Congratulations to Sheri Kiselbach, members of Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV), and our friends at Pivot Legal Society for your recent Supreme Court Victory!
The SCC was unanimous in ruling that Ms. Keselbach, a former sex worker, and SWUAV, a sex worker-led organization, have public interest standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Criminal Code provisions related to sex work.
The access to justice issue was before the Supremes after the BC Court of Appeal rejected with the Federal Government’s argument that the parties lacked standing. The standing debate stems from the fact that neither Ms. Kiselbach, as a former worker, or SWUAV as an organization, were at risk of being charges criminally with the offences in question.
The Court sided with sex workers’ assertions that barriers, such as lack of resources and fear of being outed, made it next to impossible for an individual sex worker in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver to mount such a complex constitutional challenge. Most importantly, the decision gives the green light for collectives of marginalized people to work together on major challenges via public interest standing.
The constitutional challenge launched by the group in 2007 differs from the ongoing challenge of the sex work laws in Bedford v. Canada, likely to be heard by the Supreme Court next year. The members of SWUAV are predominantly street-based workers whereas the focus in Bedford has been decriminalizing the indoor trade, and where Bedford argued that the Criminal Code provisions violate s.7 and s.2 of the Charter, SWUAV also includes a s.15 equality analysis citing how the laws have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups.
Fist pumps all around.