The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act: A structural intervention impacting health equity for sex workers

Funding body

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Operating Grant


Sex workers, as a group, experience common barriers to health and wellbeing, including pervasive stigma and discrimination in health care and social services. At the same time, they also report many individual differences in health, and in the vulnerabilities and risk factors they experience. The implementation of The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) in December 2014, amended the Criminal Code to criminalize—for the first time in Canada—the purchase of sexual services, and to further modify certain prohibitions related to advertising and communicating the sale of sexual services. This project examines whether the PCEPA—a natural experiment out of the control of the research team—has alleviated or exacerbated health inequities for sex workers as compared to before the new laws were implemented. We will compare policing and outcomes associated with the practices surrounding the sale of sexual services by sex workers of different genders and working in diverse venues before and after the implementation of PCEPA. The proposed research promises to a) advance our knowledge of health equity for marginalized populations; b) reduce avoidable risks and unmet health needs for sex workers in Canada; and c) develop community-based policies and practices in an effort to reduce the health inequities which exist between sex workers and other Canadians.

Progress to date

Ethics approval has been attained, the data have been collected and analysed, one peer-reviewed article published and others submitted or in preparation and presentations made at academic conferences and public forums. A second article has been published in the last year and a grant application, based on analysis of the project data, submitted to CIHR.