Sex Work Activism in Canada

Speaking Out, Standing Up
  • ISBN-13: 9781927886298
  • PRICE: $30.00
  • Paperback, 440 pages
“…an indelible resource that captures powerful histories that will help non-sex workers better understand sex worker activist concerns, aims and experiences. [A]n essential read for feminists who want to ensure their feminism encompasses sex workers’ experiences and perspectives.” — Jessica Rose, herizons, Summer 2021

Serving as history as well as a rare and valuable reference, Sex Work Activism in Canada brings together the narratives, histories, expertise, and teachings of sex work activists across the country. Through texts and testimonials from the grass-roots level, it explores the past and present work of sex work activists and advocates in our own words.

“Any advancement on rights and harm reduction agendas for sex workers are the legacy of sex workers living and dead, and the allies who sacrificed along with us. Some paid for our progress with their lives. The BCCEC and other individuals and groups work in remembrance of sex workers, who we will never let the world forget.” — Susan Davis and Dr. Raven Bowen

“As an Indigenous woman, I was taught that the only thing that we own as human people is our own flesh and the body that we are born into. For several years, I was able to use sex work as a way to fund myself and my children as a land defender, water protector, and Indigenous rights advocate. It was when I went to Stella’s with Tracy and saw the video about the sex workers who organized in Montreal at the 5th International AIDS Conference in 1989, “Our Bodies Our Business” that I really knew that I was part of something bigger than just me. At that moment, I felt powerful, and validated, and so much more than that. I can’t describe what being a part of the sex work movement means to me.” — Lanna Moon


Acknowledgments 9

Introduction 11

Amy Lebovitch and Shawna Ferris

  1. 1 The (Un)Constitutionality of PCEPA: A Necessary Discussion 20

Naomi Sayers

  1. 2 Peers Victoria: 20 Years of Community, Support, and Activism by and For Sex Workers 36

Jody Paterson

  1. 3 “Pick the time and get some women together”: Organizing as the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society 50 SWAUV Board members in collaboration with Amy Lebovitch and Shawna Ferris
  2. 4 FIRST History: A Passion for Organizing 65

Esther Shannon, Catherine Zangger, and Joyce Arthur

  1. 5 How You Survive This Life Everyday: HUSTLE 78

Matthew Taylor and other HUSTLE members

  1. 6 Providing Alternatives, Counselling and Education Society 88

Laura Dilley and Sheryl Kiselbach

  1. 7 SWAN Vancouver: Supporting Immigrant and Migrant Women in the Sex Industry 104

Kimberly Mackenzie and Julie Ham

  1. 8 Triple-X Stories 118

Directors of Triple-X

  1. 9 Controlling Our Destinies: How the BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC) Shaped Sex Worker Rights Organizing in Vancouver, British Columbia 139

Susan Davies and Dr. Raven Bowen

  1. 10 Prostitutes Involved, Empower, Cogent—Edmonton (PIECE) 162

Monica Valiquette

  1. 11 Changing the Conversation: The Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition 168

Anlina Sheng, Claudyne Chevrier, and other SWWAC members

  1. 12 TOGETHER We Fuck to Win: A Whorestorical Story of Sex Work Activism and Action in Sault Ste. Marie: from Stop the Arrests to SSM Sex Worker Rights 181

Arlene Pitts, Amanda Jabbour, and Shauna Weston

  1. 13 SWANS: Calling Out Adversity and Finding Community through Sex Worker Advocacy in Sudbury, Ontario 195

Tracy Gregory

  1. 14 From Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Birth of a Migrant Sex Workers’ Organization in Canada 206

Elene Lam, Nancy Sun, and Stephanie Milliken

  1. 15 Maggies: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project 220


  1. 16 WHOREISTORY: Time Capsules of Toronto Sex Work Activism, 1983 to 1998 232

Valerie Scott

  1. 17 Stella, lamie de Maimie: creating a space and movement for working women 262

Generations of Stelliennes at Stella, l’amie de Maimie

  1. 18 Alliance féministe solidaires pour les droits des travailleuse et travailleur du sexe (AFS)—courte histoire, 2010-2014 289

Maria Nengeh Mensah, Louise Toupin, Véronique Leduc, Marie-Eve Gauvin, Sébastien Barraud, Julie Marceau, Nicole Nepton et Maxime Vallée

AFS: The feminist solidarity alliance for sex worker rights: a brief history (2010-2014) 302

Maria Nengeh Mensah, Louise Toupin, Véro Leduc, Marie-Eve Gauvin, Sébastien Barraud, Julie Marceau, Nicole Nepton & Maxime Vallée

  1. 19 Projet L.U.N.E. : Par et pour les travailleuses du sexe 314

Maude Santerre

Projet L.U.N.E.: By and for sex workers 321

Maude Santerre

  1. 20 The Story of Stepping Stone in Nova Scotia 328

Stepping Stone

  1. 1 Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Networks report, Sex, Work, Rights: Reforming Canadian Criminal Laws on Prostitution, originally published in 2005 341
  2. 2 Selections from Pivot Legal Societys report, Beyond Decriminalization: Sex Work, Human Rights and a New Framework for Law Reform, published in 2006 363
  3. 3 SWAN Vancouver, IM/MIGRANT Sex workers, Myths and Misconceptions: Realities of the Anti-trafficked, 2015 372
  4. 4 Selections from POWERs report, The Toolbox: What Works for Sex Workers, published (again) in 2014 406
  5. 5 Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reforms executive summary of their report, Safety, Dignity, Equality: Recommendations for

Sex Work Law Reform in Canada, published in 2017 422

  1. 6 Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reforms report, Canada v. Bedford: The Importance of the SCC Decision, published in 2014 434





Amy Lebovitch

Amy Lebovitch is a sex worker and long-time activist with Sex Professionals of Canada. She was a plaintiff in the Ontario-based Charter challenge to sex work laws (the "Bedford Case"). She is also passionate about the rights of those who use drugs. She is a public speaker, educator, and activist. She also loves cats, tiny coffees, and creating art.

Shawna Ferris

Shawna Ferris is an associate professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Manitoba, where she researches and teaches in sex work studies, critical race studies, and feminist perspectives on and responses to violence against women. She also works with activists in these areas. She loves dogs, strong coffee, and being a mom.


Sex Work Activism in Canada: Speaking Out, Standing Up

By Jessica Rose/herizons, summer 2021

Sex Work Activism in Canada: Speaking Out, Standing Up is dedicated to “all of the sex workers, activists, and allies who have worked for so many decades to fight for sex worker rights in Canada.” Edited by sex work activists Amy Lebovitch and Shawna Ferris, it’s an impressive collection of knowledge, best practices, challenges, and successes, preserving stories often “pushed to the margins or neglected in official histories.”

Rooted in the recollections of sex work organizations coast to coast, Sex Work Activism in Canada is deliberate in its approach, resisting an academic peer review and chronicling organizations’ histories from west to east. At more than 400 pages, it’s a spectacular archive that will undoubtedly act as a resource for generations of activists and organizations to come. “It became increasingly clear to me over the years that preservation, the sharing of memories, stories, feelings, and histories, was so important to document,” writes Lebovitch in the book’s introduction.

“In the wake of precedents set in the Ontario and BC-based constitutional challenges brought by sex worker activists, now seemed a particularly important point to collect and share records of the decades of creative, collaborative, and revolutionary community-building, outreach and support, awareness raising, rabble-rousing, and legislative work that got us here,” writes Ferris of the book’s timeliness. Sex Work Activism in Canada also looks deeply at commonalities among many organizations coast to coast, with themes including generating and maintaining funding and stability, challenging stigma associated with sex work, and “the ebb and flow of public and political support for sex workers.” The book also includes a number of French-language contributions.

Populated by primary sources, including photographs, posters and zines, plus back-of-the-book resources about sex worker rights, Sex Work Activism in Canada will not only benefit sex work activists and organizations. It’s also an indelible resource that captures powerful histories that will help non-sex workers better understand sex worker activist concerns, aims and experiences. It is an essential read for feminists who want to ensure their feminism encompasses sex workers’ experiences and perspectives. Above all, it’s a book about resilience and the collective power of sex workers coming together to fight to take up space and fight injustice.

Reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.