Kate Sinclaire, owner and director of Cine Sinclaire, a Canadian pornography producer, is photographed in her office in Winnipeg, Saturday, March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Sex workers say their voice is needed at Commons committee studying Pornhub

MONTREAL — When Kate Sinclaire was 19, an ex-boyfriend posted explicit images of her online without her consent.

The pictures, and the comments about them, made her feel embarrassed, angry and ashamed.

That feeling of shame led her to question why she was feeling that way when she had done nothing wrong.

“Why am I ashamed about this?” she said in a recent interview.

Sinclaire, who is from Winnipeg, decided to confront her abuser and to begin making pornography that she said celebrates all genders and sexualities and helps people take pride in themselves. But she worries a parliamentary committee in Ottawa studying the porn industry could make it more difficult or impossible for people like her to keep working.

The committee, which is studying how to protect the privacy and reputations of people who appear on pornography websites, isn’t interested in hearing from people who have a nuanced view on the topic, Sinclaire said, adding that she worries about what recommendations will come out of its work.

“I’m worried that it will make my work less feasible,” Sinclaire said. “That elements of it could become illegal, or I could become criminalized.”

Sandra Wesley, director of Stella, a Montreal advocacy group for sex workers, said when she asked to testify, “the response that I got back is that sex workers are not relevant to this conversation.”

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, she said, is “only interested in hearing about instances of non-consensual videos or non-consensual sex being put on those platforms.”

The committee is investigating the Montreal-headquartered pornography website Pornhub, which has been accused of hosting explicit videos of people posted without consent — including videos of alleged rape and child sexual abuse.

Executives of its parent company, MindGeek, have denied any wrongdoing and said their company is a “world leader” in preventing the distribution of content showing child sexual abuse and non-consensual acts.

Wesley said some of the people who have testified before the committee have ties to religious groups that oppose sex outside of heterosexual marriage or are anti-pornography activists.

Committee chair Chris Warkentin, a Conservative MP in Alberta, said he has received “dozens and dozens and dozens” of requests to testify.

“Committee members have prioritized those who they have wanted to hear from initially,” he said. “This study is ongoing and to my knowledge, nobody has been formally told that they will not appear.”

The committee is encouraging people to file written briefs, he said, adding that those briefs will be considered as testimony.

Wesley, however, said she thinks those briefs won’t get attention.

“For us, the need to testify verbally in front of the committee is extremely important,” she said. “We know that our brief will be ignored.”

Traffickinghub founder Laila Mickelwait has recently appeared before the committee.

In an email, Mickelwait said her organization is not religious and aims to hold online porn giant Pornhub “accountable for enabling and profiting from mass child exploitation, sex trafficking and non-consensual content.”

Traffickinghub describes itself on its website as “powered by” Exodus Cry, a Christian organization that opposes the “commercial sex industry” on religious and moral grounds.

Until 2016, Exodus Cry was listed as a ministry of the International House of Prayer, an evangelical church in the United States, famous for its 24 hours a day, seven days a week prayer room in Kansas City, Mo. Exodus Cry spokeswoman Lexie Smith wrote in an email that the group is not formally affiliated with the International House of Prayer.

Jenn Clamen, the national coordinator for the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, an organization of more than 20 groups from across Canada that represent workers in the sex industry, including Stella, said she fears the committee will recommend regulations requiring online sex workers — including those who work alone — to provide more identifying information to websites where their work appears.

Multiple briefs filed with the committee have called for pornography companies to be required to use third parties to verify the identities of people who appear in videos.

Clamen said she’s concerned about how that kind of data would be stored.

“There’s a lot at risk when people work in the industry,” she said.

“There’s all kinds of people, in all different kinds of professions that have started to do online sex work,” she said. “Should any of their employers ever find out they’re working in the industry, they are obviously risking their straight jobs.”

Websites with identifying information about sex workers have been hacked in the past, Clamen said.

“It is absurd to even consider additional regulations without understanding how those regulations impact on the people in the industry in terms of health and safety,” she added.

Warkentin said the committee’s next steps haven’t been decided.

“That will be determined by the consensus of the committee members and that has yet to be finalized,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sinclaire said because her work appears in the United States, she’s required to have identifying information about performers on file. The physical location of those files is legally required to appear on her website and in every video she makes. On multiple occasions, she said, men have used that information to find her studio. She said one time she had to call police.

She said she hopes the committee will recommend that steps need to be taken to help victims of sexual crimes feel comfortable coming forward and that sex education needs to focus on consent and boundaries.

But she said she isn’t hopeful that will be the result.

“A lot of the time, people make well-intentioned laws or rules that end up hurting more people,” she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

With a ban on sit-in dining once again in place, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up an outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley announces proposed new legislation to protect Alberta's mountains and watershed from coal mining at a news conference in Calgary on Monday, March 15, 2021. A group of 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging the provincial government to rethink its plans for expanding coal-mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta legislature turns down Opposition request to debate bill to protect Rockies

Alberta legislature turns down Opposition request to debate bill to protect Rockies

Most Read