VANCOUVER, February 24, 2011 — Vancouver sex worker groups and supporters have launched a complaint to the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime against the federal government’s decision to exclude sex workers from the national strategy on missing and murdered women.
“Unbelievably, thirteen Canadian governments – federal, provincial and territorial –totally ignored violence against sex workers in the national strategy,” says Susan Davis, Coordinator of the BC Coalition of Experiential Communities.”
The February 16th complaint strongly urges Federal Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan to use the powers of her office to recommend the federal government immediately work with Canadian sex worker organizations to support sex workers’ urgent needs for safety and protection.
‘We wrote the Prime Minister and every Justice Minister in Canada in December demanding they take action on sex worker safety and got back a couple of pro forma responses” says Kerry Porth, Executive Director of Providing Alternatives Counselling and Education Society (PACE).
“Our governments seem to be saying sex workers are not acceptable as victims of violence. We need the Ombudsman to make them understand that sex workers, who often endure extreme violence, have the same right to protection as every other Canadian.”
Established in 2007, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) ensures the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime and is empowered to make recommendations on its findings. Victims can file a complaint to the Ombudsman about any federal agency or federal legislation dealing with victims of crime including when they believe “Canada’s laws or policies for victims of crime do not meet their needs.”
Davis noted the tri-lateral government report on missing and murdered women was the foundation for the national strategy that governments announced in mid-October, pointing out that despite a report mandate that included sex industry workers, no report recommendation addressed violence against sex workers. The federal government later announced $10 million in national strategy funding, but not a single dollar was allocated to sex worker safety needs,
“We live in a city where dozens of sex workers have been murdered over the last 30 years while knowing that violence against sex workers happens right across our country,” says Davis.
“We’re begging government to work with sex workers to show us commitment and action. Their indifference is killing us.”
The following organizations are parties to the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime complaint:
BC Coalition of Experiential Communities – Exotic Dancers for Cancer - FIRST Decriminalize Sex Work – HUSTLE: Men on the Move – The Naked Truth Entertainment - Providing Alternatives Counseling and Education Society (PACE) – PEERS Vancouver - Pivot Legal Society - West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals - WISH Drop-in Centre Society