(Transcripted from the July 27th 2022’s publication) In winter 2022, the West Island CALACS team made important decisions to address the disparity between our commitment to intersectional feminism and some of our practices and policies. In this statement, we wish to explain the changes that will take place within our organization, to take responsibility for the harm we have caused, and to offer our sincerest apologies to the communities that were affected.
First, effective immediately, CALACS West Island is reforming its stance on sex work. Moving away from an abolitionist approach, we are now taking a stand in favor of decriminalization. Second, our services—previously offered to cis and trans women exclusively—will be open to all trans, non-binary and Two-spirit individuals in the early months of 2023. As these changes are not in line with the content of their declaration of principles, we have also resigned from the Regroupement québécois des Centres d’aides et de luttes contre les Agressions à Caractère Sexuel (Quebec Association of Sexual Assault Support and Prevention Center]). We do not wish to be associated with a movement and groups that do not share our values of inclusion.
First and foremost, we acknowledge that our previous abolitionist stance as it pertains to sex work, as well as the exclusion of gender diverse people from our services has been severely criticized by many key actors over the past few years. Therefore, our recent decisions are the result of the hard work that has already been done by the sex worker and 2SLGBTQIA+ movements, for which we take no credit. We also recognize the efforts and risks taken by many Black workers who have advocated tirelessly for intersectional feminism in our organization and in other CALACS, such as Misanka S. Mupesse. We are deeply grateful for the efforts that have been made to date, from which we can now learn and move forward as an organization.
New stance on sex work
In 2005, the RQCALACS and all the CALACS registered in its association officially adopted an abolitionist position concerning sex work. This position considers sex work, in all its manifestations, as a form of sexual assault and exploitation. The sex workers’ rights movement criticized this stance for being inherently violent, not taking into consideration the spectrum of realities that constitute sex work, stigmatizing its workers and contributing to their unsafe working conditions. These issues are particularly acute for sex workers from marginalized communities, such as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, especially trans people.
That being said, we forgo of our previous abolitionist approach and recognize that it has caused harm to the sex worker community, for which we apologize. We apologize to our service users who were hurt by this position and the way in which it impacted our space and our interventions, as well as to individuals who couldn’t access the support they needed because of it. We also apologize for contributing to the stigmatization of sex work by publicly advocating for its abolition.
Our primary goal is to address sexual violence and it is now clear that abolitionism does not serve this goal, but rather contributes to the obstacles already faced by survivors of sexual assault. As intersectionality is an integral part of our vision of feminism, it is now important for us to adopt a new position in order to ensure that all of our service users feel welcomed in a safe space within the West Island CALACS. It is for this reason that, today, we are declaring that our stance is one that is in favour of the decriminalization of sex work.
The Canadian sex worker rights movement has been advocating for the decriminalization of sex work for over 30 years. Decriminalization is defined by Stella, an organization run by and for sex workers, as “the removal of all criminal laws that prohibit selling, buying or facilitating (procuring) sex work.” It represents the first step in recognizing sex workers’ rights to autonomy, equality, self-determination and dignity. Acceptance of sex work as legitimate work could allow protection under labor laws, as well as workplace health and safety regulations, the ability to organize collectively, to negotiate working conditions, and to work in safe environments. This acceptance could also offer access to a legal system to report discrimination and abuse, as well as contribute to fight their stigmatization.
We are aware that this transition requires much more than a simple statement and have begun to work with our team to ensure that our services, interventions and public statements reflect this position, which begins with training for our workers, as well as redesigning our policies, intervention approaches and documents.
Opening services to trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people
Until now, CALACS West Island has only offered its services to women (both cis and trans). We have already begun the work necessary to make our space and services a safe and inclusive environment for all trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people. We hope to be able to open our services in this direction as soon as possible in 2023.
We offer our sincere apologies to trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people who have been excluded from our services for too long. We also want to issue a specific apology to non-binary individuals, to whom we have offered our services if they were AFAB (assigned female at birth), but not AMAB (assigned male at birth). We understand that this invalidates non-binary identities and is indicative of our previous misunderstanding of gender.
We are deeply dedicated to intersectional feminism and we know that to be intersectional, feminism must be trans-inclusive. Women, and non-binary and Two-Spirit people all live with the consequences of oppression and marginalization related to their gender, which of course includes an increased risk of experiencing sexual violence. Trans people are much more likely to experience sexual assault; it is estimated that one in two trans people will experience such violence in their lifetime. There are no specific services in Montreal, however, for trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people who have experienced sexual assault. The current lack of resources creates a serious gap in support for survivors from this group.
We are committed to reflecting on the power that we hold as an esteemed organization, and to taking action to adapt our services so that they may be as inclusion and intersectional as possible. To this end, we have begun the necessary work, including the training of our team, the conducting of thorough research, and the hiring of people who are a part of the communities that we work with. Throughout this process, we are also revisiting our documentation, policies and services in order to make important and appropriate changes that accurately portray our current values. With time and effort, we hope to rebuild trust with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and be able to offer adequate support to trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people.
Call to action
We recognize that our previous positions and practices have deeply harmed the sex worker and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities: we see you and we extend our sincerest apologies. We are committed to adapting our services so that inclusion is not only prioritized, but also has the space to evolve. Our door is always open to receive comments or recommendations in this regard.
We also hope that our actions will inspire other CALACS and feminist organizations to take the same path. This statement is also a call to action: people are suffering from the time we are taking to move forward. We are therefore available and willing to share our work, knowledge and learning through this transition to facilitate and accelerate yours.
Let’s move forward together towards a truly intersectional feminist movement!
It’s about time.
The West Island CALACS team
We invite you to write to email@example.com for any inquiries about our resignation from the Regroupement québécois des CALACS or Noah Benoit for inquiries about the new positions and practices at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Chez Stella. The Basics: Decriminalization of Sex Work 101, 2013.
 Michel Dorais et Mathieu-Joel Gervais. “Documenter la problématique des violences sexuelles commises envers les personnes lesbiennes, gaies, bisexuelles et trans (LGBT).” (2018).