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COVID has revealed some uncomfortable truths about our society, as our prime minister pointed out today. Each group comes with its own set of unique circumstances and barriers to basic health, social, and financial help.
As the Government of Canada rolled out emergency supports for individuals , small and medium-sized businesses , students , seniors , arts, culture, sports and nonprofit sectors, it became evident that there were some groups, so marginalized in our society, that they went unserved and unnoticed. One of the groups with no income, no access to resources, precariously housed, and food insecure, and who are forced at this time of pandemic to work in risky situations in order to survive, are workers in the sex trade.
As a physician, I was well aware of the marginalization of those who work in the sex trade and as an MP, I continue to work with them to improve access to health services and safety. This is not a partisan issue. This is not a moral issue. This is about public health, ensuring those who participate in sex work—like any other worker—is safe, healthy, and supported. This week, I hosted a virtual roundtable with more than 20 individuals and organizations in B. They shared, openly and frankly, their concerns and desperation.
They face evictions, food insecurity, and poor access to public health services. They have families to feed and despite fears for their health and physical safety, they are pushed even further to the margins in order to survive. My office will be sending a detailed letter to the ministers responsible—and also to the prime minister—summarizing our conversation and the policy concerns brought to my attention.
There are long-term challenges that we need to remedy. But that is for later. Right now the need is one of survival. Many of these workers have families that they are unable to feed or house.