Maggie’s, a sex workers’ advocacy organization, is running the program until March 31
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Worker’s Action Project, one of the longest-running advocacy organizations for the rights of sex workers, is running free short-term counselling until March 31.
Maggie’s is providing both emergency one-on-one counselling with Toronto-based counsellor Alex Norris and secondary referrals for gender-affirming surgeries for trans workers.
“Sessions are being offered at no cost to current and former sex workers in the Toronto and GTA area,” read Maggie’s announcement of the program. Qualified applicants can apply online and prioritization is being given to applicants who identify as queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of colour (QTBIPOC).
Appointments will be provided through video or phone calls and eligible applicants can receive one to six sessions, depending on their needs.
Maggie’s Toronto advocates and provides resources for sex workers while fighting to decriminalize sex work in Canada. Canada’s current prostitution law, Bill C-36, known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, bans purchasing sexual services and receiving financial or material benefits from prostitution.
This legislation criminalizes sex workers and bans most activities linked to the sex industry. This law forces sex workers to work discreetly, which puts them at greater risk of facing violence from clients, among other health and safety risks.
Bill C-36 separates sex work from other regulated labour sectors and therefore excludes sex workers from labour rights and protections.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sex workers have been less likely to access employment insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and many have been forced to risk their health and continue to work. Throughout the pandemic, sex workers have reported worsening physical and mental health and higher unmet health needs.
Stigma associated with sex work is often layered with homophobic and transphobic stigmas, and as a result, sex workers with intersecting marginalized identities are at higher risk of facing this discrimination.
Consequences of stigmatization have been linked to physical and mental health problems. In Canada, studies of sex workers’ health care have shown that fear of judgment from health providers is a major contributing factor of unmet health care needs.
Health services, like counselling, that are catered directly to sex workers aim to lessen the gap between sex workers and accessible mental heath care.
In their announcement of the program, Maggie’s said they cannot guarantee they will be able to offer the short-term counselling service to everyone who signs up, but encourage any qualifying applicants to apply.