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Women’s Equality Coalition response to “Act Now: Preventing Human Trafficking of Women, Girls and Gender Diverse People in Canada”, Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women

March 5, 2024

We commend the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for taking on the important study of the trafficking of women, girls, and vulnerable people for sexual purposes in Canada.

We appreciate the committee’s attempt to navigate the opposing views presented on prostitution, the social phenomena that is intertwined with, and fuels, sex trafficking. While some witnesses and submissions portrayed prostitution as “work” and even a “vocation” that one “chooses” or at the very least, “consents” to, others have highlighted the violence, degradation, and exploitation that are inherent to prostitution as a system. This system relies on, and reinforces, oppression on the basis of sex, race, class, and disability. 

Our coalition holds the view of the latter. This position is derived from our front-line work with countless women and the lived experience of many of our members who were coerced by pimps, buyers, or the conditions of their lives, to sell access to their bodies. We are painfully aware of the long-lasting and devastating impact on women resulting from prostitution. Moreover, prostitution normalizes the objectification, commodification, and dehumanization of women and promotes men’s misogynist treatment of women in our society including battery, rape, and femicide.

Unfortunately, the report has failed to accentuate key recommendations that are essential to the fulfillment of its goal of “addressing human trafficking currently occurring, and preventing further instances of human trafficking in Canada.” Traffickers, pimps, sex buyers (johns), brothel owners, and others who exploit and profit from the trafficking and the prostitution of women and vulnerable people must be deterred by being held accountable. It is incumbent on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to call for a robust response from the Criminal Justice System and to demand the enforcement of all relevant legislation including the criminalization of those who obtain sexual services, those who advertise sexual services of others, and those who materially benefit from the prostitution of others.

We endorse many of the recommendations made in the report and in particular those that call on the Government of Canada to:

  • Reduce poverty and ensure that individuals’ basic needs are met (Recommendation 9) which includes: guaranteed annual livable income, safe and affordable housing, and services for women victims of male violence including trafficking and prostitution (i.e. gender-based violence);
  • Fully implement the Calls for Justice made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Recommendation 13);
  • Prioritize the protection of migrant workers with an irregular immigration status from human trafficking, exploitation and abuse and improving the process of obtaining permanent residence status for victim of trafficking (Recommendation 8); and
  • Report on its plan and future actions to protect women, girls and gender diverse people from sexual slavery, human trafficking and the negative effects of pornography (Recommendation 20)

On all of these issues, we join the Committee’s call on Canada and its provinces to ACT NOW.

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