Help Maggie’s Rights and Resources for Sex Workers Campaign!

Canada is in political limbo in terms of the legal definitions of sex work. However, while we wait for the government to decide its next step, some people and groups are still hard at work improving the lives of sex workers. 
One such group, Toronto’s venerable Maggie’s, is currently in the midst of their “Rights and Resources for Sex Workers with Maggie’s Sex Worker Action Toronto” Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for their wide range of sex worker run programs and services. I spoke with members of this fantastic organization to learn more about what they do, how they do it and how we can all help with their campaign.

What activities and programs does Maggie’s offer for sex workers? 

Maggie’s is an organization run for and by sex workers. We offer a range of programs and resources for sex workers, such as a weekly drop-in lounge, monthly peer-led groups, street outreach, harm reduction education and supplies, information for health and community services, safer sex supplies and a bad date list. We also engage in advocacy and activism supporting the decriminalization of sex work, as we feel that decriminalization is necessary to the safety, security and self-determination of sex workers.

What plans/changes does the organization hope to make happen with this additional funding? Additional funding will allow Maggie’s to supplement our current programs and services, as well as to engage in political lobbying, expand our scope and outreach, and engage peer volunteers and workers.

Does Maggie’s receive much or any funding from government or community organizations? Maggie’s is primarily funded through the AIDS Bureau of the Ministry of Health, and secondarily through private donations. In the past, we have also received grants through the Trillium foundation.

Does Maggie’s anticipate significant changes in what services they offer once the federal government takes action on potential new sex work legislation? At Maggie’s, we do not foresee immediate changes in what kinds of services we offer, regardless of the type of legislation that is introduced. Having said that, Maggie’s has been involved with the Canadian Alliance on Sex Work Law Reform, a group of sex workers and sex worker organizations from across Canada. As part of this national working group, we have engaged in lobbying MPs and promoting the decriminalization of sex work. More specifically, we are advocating for a ‘Made in Canada’ New Zealand-style model of decriminalization, whereby sex workers are able to access the same labour and legal rights as any other person in Canada. Maggie’s will continue our communities on legal changes and reforms. We will also engage in media work, public education and community organizing to challenge harmful, stigmatizing and violent laws that may be proposed, or to support legal reforms, such as decriminalization, that benefit sex workers. Maggie’s will continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of people in the sex trade, and against all forms of stigmatization and criminalization of the sex trade.

Jay, 27, offered this perspective of how Maggie’s is such a need resource: “I’ve found that working as a sex worker can often be an isolating and independent venture, meaning meeting other sex workers, being able to share experiences and stories without facing stigma has been hard for me. Maggie’s allowed me to find a group, a community, that allows me to feel comfortable and safe in my own work, and my own life, while they also have provided me with resources I did not know about prior to my involvement with the folks at Maggie’s. Their services have been extremely useful for me.”