Strippers’ challenge of Ontario pandemic measures to be heard in court

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An advocacy group representing strippers will argue in an Ontario court this week that provincial pandemic measures affecting strip clubs have targeted workers and violated their charter rights.

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The application for judicial review was last filed after the province ordered the closure of all strip clubs following an investigation into COVID-19 exposure and some Toronto facilities.

Strip clubs were later allowed to reopen under Ontario’s pandemic rules with safety plans in place, but the workers’ group wants to argue that the changes have still targeted and excluded strippers.

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Factum for Work Safe Twerk Safe argues that when housing for businesses was built, strippers were not offered labor protections or consulted on measures, as they would have expected to be based on past practice. Were.

“The broader context for the rules is that it prioritizes the health and safety of strippers over and above the economic interests of strip club owners and municipalities entirely,” reads the facts filed in Ontario’s Superior Court last month.

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The matter is to be heard in the court on Monday morning.

The group argued in its court filing that the provincial rules affect strippers’ charter rights to freedom of expression, association and individual safety, noting that contractors were turned off from consultations about the rules in their workplaces. .

The fact of this is that strippers are a group of predominantly female sex workers who are stigmatized for their work. It argues that provincial COVID-19 regulations “enlarge” that stigma and leave them in a precarious and vulnerable position.

The group is asking that provincial regulations be declared outside their scope and violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also seeking damages and expenses.

Meanwhile, the province is asking the court not to hear the case, arguing it is controversial because the measures that prompted the original challenge are no longer in effect. Strip clubs have been allowed to open in Ontario for months.

A fact outlining the province’s arguments reads, “no useful purpose will be served by questioning now into the legality of temporary public health measures.”

It argues that strippers were not targeted because many businesses were ordered to close during the pandemic and argues that the province did not have a duty to consult with strippers in response to a public health emergency.

The province is also arguing that the rules did not place penalties or liability on strippers, but only on licensed operators of the clubs. It says the pandemic orders did not engage with the strippers’ charter rights as they could still exercise them outside of businesses.

“Far from depriving strippers of the safety of the individual, the applicable provisions protected the health of strippers and everyone else in strip clubs from exposure to COVID-19,” the court document said.

The province is seeking to dismiss the group’s application with costs.

A judge earlier this year allowed strippers who participated in the case anonymity based on the stigma of their work and the risk of retaliation for speaking out about it.

Some activists shared their perspectives in affidavits quoted in the Work Safe Twerk Safe Factum, saying the bandhs made them feel helpless, angry and justified.

“It negatively affected my sense of security and dignity around my work,” wrote one person.

Another said the closure and the inability to raise my voice about safety in clubs “made me feel like my life was in limbo.”

“Striping has made me self-reliant and pursue my education and realize a more feasible, rewarding lifestyle in the future; I felt stripped of it all and the loss of my identity after being shut down,” they wrote.

A Toronto dancer, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, told The Canadian Press that she hasn’t returned to work at strip clubs since the pandemic began, despite several changes to provincial rules. doesn’t feel safe.

“The constant is that strippers, we are still left out of these conversations,” she said in a telephone interview.

“A security scheme where strippers don’t have input doesn’t sound safe to me at all.”

She said her group is seeking input on the pandemic measures that affect them and their workplaces.

“This judicial review is the only way we can talk to the government,” she said. “It really shouldn’t be that hard to hear your voice about health and safety during a pandemic.”

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