Triple-X Workers' Solidarity Association of B.C.



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Speaker No. 37: Andy Sorfleet, Committee to Unite Prostitutes.

Speaker No. 37: Andy Sorfleet
(Transcript from video)

Vancouver City Council
Planning & Environment Committee
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Agenda Item No. 4: Administrative Report
Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Protecting Vulnerable Adults & Neighbourhoods Affected by Sex Work: A Comprehensive Approach and Action Plan

Speaker No. 37: Andy Sorfleet, Committee to Unite Prostitutes (Councillor Andrea Reimer presiding as Chairperson)

Clr. Andrea Reimer: Next up I've got Andy Sorfleet, Mr. Sorfleet sorry I used to be an Andy in a previous, um… before I was an Andrea. so I wasn't sure if you were a man or a woman.

Andy Sorlfeet: Now you know…

Clr. Reimer: Now I know…

Sorlfeet: I don't want to take up too much time. I already sent you a letter that I sent to the Vancouver Sun yesterday, and I think it circulated yesterday, so I'm not going to really go over that because you can read it.

One of the things I do want to raise though is that you have to be very careful about language. Um I was a sex worker for — I don't know — 11 years, or prostitute, I don't mind using that word.

I'm here not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of a group of colleagues. We're calling ourselves the Committee to Unite Prostitutes. I have to say that being a sex worker means you're actually working providing sexual services. It doesn't mean that once upon a time that's what you did. It's not a sexual identity, it's an act. It's not a… I think you know what I'm trying to say.

So, the issue that I wanted to raise is that in fact professional sex workers are not anywhere represented in what you've done in your report. And, I really feel that if you're interested in how sex workers might be able to work safely, you might talk to some successful sex workers because that's exactly what they are doing. And… they're not here. They're not here. I don't know how you're going to get them here. I don't know why they'd want to be here. I certainly feel like an extreme minority at the moment.

But I did bring something that might give you some idea of what they're voices might sound like, because I was brought from Canada. I was the only Canadian brought to Brussels for the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Migration and Labour in Brussels in 2005. And there there were about 200 delegates representing sex worker groups from all over Europe. And while they were there they helped write and endorsed a sex workers' manifesto, which is provided in this report. And they also…

Sex Workers Rights: Report of the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration (Brussels 2005)

That was 120 sex workers — current sex workers — endorsed this in a meeting, so we're talking about some real numbers of some real people who were actually there. They were not afraid to use their names or afraid to show their faces. You can see their faces in here.

And also then the rest of the groups who weren't sex workers, making up the whole 200 delegates, also passed a Declaration of Human Rights. And that document is a very important document because what it does is it goes through all the U.N. declarations which have something in them that would protect the rights of sex workers. So it was an awful lot of work.

Also in this report there's a little DVD. It was compiled by the Italian sex workers. It's Ni Culpable, Ni Victimes. We're not guilty and we're not victims. And what it is is they basically had a kind of Speakers Corner — a dark booth where you could go on your own and you could tell your story. And then they edited it together into this.

So I'm just here to tell you that successful sex workers aren't going to service agencies because they don't need them. Maybe for some condoms or maybe something… You know…

I also worked a lot in some service agencies when I was a lot younger. I've done things like run the Bad Trick Sheet and the Bad Call List. I was the coordinator of the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver for ten years here before we folded, so I'm no stranger to some of the stories that have been here.

But I just want to say that there is a voice that is missing. You cannot do this work unless you find a way to talk to them.

So, I'd love to see one of these in Vancouver. And so I want you to know that there's only 800 copies of this printed. There are only 12 in the country, I brought them here. I'm down to my last two, so I would like to give it to you. And I hope you'll read it.

Clr. Reimer Thank you, Mr. Sorfleet. I appreciate that and the clerk will make sure that we have the opportunity to either look at this copy or get a copy if we want our own copy. Thank you very much.


Clr. Reimer Councillor Woodsworth you had a question. Sorry, I didn't see you there.

Clr. Ellen Woodsworth: Thank you very much for your work, and thank you for being here and speaking… It's extremely important that you're here today. I'm wondering if you feel that we can use this report as a basis to go on in a way that's useful and safe for people in sex work.

Sorfleet: I would say that the report is basically a conference in a box. It has everything. It tells you exactly what our budgets were. We spent 217,000 Euros to make it happen. So, not very much money, really, over the course of maybe three years of organizing plus culminating in the big conference. I think that this kind of an event is extremely empowering for sex workers. It's good for them to meet each other, to tell each other their stories. And it's really good for them to be able to represent their own voices, instead of continually being represented agencies and others.

Clr. Woodsworth: And the report that is before us now?

Sorfleet: Your report?

Clr. Woodsworth: The staff report.

Sorfleet: What is your question?

Clr. Woodsworth: I'm wondering whether this is a useful report that can be built on, and be supportive and strengthening safety of sex trade workers and…

Sorfleet: The focus is on vulnerability, and I think that in order to address that vulnerability you're missing the key point of talking to people who do not feel that they are vulnerable or victims. It's missing something which I think is very important.

Clr. Woodsworth: But the Task Force is set to be struck and you're saying that we need to make sure that your voice is at the table.

Sorfleet: I am no longer… I'm retired…

Clr. Woodsworth: Not your voice, sorry…

Sorfleet: Let me make that very clear. But the voices of working sex workers, they need some kind of a mechanism. It's not very easy to come up into a place like this, in amongst a lot of prejudice, and speak freely about being comfortable with what it is you do for a job when it's sex work. So, I mean…

At the Committee to Unite Prostitutes we are willing to help you do that part. We've just committed to doing 200 sign-ups for our membership. And, if we can accomplish that, then I believe we have a truly representative organization, which can speak on behalf of sex workers — or at least speak on behalf of our own members. As opposed to speaking about people who they've met, or who they've serviced, or who they provide services for, etc. It's a little different.

As you can see in the report that I brought, it's ratified. All the people sat in a room and put up their hands. That's very different.

Clr. Woodsworth: I appreciate you coming and the others who've come and spoken out, who are in the trade or have been in the trade. Thank you.

Last modified: November 27, 2012
Created: November 21, 2012