The Canadian Association of Social Workers Provides Recommendations for a Safer, Better Canada for Sex-Workers

August 28, 2019 - Today the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) publishes Decriminalization, Exit Strategies, and the Social Determinants of Health: A three-pronged approach to health, safety and dignity for sex workers. As the tile suggests, the paper takes a holistic approach to creating a better Canada for sex-workers, proposing decriminalization as one piece in a larger suite of tactics.

“When the federal government introduced a new law governing sex work in 2014, it was supposed to end demand and increase safety,” began CASW President, Jan Christianson-Wood, “but evidence from at home and abroad, recommendations from advocacy groups, and – most importantly – the voices of sex workers themselves all indicate that the criminalization of sex work pushes it further underground, making it more dangerous.”

It’s important to note that in Decriminalization, Exit Strategies, and the Social Determinants of Health, CASW proposes decriminalizing consensual adult sex work: CASW vehemently condemns practices involving minors or trafficked persons. That said, while this paper is specifically on the topic of sex work, the recommendations proposed are also meant to address the issues of human trafficking, involuntary sex work, and any other forms of coercion.

“For decriminalization to be effective in creating a safer, heathier Canada – and in reducing involuntary, underage, and trafficked persons becoming involved – it must come with robust funding and services to facilitate transitions for those who wish to leave sex work, as well as deep investments in the social determinants of health,” said Christianson-Wood.

From CASW’s perspective, the same policies that will create more safety, health, and dignity for sex workers will also help create the kind of society in which people are robustly supported – a society in which minors and adults are better protected from trafficking, coercion, and survival sex work.

“Finally, it’s not relevant whether CASW has a position on sex work itself. While many sex workers report negative experiences, other voices of lived experience report empowerment: there are strong perspectives on both sides” said Christianson-Wood. “This paper is meant to be practical, not philosophical, and is proposing policy and legislative options will provide the most safety, dignity, and positive social and health outcomes for Canadians.”

In this position statement, CASW recommends a three-pronged approach to increasing sex worker’s safety, health, and well-being: decriminalization of consensual adult sex work, a new office to fund and manage programming around exit strategies for sex workers, and recommendations to robustly strengthen the social determinants of health. Click here to read the full paper.