Labour on the Margins


During the “Developing Capacity for Change Project”-coop development work shops, workers expressed how a trade association and a branding or certification process could support safer work conditions over all and stabilize the existing safer indoor venues that exist now. The development of occupational health and safety training was also seen as a way to give people entering and in the sex industry the tools to make safe decisions about their work. It was agreed that all stake holders including business owners and consumers should be engaged to contribute to the design of the future of our industry.

Currently a charter challenge is underway to bring down the laws governing sex work. This action will only be successful if as an industry we can prove our ability to self govern and police ourselves. In the next 10 years we must agree to respect each other and treat each other with dignity. This will be an enormous task but an absolutely necessary one none the less. If we cannot demonstrate the ways in which we have traditionally maintained the stability of our industry, the system at large will most likely impose whatever laws it sees fit and we as an industry will be faced with another disaster.

With this in mind, the BCCEW/C set out to engage sex industry workers in beginning the process and determining whether or not there is industry support for such an action and what the structure of such an organization might look like.


Trade Secrets

Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Sex Industry Workers

This project is based on our findings from our project Developing Capacity for Change funded by Vancity Community Foundation in which we collaborated with 20 sex workers involved in on and off street sex work. We captured their experiences within existing off-street venues and found that in no circumstances were the workers themselves involved in management, operations or marketing.

Additionally, there was little if any orientation to the work or environment. This includes no support for acquisition of health and safety skills or de-escalation to minimize situational violence. Further, workers had experienced extortion and were subject to an arbitrary system of fines as well as violations of labor standards and human rights.

Sex workers have made the distinction between ‘sex work’ and other working conditions where labor is forced or extracted from workers.

Sex workers would like the opportunity to collectively manage their own work spaces and collaborate on all aspects of their business including price-setting, marketing and access to the benefits of employment i.e. group medical benefits, thus legitimizing sex work as work.

The prohibition of sex work as work keeps the industry underground; creates conditions of violence and extortion; causes survival sex, forced involvement and the exploitation of youth in addition to social isolation and predation.

This social isolation and lack of support for the acquisition of the skills necessary to work safely is seen as one of the greatest contributing factors of harm to sex workers in particular as they enter the trade and are at their most vulnerable.

Sex workers agreed that a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the trade could significantly affect the safety of ALL sex industry workers and provide vital information on a variety of issues.

Occupational health and safety guidelines will be developed among nine stakeholder groups: urban sex workers on and off street; rural sex workers on and off street, exotic dancers, porn / webcam, male hustlers, transgendered workers, and business owners.

Based on review of materials and guidelines, develop broad based sections for focus group inquiry based on list of 10 from coop that includes: Safe sex practices, confrontation management, hygiene, empowerment, legal rights and information, support groups and resources, code of conduct, wellness, work options, woks safe tips.

The 411


Supports, Services and Information for Sex Industry Workers who are Victims of Crime

This brochure was created to provide resources, tips and support to sex industry workers who are victims of crime.

It was identified during the BCCEC “Confronting Bad Dates: Research, Collaboration and Action to Reduce Violence against Survival Sex Workers project” that:

  • provincial victim services were unavailable to collaborate on strategies like the redesign and distribution of a new Bad Date sheet and a 1-800 line for reporting violence;
  • the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General victim support services were largely unknown among sex workers and some faced barriers in accessing services;
  • Sex workers who had past experiences with Victim Services shared that their identification as sex workers limited or eliminated their chances to receive supports; inclusive of counselling and compensation.

In response the British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General graciously provided support to create a brochure and provide workshops facilitated by a well known Canadian psychologist to active workers, experiential professionals and service providers on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Workshops took place in July 2007.

We look forward to a broad distribution of The 411 as well as exploring PTSD among sex workers and legitimizing theses experiences in addition to establishing and coordinating unique resources and support services.

Research Participant Tips

Tips for Individuals Participating in Community Based Research

This Document was created by Sex Workers on PACE Society’s Policy Development Team and is intended for all those who have participated in research or are interested in doing so.

Our goal is to make sure individuals are informed about their rights and are able to ask the questions that would reduce personal risks and potential harm.

Research Participant Tips

Community Research Guidelines

A Guide for Community Organizations Revised Feb. 2006

As community based research becomes more prevalent within voluntary sectors, knowledge of research principles and ethics has become essential.

There are three major reasons for this:

First, we need to ensure are treated in accordance with established ethical principles when they are asked to participate in research;

Second, to increase the quality of community based research/evaluation and thereby contribute to knowledge that will inform our service delivery and advocacy efforts;

And third, it is important that community organizations become full partners in the production of that knowledge and play a central role in its discovery.

The research enterprise is a major contributor to social policy and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

This document aims to share our knowledge around research ethics, to empower us in our work, and to reduce the potential harms that participation in research/evaluation has had on some impoverished and/or criminalized client populations by:

Increasing organizational knowledge of research ethics and principles;

Suggesting policy development and/or amendments to existing policies to increase participant knowledge and informed consent.

Click here for document

Confronting Bad Dates

This project, Confronting Bad Dates: Research, Collaboration, and Action to Reduce Violence Against Survival Sex Workers, will customize and test a bad date reporting and/or response strategy with knowledge gained from local consultations and practices in other parts of Canada and internationally.

It is an innovative project designed to pool the knowledge and experiences of four stakeholder groups:

Ÿ Sex Workers,

Ÿ The Vancouver Police Department,

Ÿ Victim Services, and

Ÿ Sex worker-friendly Community Organizations