Sex work in Canada is currently criminalized: it is prohibited by criminal law, immigration law, and municipal bylaws. Despite efforts to reform sex work law to criminalize the buying, rather than the selling, of sexual services, these laws work together to criminalize the lives and work of people who sell or trade sexual services for money, goods, or services. The criminalization of sex work further marginalizes 2SLGBTQI, Indigenous, Black, Asian, racialized, and migrant sex workers.

This document outlines the current legislative context for sex work in Canada and examines the marginalization that sex workers in Canada face. It highlights the need for the decriminalization of sex work as an essential step to ensure sex workers’ rights are protected, and that sex workers’ voices, demands, lived experiences and knowledge should be prioritized and should guide legal and political responses. It critically examines the Nordic and New Zealand models of sex work (de)criminalization and offers evidence-based proposals for change.

This research brief is intended to help our members, scholars, advocates, and allies understand the current issues that impact sex workers’ lives in Canada. It is also intended to help people learn about how the decriminalization of sex work should be integral to the fight for equality and 2SLGBTQI rights.