FIRST is a coalition of feminists who came together in 2007 to support the rights of sex industry workers and advocate for the decriminalization of adult sex work. We are guided by the fundamental principle that sex industry workers should have equal benefit of the human rights protections that are available to all members of Canadian society. To be a society that is truly committed to equality, freedom and human dignity, we must recognize the rights of sex industry workers to:
- Live and work in conditions that are free from hate, violence and exploitation;
- Have their dignity, autonomy and liberty respected, including the right to engage in consensual sex with other adults without being criminalized; and
- Be treated as equal members of society, have equal protection and benefit of the law and not be subject to stigma, discrimination and social alienation.
We further recognize that discrimination against sex industry workers often intersects with prejudice and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, poverty, sexuality, ability and age. For example, the oppression experienced by Indigenous women is closely entwined with Canada’s history of colonialism and the failure to recognize the inherent right to indigenous self-determination.
It must be recognized that the decriminalization of sex work will not on its own stop the injustices experienced by sex industry workers. However, it is an important first step to improve the health and safety of sex industry workers, and communities overall.
- Adult consensual sex industry work must be completely decriminalized in Canada. The term “decriminalization” refers to the repeal or removal of all criminal laws relating to adult prostitution. In the Canadian context, decriminalization means the necessary repeal of most of the new prostitution law passed by the Conservative government in 2015.
- Canadian law must not prohibit sexual activities between consenting adults, whether or not payment is involved.
- Sex industry workers must have full legal rights and equal access to the protection and benefit of the law, including labour and employment law.
- Sex industry workers and their organizations must be primary stakeholders in any process related to their legal, economic and/or social status. Governments must:
- Provide financial support to sex industry worker organizations to ensure their full and equal participation in any process related to the sex industry in Canada;
- Grant funding to support, expand and create community-based services dedicated to addressing sex industry workers’ economic, social and health needs; and
- Support the creation of organizational and business structures that empower and protect sex industry workers including, for example, the models proposed by the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities and Triple-X Solidarity Association of BC.
- The sexual exploitation of children and youth must not be tolerated. Further, children and youth should not be criminalized because of their involvement in the sex industry. Instead, youth need a range of social and health services to address underlying conditions of hardship.
- Mobility rights for sex industry workers within Canada must be fully supported. We demand that a non-discriminatory and humanitarian approach be taken towards migrant sex industry workers wishing to enter Canada. We support the existing provisions of the Criminal Code that prohibit trafficking in persons for the purpose of any form of labour or service. However, protections must be improved so that victims of trafficking do not face criminalization or removal from Canada.
- The appropriate levels of government must support sex industry worker organizations to develop and implement training that educates and sensitizes the justice system and health and social services providers to the needs of sex industry workers.
- The appropriate levels of government must support sex industry worker organizations to develop and implement public awareness campaigns aimed at educating society on the lived experience of sex industry workers.
FIRST believes that sex industry workers will never truly gain equality, freedom and dignity until the illegal and stigmatized status of their work is addressed. Decriminalization is an essential step: the time for legislative change is now.
 The term, “sex industry worker” refers to all women, men and trans-gendered adults who exchange sexual services for remuneration where parties consent and negotiate the details of the transaction.
For additional information please see the following documents: