A Critical Analysis of Canada's Sex Work Legislation

How to Cite

Kunimoto, E. M. (2018). A Critical Analysis of Canada’s Sex Work Legislation: Exploring Gendered and Racialized Consequences. Stream: Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication, 10(2), 27–36. https://doi.org/10.21810/strm.v10i2.257


In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three sections of the Criminal Code of Canada pertaining to sex work were unconstitutional. In response to this ruling—otherwise known as the Bedford Decision—the Conservative government introduced the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) in 2014. In this paper, I ask: to what extent does the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act meet its stated goal of addressing the health and safety of those who “engage in prostitution”? In exploring this question, I first trace the legal terrain leading to the PCEPA’s conception. Following this, I show that the PCEPA has failed to address its stated goals in two central ways. First, by co-opting the progressive framing of the Bedford Decision in a way that obscures the situations of violence it seeks to address, and second, by making the most precarious category of sex work even more dangerous through its implementation. In order to render the actual foundations of the PCEPA visible, I draw upon critical race and feminist theory. Through this analysis, I show how gendered and racialized hierarchies regulate violence along and within the sex work spectrum. Overall, this paper argues that the PCEPA has failed to address the health and safety of “those engaged in prostitution,” and instead, has facilitated racialized patterns of gender violence against vulnerable populations.