TESA warns proposed Bill C-36 magnifies dangers for trans* sex workers; red umbrellas carried at Pride Parade
Note: this release was submitted as a brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (LCJC) for their pre-study regarding Bill C-36 in September, 2014. An index of all briefs submitted to the Senate on this matter may be found here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--Friday, June 6th , 2014--ALBERTA
Members of the Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) will be carrying red umbrellas in Edmonton's Pride Parade to support sex workers--whether trans* or not--in their right to engage in harm-reduction strategies soon to be outlawed under the federal government's Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.
"Federal Justice Minster Peter MacKay has stated Bill C-36 is about keeping our streets and our communities safe, yet Bill C-36 does not seem to reflect any interest in keeping people in the sex worker community safe, nor does it reflect any support for helping marginalised people remain out of sex work in the first place," says TESA member Angela Reid. "When enacted, the Bill's provisions will serve to harm sex workers in Canada generally, as well as increase dangers faced by trans* sex workers in particular."
Some Alberta sex workers are trans*. TESA's mission is to be a witness and a voice for matters concerning trans* Albertans.
Speaking to TESA under the condition of anonymity, a former sex worker commented on Bill C-36, stating: "There is already enough social stigma and legal obstacles in sex work that required me to rely on myself for safety. Add on the social stigma of being transgender and it becomes even more dangerous. Any legislation that creates more obstacles will only make the work more secretive and harder to do the work safely."
Reid agrees with these concerns. "Canadian workers should be able to expect that their government will not place them into a position of avoidable harm,"she says, noting that trans* sex workers are over-represented as street-level workers, which is considered the most dangerous form of sex work .
Reid's discussions with trans*-identified Alberta sex workers emphasised that being able to properly screen clients is a critical factor in assessing risk. With Bill C-36’s expansion of criminalizing of communication, sex workers
are forced to make hasty judgements without support. In addition, transgender sex workers sometime face violence when clients discover their transgender status . Risks are substantially minimised by either prior communication with clients and other support services, or by working areas known to clients to be trans*-specific. By forcing sex workers to relocate so as to avoid their clients being arrested, the potential for misunderstandings and violence towards such workers is dramatically increased.
Many trans* women participate in sex work. According to the report Injustice at Every Turn by the National Center for Transgender Equality (USA), some 16 per cent of transgender women participate in sex work, double the rate
of cisgender women. Higher rates of trans* participation in sex work is attributed in large part due to economic stresses caused by widespread discrimination for employment, housing, and other necessities of life, in addition to the high cost of often un-insured medical procedures needed for their transitions .
"Even in Alberta, trans* people have lost their livelihoods due to discrimination. Sex work as survival work is not unheard of among trans* Albertans," says Reid. "As many places in Canada and elsewhere do not provide insured services for trans*-specific healthcare needs, trans* Canadians may seek ways to gain access to incredibly expensive care." Reid notes that the vast majority of trans*-specific medical procedures are paid for out-of-pocket, with patients usually unable even to benefit from medical expense claims for tax purposes.
Bill C-36's expanded criminalization of the use of the Internet for advertising also impinges on the ability of trans* sex workers to communicate with their clients. According to the Bill, "A judge may issue a warrant authorizing seizure of copies of a recording, a publication, a representation or any written material, if the judge is satisfied ... that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the representation, written material or recording, [within the court's jurisdiction] is an advertisement of sexual services" (164.1(1)(d)).  Being unable to advertise removes yet another possibility for trans* sex workers to screen their clients.
Reid notes that, "By removing legal and appropriate access to common communication technologies, the Canadian government is stripping the ability of sex workers--including webcam workers--to establish and maintain a safer work environment."
By carrying red umbrellas in the Pride Parade, Reid and others hope to demonstrate solidarity with the real and urgent concerns that emerge under Bill C-36.
"Trans* Canadians already face substantial challenges to full inclusion in Canadian society. For trans* women already facing discrimination and marginalisation for their existence, sex work may be the final line between work
and abject poverty," says Reid. "When we work together to draw attention to these many and complex issues, we hope to see change that truly keeps both our streets and communities safe."
 Infante et al. (2009). Vulnerability of male, travesti, transgender and transsexual sex workers. Culture, Health & Sexuality.11:125–137.
Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19140056
 Sausa et al. (2007). Perceived Risks and Benefits of Sex Work among Transgender Women of Color in San Francisco.
Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-007-9210-3
 National Centre for Transgender Equality. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. [USA].
Retrieved from http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf
 Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=6635303
For more information, please also see:
Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72,  3 S.C.R. 1101.
Retrieved from http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/13389/index.do
More information about TESA can be found at www.tesaonline.org
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