A Vancouver-based sex worker said a local credit union refused to open a business bank account for her after she disclosed her profession.

Charlee Beckett speaks out to fight the stigma and obstacles that sex workers often face when trying to take their businesses above all advice, even though the sale of sex is legal in Canada. She hopes banks and other service providers will recognize the legitimacy of sex work as a profession.

“It’s discrimination based on my industry,” she told Daily Hive. “It’s ridiculous that we are treated any differently.

She contacted Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union, by phone on September 29 to inquire about setting up a business account. Beckett said the rep seemed okay at first and revealed her profession when the worker interviewed her.

Beckett said the rep called back on Oct. 1 and said his head office would not allow him to open the business account.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised. But it’s a reinforcement that I’m not treated the same as everyone else, ”Beckett said.

A spokesperson for Envision Financial told Daily Hive he could not comment on the case due to confidentiality reasons. The credit union also did not respond to questions from Daily Hive about its policies to open commercial accounts for sex workers.

Although the purchase of sexual services is illegal in Canada, people are allowed to sell their own sexual services. Canadian sex work laws have more recently been updated in 2015, but many sex workers and advocacy groups would prefer both sides of the deal to be decriminalized.

Kerry Porth, Sex Work Policy Consultant with Pivotal legal company, told Daily Hive that some banks might be nervous about opening professional accounts for sex workers because half of the transaction is criminal – and the money deposited could be seen as the proceeds of crime .

“This is a real trap for sex workers who try to be honest and pay all their taxes. If they admit what the business account is for, then most banks and credit unions will deny them an account, ”she said.

There are many advantages to opening a professional account as a sex worker, such as paying lower income tax as a company than an individual, taking out business-related loans, and getting paid. deduction of business-related expenses at tax time. Reporting of sex work income also allows workers to claim pandemic-related unemployment benefits during periods of lockdown.

For now, Porth generally advises sex workers to stick with their personal bank accounts. But these can also be troublesome if banks dispute a high number of incoming wire transfers or cash deposits.

“It’s part of how sex work is pushed underground. You put people in these difficult situations where they have to hide what they’re doing for a living, ”she said.

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Fortunately, Beckett ended up opening a business account with Vancity, another local credit union.

“Vancity supports removing barriers to financial inclusion, including providing equitable access to banking services for those who are generally excluded from the financial system,” a Vancity spokesperson told Daily Hive.

Beckett said she is sharing her story in an effort to de-stigmatize sex work because she wants to see less shame surrounding the profession.

“I just want people to realize this is normal. So many people are doing it, ”she said. “It’s been there for a long time and it’s not going to go away.”

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