Legal action update 2: The importance of anonymity

Photo by Harsh Solanki on Unsplash

At the moment, our legal counsel Naomi Sayers is seeking an anonymization order so that strippers will be able to file affidavits – the only way people affected can share how Ontario’s sudden announcement to close strip clubs on September 26 affected them personally in a judicial review – without using their legal names.

This means we are currently waiting for the judge to decide if strippers can file affidavits anonymously. Once a decision about this matter is issued, we will know how we can move forward.

Allowing strippers to file affidavits without their legal names is important for the following reasons:

  • We do not know how management will react to our legal action in the long run. What we do know is that management keeps dancers’ legal names on file, and management has also been known to retaliate against known and suspected labour organizers – we are worried that strippers who participate in our legal action could be suspended or banned from their workplaces.
  • Because strippers are classified as independent contractors, anyone who is terminated for participating in this legal action or for being associated with WSTS or any other related reason has no recourse to provincial labour protections against unfair dismissal.
  • WSTS does not want to limit the media’s access to information about our legal action, and we would welcome the media’s participation, but if strippers’ names are part of the court record we are worried about that information ending up in the wrong hands as all court files are available for public access, not just media access (unless a sealing order is requested, which we are not requesting).  
  • Exposing strippers’ legal names publicly may, in turn, expose them to stigma and discrimination from strangers as well as family, friends, and acquaintances.
  • We can look to other current and former sex workers who have been outed to see that the risks of exposure through putting one’s legal name in the court record or otherwise in the public arena can be costly – consequences can include discrimination, humiliation, slander, threats, and significant harassment.
  • Stigma also presents a barrier to mainstream employment, and could hinder strippers’ access to mainstream jobs if they are currently looking for work (since clubs are currently closed) or could jeopardize their ability to retain their position at a mainstream workplace where they already work.
  • If strippers’ legal names are in the court record, it also risks exposing them to the attention of police or child welfare authorities, who are known to look unkindly on sex work.

All of these reasons are why WSTS always asks the media to allow our members anonymity when they are doing interviews about our legal action or other stripping-related matters. The anonymization order we are seeking is the only reasonable alternative to maintain positive relationships with the media and other allies who are members of the public.

Stay tuned for news about how the anonymization request turns out!

If you missed our first legal action update, you can find it here along with more information about why we are doing this appeal.

And while we have your attention, please consider donating to our GoFundMe if you haven’t yet, or pass the link on to your friends and contacts: https://gf.me/u/y9b3fm

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