Who we are
SWAN grew out of a pilot community health care initiative that extended HIV outreach to local massage businesses.
These women were most concerned about issues related to the law, immigration, employment, and safety among others.
At the end of the project, we recognized the importance of outreach work and decided to continue working together.
In 2008, SWAN incorporated as a non-profit society. We changed our name to Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network to ensure the inclusion of im/migrant women who do sex work but do not self-identify as sex workers.
In 2017, SWAN became a registered charity.
SWAN promotes the rights, health, and safety of im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work through frontline service and systemic advocacy.
Safety, rights, and freedoms for im/migrant women engaged in sex work.
Sex work is not trafficking, sexual exploitation, or child and youth exploitation.
Sex work is work.
Sex work is the exchange of sexual services between adults for money or goods.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, and harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability; or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Human trafficking can occur in various industries, such as agriculture, construction, garment, manufacturing, hospitality, domestic work, and the sex industry, among others.
Sexual exploitation involves any actual or attempted abuse of vulnerable persons, or abuse of a differential power or trust, for sexual purposes.
Child and youth exploitation involves coerced sexual activity with children and youth under the age of 18 in exchange for money, drugs, food, shelter, or any other considerations.
We believe that effectively countering human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child and youth exploitation requires recognizing the distinction between these crimes and sex work.
SWAN supports the full decriminalization of sex work.
SWAN advocates for the sex work sector to have the labour rights and protections as other sectors.
Canada’s Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) criminalizes the sex industry(1). PCEPA increases sex work stigma and creates unsafe working conditions by impeding im/migrant sex workers from reporting violence, violating their basic human rights, and preventing them from accessing labour and legal protections.
Migrant sex workers experience multi-layered criminalization. The Immigration and Refugee Protection (IRPR) Regulations prohibit temporary residents in Canada from engaging in sex work(2). In combination with PCEPA, IRPR creates disproportionate vulnerabilities to systemic violence and barriers to reporting violence for migrant sex workers.
SWAN advocates for the full decriminalization of sex work, i.e. decriminalization that includes migrant sex workers.
(1) PCEPA criminalizes paying for sexual services, communicating to exchange sexual services, profiting as a third party from someone else’s sexual services, procuring someone to provide sexual services, and third party advertising to provide sexual services. See: Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, Sections 286.2, 286.3, 286.4, 286.5.
((2) IRPR states temporary residents are “not to enter into an employment agreement, or extend the term of an employment agreement, with an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages.” See: Justice Laws Website, Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, Sections 183.1, 196.1, 200.3
The people who work at SWAN share the vision and values of our community.
I work at SWAN because the organization addresses the complexity of the issues im/migrant sex workers face through direct services, policy, and advocacy.
The work I do raises critical awareness of the harms of mainstream anti-trafficking initiatives that is essential in achieving decriminalization of the sex work sector.
Much of my work is behind the scenes. I love knowing that the work I do supports program staff to make real differences in the lives of the women we serve.
My project aims to shift representations of im/migrant sex workers in the mainstream media. This shift will reduce the stigma that further contributes to harmful laws and policy.
I am honoured to be able to be in this position to support this community. I hope that the work I do can help create a more equitable society that respects and values im/migrant sex workers as an integral part.
By accompanying the women to medical and legal appointments, I support them to care about their well-being and help enable them to work in a safe working environment.
I work at SWAN because of the organization’s person-centred and grassroots approach. I am honoured to be part of a growing organization.
As the Outreach Coordinator, I am able to support im/migrant women who engage in the sex industry to work safely and build relationships with women who are often underserved.
Outreach worker & Peer Program Liaison
I create and host various activities for the women based on their needs and desires, which help create a sense of community and solidarity. I also deliver safe supplies to the women so they can work safely.
I work at SWAN because I strongly believe in the frontline and advocacy work this organization conducts in furthering the rights and freedoms of im/migrant women in sex work.
I am conducting a research project that explores the impacts of immigration law reform on the rights, health, and safety of newcomer, migrant, and immigrant women engaged in indoor sex work.
Board of Directors
The biannually elected board of directors oversee the conduct of business and provide strategic guidance.
Directors draw upon their professional, personal, and experiential knowledge to govern the organization. Board members are elected at Annual General Meetings, but applications to join the board are welcome any time, find more information here.
I support the leadership team and strengthen direct service programs; ensuring that SWAN continues to operate in alignment with organizational strategic vision, mission, and values.
I aim to strengthen and sustain the internal systems that underpin SWAN’s work and help to create stability and strategy behind our activism.
I hope to contribute my research, writing and knowledge translation expertise to SWAN’s community-based research initiatives as well as advocacy and awareness campaigns. It’s a privilege for me to have this opportunity to apply my skills and community connections to SWAN’s systemic advocacy supporting im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work.
I joined SWAN’s board because I want to further educate myself on the experiences of im/migrant sex workers in Vancouver.
I hope to bring my own decade-long knowledge and expertise to SWAN Vancouver and to reach im/migrant sex workers in Vancouver with the hopes that it will help benefit them and make an impact on their lives.
I joined SWAN’s board because I love SWAN Vancouver’s grassroots approach and the various meaningful and educational initiatives and programs.
I hope to utilize my professional knowledge in finance and accounting to support SWAN and streamline the processes and financial operations within the organization.
We know it’s important to you that your funding or donations are used effectively.
It’s important to us, too.
That’s why we work hard to be as transparent as possible.
We’re a group of feminists whose feminism includes trans women and sex workers.
Are you passionate about systems change from an intersectional feminist lens, advocacy, policy and/or direct services? Then come join SWAN’s team!
- Communications expertise,
- non-profit leadership experience
- passion for and alignment with SWAN’s work.