounted for “the largest proportion of cases,” the agency said in its weekly epidemiology report.

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“Incidence rates in those 20 to 39 years of age remain consistently higher compared to all other age groups.”

The agency wrote this could be due to having to return to work, where that age bracket makes up a majority of the service industry, as well as reduced social distancing among young people or general “fatigue with physical distancing and other public health measures.”

“This is not a surprise,” said Colin Furness, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto. “That’s the group that has suffered socially the most in a lot of ways.”

Read more:
What about the next pandemic? Coronavirus offers lessons for the future

Furness said he’d noticed trends among servers, but that young people may have also become complacent to COVID-19 measures in trying to “make the most” of the end of their summers.

With restaurants, bars, smaller workplaces, universities and other schools reopened, there is more opportunity for youth to get sick, he said. But when it comes to returning to work, for businesses able to work remotely Furness said “it’s better to stay put.”

While the PHAC noted most confirmed diagnoses reported in schools and daycares were individual cases, rather than examples of community transmission, the agency said confirmed infections have been increasing since August.

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Coronavirus: Ford calls on all Ontarians to get flu shot as province prepares for COVID-19 second wave


Coronavirus: Ford calls on all Ontarians to get flu shot as province prepares for COVID-19 second wave

Furness said going back to school was “very important” for children’s mental health, and would be economically beneficial for parents — “predominantly women who then get excluded from their jobs.”

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From an infection control standpoint, Furness said it was more likely that schools were going to reflect how the pandemic had been affecting each school’s community.

He also said some provinces should have either chosen to reopen bars or schools — but not both.

“We can do a lot,” he said. “We just can’t do it all at the same time.”

Read more:
Feds say they’re prepared to discuss health-care funding after provinces voice concerns

“It’s risky to open schools, so we should be doing something to compensate for that.”

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Cynthia Carr, a Winnipeg-based epidemiologist with EPI Research Inc., said it was inevitable that — even in Canada, where community spread is under control in most provinces — returning to school would at least in some part drive up COVID-19 cases.

“Once you put people together in a room for a long period of time, there’s opportunity for infection to spread,” she said.

Carr said the surging numbers may look daunting, but are actually on par with Health Canada’s projections, which estimated the country would see a fall peak in September.

This is important, she said, as according to Health Canada, the country should expect to see a rise in diagnoses, but low rates of hospitalizations or deaths due to the age demographic making up the majority of people getting sick.

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The challenge, said Carr, is what she called an “epidemiological lag.”

“In a week or two, will we see an increase in outcomes such as hospitalizations and deaths? That’s what we want to avoid, because this increase in cases (can lead) to infection within our vulnerable residents,” she said.

Experts warned Canadians may not have seen the end of surging cases.






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Quebec headed toward second coronavirus wave as cases soar


Quebec headed toward second coronavirus wave as cases soar

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Tuesday it would be difficult for him to declare whether or not the country was in the midst of its second wave of the virus.

“Canada is a big country. All regions are different,” he said, adding that officials have confirmed a second wave in Ottawa.

Dr. Andrew Morris, infectious disease physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said the influx in cases the country was seeing now “will probably go on steroids in the next couple of weeks — unless something is drastically done.”

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“We will see increasing and accelerated growth over the next couple of weeks despite any measures that the government may do over the next week,” he said, identifying initial provincial challenges with testing, contact tracing and isolating patients as factors leading up to rising numbers.

Read more:
A Toronto woman contracted coronavirus in March. She’s still exhibiting symptoms

On whether the country was prepared for a second wave, Morris said: “Not a chance.”

In order to successfully navigate through a second wave, Morris said federal and provincial governments were going to need to step up their testing, open more COVID-19 assessment centres and stock up on ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“Without a proper surveillance and screening strategy, it makes it very difficult for us to properly use our testing capacities,” he said.

“If you don’t have one of the fundamental aspects which is testing and that is both collecting the tests, assessment centre abilities and lab capacity… then you’re in trouble,” he said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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'BlueLeaks' data breach involved 38 Canadian police forces – CBC.ca

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Confidential law enforcement data belonging to 38 Canadian police agencies has been exposed by a group of so-called hacktivists targeting police in the U.S., Radio-Canada has learned.

The group Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) published thousands of documents amounting to 269 gigabytes online in June. Members of the group say the documents were obtained from members of the hacker collective Anonymous. 

The leak came from cyberattacks on American police agencies or their suppliers. Information from police services across the U.S., including emails, training notes and expense reports, was published online.

The RCMP has confirmed it was one of the agencies affected by the leak. In a statement, the RCMP said the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit (NC3) and RCMP cyber intelligence led an investigation to determine the effect of the leak on various RCMP jurisdictions and other Canadian police agencies.

‘No secret information,’ RCMP says

The leaked information involving Canadian law enforcement did not have a major impact on sensitive operations and was generally related to “training, administration and unclassified material which is non-sensitive in nature,” the RCMP said in a statement. 

“We found that there was no secret information that was disclosed,” said Insp. Daniel Côté, the officer in charge of NC3. “All the information that was online was administrative in nature.”

The RCMP declined to identify the other Canadian police agencies involved, “for privacy and operational reasons.”

But Steve Waterhouse, a cybersecurity expert and former cybersecurity officer for the Department of National Defence, argued even administrative data can be damaging if it gets into the wrong hands. 

“It could be emails or phone numbers of police officers in that stash of information, and they can sell it or use it to physically harm or harass police officers’ families,” Waterhouse said.

Privacy commissioner notified 3 months later

The RCMP said it takes any privacy breach seriously and that past and current employees involved in the breach are being notified.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada received a report from the RCMP about the leak on Sept. 18, almost three months after it occurred.

In a statement, the office said it is reviewing the report and said the incident raises serious concerns, “given the sensitivity of the information involved.”

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Canadians' grocery bills are increasing; pandemic to accelerate the trend: report – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canadians who have suspected their grocery bills have been rising over the years aren’t imagining it, according to a new report that found the price of food has been steadily increasing in the last decade – and the COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating this trend.

According to the report, which was released on Tuesday by Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Analytics Lab, the price of a typical grocery basket has increased by approximately 240 per cent since 2000.

While it’s expected the price of food will go up because of inflation, Sylvain Charlebois, a professor and senior director of the lab, said his team wanted to see how the food price index compared with the general inflation index or Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the past 20 years.

“The point of the report is to show that really over the last 10 years, at least, the food inflation rate has outpaced the general inflation rate,” he explained during a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

The report found that the overall cost of other products and services in the economy didn’t increase as much as food did during this time period.

Charlebois said the rising cost of food is actually the result of the agri-food industry playing “catch up” after a generation of discounted products.

“North America has been the realm of discounted food for quite some time. We are just coming out of an era in which we have been bent on buying the cheapest food products,” the report stated. “But things are different now.”

The researchers said consumers have more choice than ever now and because of that, they expect more innovation and quality when it comes to their food.

“There is certainly a price to pay for that. As a result, the industry has been catching up to our expectations by managing higher costs and passing some of the increases onto us,” the report said.

Charlebois said he expects the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the pace of these food price increases because operation costs have gone up during the health emergency.

“We actually are expecting the average household in Canada to spend not just 9.1 per cent of their budget, but maybe 10.5, perhaps even 11 per cent,” he said.

REGIONAL VARIANCES

While the report found that every province and territory have had their consumer price indices outstripped by the food price index, some regions have seen more of a disparity than others.

Charlebois said households in Eastern Canada have had to spend more of their budgets on food than in other areas due to a lack of regionally based food processing and the higher logistical costs of serving some remote markets.

New Brunswick saw the biggest gap between the food price index and the general price index at 25.8 points, followed by Quebec (23.1 per cent), and Nova Scotia (21.3 per cent).

“It is especially in the last decade that the gap between the two indices has widened,” the report said.

To avoid food insecurity from the rising costs, Charlebois said he would like to see governments invest in controlled environment agriculture, greenhouses to produce food all year round, and increases in the processing capacity in the most affected regions.

SUGAR, PEANUT BUTTER REMAIN AFFORDABLE

While the rising cost of food may be unwelcome news for most Canadians, Charlebois said there are still several food items that appear to be impervious to the increases.

According to Statistics Canada, white sugar is almost the same price as it was 20 years ago in 2000 at $2.40 per two kilograms.

“Although there are only three sugar producers in Canada that control the market, Redpath, Lantic and Rogers in the West, the price of sugar has barely changed in the last two decades,” the report said.

Flour, too, has also remained fairly cheap, Charlebois said, with only a 38 per cent increase over the past two decades.

There has been even less of an increase in price for peanut butter over the years, according to Charlebois. He said peanut butter is only 5 per cent more expensive now than it was in 2000.

“I think it has a lot to do with competition,” he said. “The fact that there are a lot more brands and it’s been a little bit more competitive.” 

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