Nomination For "Breaking Borders" Award | 

Deadline for nominations: February 15, 2010

Nomination criteria:

Outstanding web projects initiated by individuals or groups that demonstrate courage, energy and resourcefulness in using the Internet to promote freedom of expression.

Names of nominees:

Andy Sorfleet & Will Pritchard (partners)

Type of nomination: Individuals

Project is the result of the collaboration of two individuals. Their organization (known as the "Walnet Institute") is informal and has not been incorporated. Their organization's name and trademark (in use since 1995) have not been registered in British Columbia or elsewhere in Canada.

Nominees' organization:

Walnet Institute (

Nominees' country or region of activity:

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Nominees' contact information:

Walnet Institute (c/o Andy Sorfleet)
3075 - 349 West Georgia Street (Main Post Office)
Vancouver, British Columbia
phone: 01 (604) 488-0710

Nominating person:

Andy Sorfleet (self-nomination)

Nominating person's contact information:

Same as nominee's.

Category: Advocacy

This activists' website project is an on-line tool created and developed to encourage political change, by opposing suppression and censorship of marginalized views regarding sexuality.

Goals of the Walnet Institute
(specific problems to address)

The Walnet Institute aims to build a vast, informative and resourceful website that will:

  • Provide and ensure access to sexual health and legal information for sexual minorities.
  • Challenge societal stigma associated with variant sexuality by making sexually explicit content available.
  • Exercise and promote free expression by displaying and disseminating images and descriptions of sexual activity.
  • Encourage political change by opposing suppression and censorship of marginalized views regarding sexuality.

Insidious Internet censorship

In July 2007, I was contacted by a sales representative from our U.S.-based Internet service provider (Digital Forest), who advised me that there was explicit sexual content on which the company did not allow. He was referring to "Trailboys" a web 'zine which featured photography of solo nude male models as well as erotic stories and explicit sexual health information for guys who enjoy sex outdoors. If I didn't comply and remove the site in question within 90 days, they would be forced terminate web-hosting services for, and close my account.

I was informed that the company has always had a policy to refuse any business that involved hosting "Adult Content" websites. I asked why I had never been informed of this policy, since the Trailboys website had existed without notice for nearly eight years. Eventually it the sales representative admitted that the explicit content had only recently come to their attention. In the end, we were fortunate enough to find web-hosting services which better suited our needs, right here in Vancouver — and, we were even offered better rates!

How the Walnet Institute Came to Be
(project description & history)

A blurb about Walnet

My partner and I (with enthusiastic support from well-known anti-censorship activist and close friend, Chris Bearchell) used the name "Freedom Through Information Society" when we first registered the domain name, "" on October 10, 1995. We decided later to call our collaborative Internet initiative, "The Walnet Institute." Walnet became the soul venue for all of our on-line artistic and activist endeavours — including many contributions from other close friends. The Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver launched the Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS), and SWAV and CSIS became the first two websites to reside at Now home to 16 individual websites, today hosts more than 3,710 webpages. To date has not received public money or other charitable funding.

Origin & background details

In January 1995, Chris Bearchell and I moved to Vancouver from Toronto where we had both been working for Maggie's, The Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project. Founded in 1986, Maggie's was the very first sex-worker-run education project in Canada. Incorporated in Ontario as a non-profit charitable organization, Maggie's provided information about health promotion, AIDS and STD prevention, Canadian law, and dangerous clients to sex workers. Maggie's was also the only prostitutes' organization ever registered for tax exemption status with Revenue Canada, allowing us to issue receipts for charitable donations used for federal income tax deductions.

In November 1990 Maggie's had identified three specific problems prostitutes faced which involved the police: difficulty reporting assaults; police entrapment tactics during arrests ("sweeps"); and police harassment. One of the objectives (suggested by Will Pritchard) Maggie's adopted to address these concerns was to develop and publish a legal primer for prostitutes that would explain — in plain English — Canada's criminal laws that make selling sexual services illegal and the various law enforcement practices employed by different police forces.

In July 1992, an initial draft of a legal primer was produced with help from a law student, Sylvia Davis. Davis was enrolled in special program of University of Toronto's Law School, created for students to earn credit towards their law degree by working on a legal project with a charitable organization. Eventually Maggie's legal primer project received a grant of $9,260 (for printing costs only) from the Women's Directorate (Government of Ontario). Several drafts were written over several years before a final version of the text and illustrations was proofread by over 40 volunteers and their feedback incorporated. The layout and prepress production that followed took Chris and I an estimated 1,000 hours of volunteer work. Then, finally, Trials of the Sex Trade: A survival guide to Canada's legal jungle was ready to publish.

December 1994 Chris and I booked the printer and delivered the series of six booklets to Maggie's board of directors. Some board members of Maggie's, however, felt uncomfortable with some of the content and images. In particular, their concerns were that one of the booklets — Who's Jailbait? What the law really says about sex for young people — was both too controversial and too explicit. It was stated that the issue of sex for young people was beyond Maggie's mandate ("to provide education and support to assist sex workers in their efforts to live and work with safety and dignity"). Publishing Who's Jailbait? could negatively impact the organization's reputation, and hurt it's ability to accomplish it's objectives.

This internal controversy stemmed from a new (1993) federal child pornography law which prohibited any sexually-explicit representation of a person who appears to be under the age of 18. This included all types of images and writing — even drawings and works of art. Publishing this booklet would make Maggie's board of directors vulnerable to criminal charges. Already Maggie's was involved in defending young male sex workers who were being targetted by police under this new law. The board passed a motion to halt printing Trials of the Sex Trade, putting the project on hold indefinitely.

Chris and I went ahead with our plans to move West, taking Trials of the Sex Trade with us. Together, we were determined to publish the legal primer ourselves, independent of Maggie's. We decided to call ourselves the "Freedom Through Information Society" for this purpose. Once we were established in Vancouver, Chris and I proceeded to get a small run of the booklets printed — Trials of the Sex Trade became one of the first educational materials published and distributed by the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (SWAV). I took on the role of coordinator for SWAV, which I retained until 2005 when the group finally disbanded.

Summer of 1995, I got a temporary graphic design job at the Science Council of British Columbia. While working there I discovered Hypertext — the new medium of tag=based codes for the World-Wide Web which was quickly gaining mainstream popularity. (Network Solutions ("") was awarded a contract with the U.S. National Science Foundation to register domain names in 1993.) I began to experiment creating webpages. Right from the start, it was clear to me that Hypertext was the perfect artform for communicating my activism. On July 13, 1995, I uploaded my first website — the "Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver" — for the whole World-Wide Web to see, and I was hooked.

Walnet Institute's Worldly Influence
(evidence of success)

With now more than 3,710 interesting things to read, has served over 27,691,183 pages on the World-Wide Web since October 1995.

Get an audience & grow popular!

During Walnet's first 15 months on-line (from December 1995 - March 1997), we served 246,094 page views. In 1997 Walnet served another 389,369 pages — a significant increase in website traffic. Despite that there were only server access logs for eight months in 1998, Walnet still showed nearly double the total number of page views (738,661) than the previous year. In 1999 Walnet's annual total number of pages served doubled again with 1,518,405 page requests.

  YEAR       PAGES      VISITS  
  1996     246,094       --     
  1997     389,369       --     
  1998     738,661       --     
  1999   1,518,405              
  2000   1,828,870     965,251  
  2001   2,457,663   1,231,826  
  2002   2,407,985   1,356,997  
  2003   2,363,929   1,423,898  
  2004   3,227,720   1,592,506  
  2005   2,906,233   1,390,708  
  2006   3,237,698   1,713,355  
  2007   2,377,752   1,321,879  
  2008   1,460,880     591,574  
  2009   1,700,300     697,482  
-------------------------------- traffic statistics

Reach readers & gain influence

What's most interesting about analysing website traffic statistics is the ability to calculate total number of requests for a specific page. Monitoring the popularity of individual webpages to determine whether or not certain pages are in high demand could prove that our atttempts to influence public opinion on-line are actually successful.

A model example – "Prostitution in Canada"

Take for example, Prostitution in Canada: Invisible Menace or Menace of Invisibility? by Sylvia Davis. This webpage provides an excellent sample for analyzing reader demand. This most thorough and well-written essay on decriminalizing prostitution was never published in print — and is available only from (where it was first published, with permission, November 23, 1995).

In this article, Davis expertly outlines why making prostitution a crime has not and will never protect prostitutes from harm, or protect the public from the "effects" of prostitution. She examines the theories behind the main legislative approaches to prostitution — criminalization, abolition and regulation. Specifically, her paper focuses on Canada — how its approach to prostitution is defective, what alternative reforms are available, which of these would be most effective and how they might best be implemented. This is ideal course material for educating criminology students and an excellent reference for informing sociologists' research on Canada's justice system, as well as law enforcement policies.

Notably, Prostitution in Canada is perhaps the only file that has consistently rated as one of Walnet's top 20 requested webpages — continuausly from December 1995 to January 2010. In 1996, the total number of requests for the "Prostitution in Canada" webpage was 3,178.

  1996             3,178  
  1997             6,092  
  1998            25,804  
  1999            36,107  
  2000            48,611  
  2001            47,188  
  2002            47,554  
  2003            35,526  
  2004            22,105  
  2005            20,675  
  2006            26,755  
  2007            26,069  
  2008*           14,315  
  2009            20,679  
(*No data Jan., Feb., Mar.)

Over a period of approximately 13 years — between 1996 and January 2010 — the Prostitution in Canada webpage was downloaded from more than 382,626 times. Compare those statistics to the number of times an article published in an average university textbook gets read. Take into account also that academic texts often have smaller print runs, limited distribution and shorter shelf-life expectancy. These page-request statistics indicate that website publishing offers a huge capacity for measurable exposure to audience and probable results of positive influence.

Webpage access reports (archives)

Evidence of effect: Citations

In addition to citations in countless academic research papers, Prostitution in Canada has also been included as both reference and resource in law reform policy papers in Canada and internationally:

Kudos & Recommendations
(referrals from outside sources)

The Blue Maxwell Award

"I'm pleased to let you know that you have been awarded The Blue Maxwell for your page. :) I'm sure you've never heard of it as I just invented it day before yesterday, but I did it to fill a real need. Most Web 'Awards' are for popularity, or design, or sheer brute traffic. I saw a need for an award for old-fashioned courage…"

– Bob King, April 29, 1996

Walnet goes to College

A Canadian college textbook on human sexuality had this to say about the Walnet's Commercial Sex Information Service:

"This is about as traditional and honourable a website as one is likely to click across.Its homepage is a bit raunchy, but compared with XXX-rated homepages, it looks like Mom and apple pie. CSIS does offer information about local and some not-so-local massage parlours and escort services… But it also offers legal and medical information intended to help prostitutes and other sex workers (such as updates on efforts to have prostitution redefined as sex work)."

Human Sexuality in a world of Diversity (Canadian Edition). By Spencer A. Rathus, Jeffrey S. Nevid, Lois Fichner-Rathus, Edward S. Herold. Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto, 2004 (p. 598)

Walnet finds 'Some Kindred Spirits'

"Some Kindred Spirits," Eating Fire: Family Life, on the Queer Side. By Michael Riordon. Between the Lines: Toronto, 2001 (Chapter 18, pp. 180-193)
"The site includes a page from a Montreal prostitutes' rights organization, a page called 'Jane Doe' that documents the struggles of several Toronto prostitutes to confront police abuse, and 'Trailboys,' a webzine about gay sex outdoors and in other public places, which offers practical advice on 'how to stay healthy and avoid unwanted attention.'

Hall of Fame for Canada's Hookers

"Hall of fame for Canada's hookers." By Tom Godfrey, Toronto Sun, Tuesday, June 6, 2000
"A list of Canada's "legendary whores" has been posted as a hall of fame on the Internet by CSIS — that's the Commercial Sex Information Service…"

'Jane Doe' featured in U.K. Lesbian Style

An article about Fiona Stewart in the British magazine, DIVA calls the Jane Doe website "a labour of love" and concludes that:

"The Jane Doe website is another such memorial — one that is explicit and astonishingly detailed… Part archive and part scrapbook, formed of equal parts love and the desire for retribution, their memorial to her is a vehicle for ongoing vigilance, education and accountability — and a fitting tribute to an amazing woman."

– "Jane Doe: Unmasking a Heroine." By Chris Bearchell. DIVA: Lesbian Life & Style, December 1999, No. 43. (
(Full story:

Walnet Advocates For Change

"City web designer behind panhandling spoof." By Alison Appelbe, Vancouver Courier, Sunday, September 20, 1998
"A web site address at the bottom of a flyer that cleverly mocks the flyer distributed by anti-panhandling organizations, while encouraging the public to instead give to panhandlers, leads to and designer Andrew Sorfleet…"

Websites listing Walnet resources

Aside from the countless citations of numerous articles and reports hosted at Walnet, there are also many websites that list as an Internet resource. Here's what some of them had to say:

  • "Other sources of information: Archival resources," Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic & Pink Triangle Press. Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Toronto, 1998
    " – Put together by the Walnuts: Chris Bearchell and others who shared her house at 97 Walnut Ave in Toronto from 1983. This site leads to info on Irit Shimrat (via the Lunatics Liberation Front) and Danny Cockerline (via the '97 Walnut' link) — including articles Danny wrote for TBP."
  • M is for MUTUAL, A is for ACTS: Male Sex Work and AIDS in Canada. By Dan Allman. Co-published by Health Canada; AIDS Vancouver; the HIV Social, Behavioural and Epidemiological Studies Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto; and the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver, 1999
  • "Sex and Love," Cyrius Web Design Sydney. Website reviews by Stefan Sojka. December 1999
    "Commercial Sex Information Service — Vancouver-based site, allows services to promote themselves, and covers sex worker bulletins such as murders and assaults. Health information, legal issues and world news flashes make for an interesting read. Having the commercial links means that you can go direct to escort service home pages and see what's on the menu — if you can afford it. NetWorth: ****"
  • HIV/AIDS and Prostitution: The Top 25 Resources. by Maria Nengeh Mensah. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2000
    "Content driven, it receives no public funding but can deliver the goods on legal and ethical issues raised by prostitution in the context of HIV/AIDS."
  • The Harvey Milk Institute guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Queer Internet Research. By Alan Ellis, Liz Highlyman, Kevin Schaub, Melissa White (eds.). Harrington Park Press, San Francisco, 2002
    Listing for Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver.
  • Study Guide: Hookers on Davie. By Megan Boler Ph.D. (ed), Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre. Toronto, 2005
    "Additional Resources (Political Science/Sex Worker Rights) – Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (…"
  • "Ressources complémentaires," Criminalisation du travail sexuel et des personnes qui l'exercent : l'argument des droits humains pour une réforme légale. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2005
    "Trials of the Sex Trade: A Survival Guide to Canada's Legal Jungle (1995), série de six livrets accessibles à…"
  • Youth Suicide Problems Gay/Bisexual Male Focus Homepage
    "Part of the Canadian 'sex worker information site' – Male sex-worker issues. Considerable 'bio' information relating to teenage male hustlers. Many articles and news items – Ryerson Prof: 'I'm A Hooker' – The Gerald Hannon Affair – Related listing of articles."
  • "Freedom Activist Network's Guide to Organizations – C," Freedom Activist Network
    Listing for Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS)
  • "HIV/STD Weblinks." Texas Department of State Health Services, HIV/STD Program.
    "Walnet Institute [Walnet] — Home to the Commercial Sex Information Service."
  • "Examples of Inappropriate Blocking," Electronic Frontiere Foundation
    "SurfControl Inappropriate Blocking – 1. Commercial Sex Information Service… 'Adult/Sexually Explicit.' Miscategorized although webpage provides a disclaimer that it is an adult page, it doesn't contain any adult or sexually explicit content and has no visual depictions that would require blocking under CIPA."
  • "Worth Reading… Prostitution – Prostitutes' Organizations," New Internationalist, Issue 252
    "CSIS (Commercial Sex Information Service)…"

References: People who know Walnet well

  • Dan Allman, HIV Social, Behavioural and Epidemiological Studies Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • Will Pritchard, Public Art Program, Cultural Services, City of Vancouver

Walnet Creation Chronology
(key updates in site evolution)

Created: July 13, 1995

Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (SWAV)
"The Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver was founded in 1994 to fight for sex workers' rights to fair wages and working conditions that are safe, clean and healthy. SWAV provides information about sex work as it relates to laws, sexual health, commerce and culture. SWAV opposes any law that criminalizes work in the sex trade…"

"Oil Eats Rubbers: How to keep a trick's dick slick"

Created: July 26, 1995

"The ABCs of Hepatitis"

Created: August 12, 1995

"Healthy Hustliing: And play safe too!"

Created: November 23, 1995

Prostitution in Canada: Invisible Menace or Menace of Invisibility? by Sylvia Davis
"Whether we seek to eliminate prostitution or improve its working conditions we must first come to terms with the fact that neither can be accomplished unless we allow the prostitute to become a visible and integrated part of the community…"

Created: January 15, 1996

Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS)
"This site contains explicit, sexual information! An ever-growing resource produced for and by sex workers, CSIS is a clearinghouse of information about laws, sexual health, commerce and culture as these topics relate to sex work."

Trials of the Sex Trade: A survival guide to Canada's legal jungle
"First produced in Toronto, this six-booklet set explains in plain English exactly how Canadian laws make most ways of working in the sex trade illegal…"

Created: March 9, 1996

Rights Groups
Sex workers' rights groups, networks and allies…

Created: May 7, 1996

Danny Cockerline, (1960 - 1995)
"Brilliant and reckless. Beautiful but insecure. Destined to provoke. Queer. But a queer queer; an outsider among outsiders. Danny was always ahead of his time in fashion, décor and politics…"

Created: June 3, 1996

Sensual Services: Adult Entertainment
Vancouver and Lower Mainland Escort services, Bodycare Parlours, Strip Clubs, Adult Books and Novelties…

Created: June 13, 1996

News Clippings – Prostitutes Sell Newspapers!
"The mainstream media love to run stories about prostitutes. Whether these stories are about pimps and juveniles or violence against pros they are usually sensational and rarely do they help remedy the tragic situations they describe… This section carries [archival] news coverage about sex work and any laws which might affect sex work in Vancouver as well as nationally."

Created: June 27, 1996

Whore Heroines and Heroes
"Outspoken Canadian whores and others who lost their lives in the line of work."

Created November 14, 1996

Fiona Stewart Memorial Homepage
"Fiona's sudden death is a great loss for her community, and for the prostitutes' rights — and human rights movements in Canada… She always wanted to tell her whole story and fought hard for years so that someday some justice might be gained for all her pain and courage…"

Created: November 15, 1996

97 Walnut – The Walnuts
"An explanation of the origins of the Walnet site, 97 Walnut Ave, Toronto, and some of the people who lived there… For twelve years, the kitchen table at 97 Walnut Avenue served as a gathering place where activists organized, debated, got baked, drank coffee and ate approximately one tonne of take-out szechuan food…"

Created: November 25, 1996

"The Sex Police in a Moral Panic, by Andrew Sorfleet & Chris Bearchell
"How the 'youth porn' law is being used to censor artists and persecute youth sexuality…"

Created: November 30, 1996

How to Have Safer Sex!
"Safer Sex is fun. And it can save your life…"

Created: January 21, 1997

Government Reports
"Position papers, inquiries, reports and bills from all levels of government including municipal, provincial and federal. There are also some from government organizations."

Created: January 29, 1997

Jane Doe & The Junger/Whitehead Inquiry
"In November of 1989 the sometime prostitute had picked up then-Sergeant Brian Whitehead of the Metro Toronto Police Force, who forced her, to take him to her residence, where he extorted sex from her despite her protestations, If she did not comply, he threatened, he would have her charged with 'communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution'…"

Created: March 23, 1997

WHORE WARS: The Battle for East Vancouver
"This is a personal account of some of the hot issues during 1997 for Vancouver prostitutes. SWAV has had reports from members who have witnessed the police telling girls all over the east end, not just around the schools, that they have to move along…"

Created: May 28, 1997

Starting a Bad Trick Sheet
"Setting up a Bad Trick Sheet (BTS) is a good way for prostitutes to get organized. When I arrived in Vancouver I went to the local newspaper that carries business personals and put my ad in…"

Created: September 26, 1997

Legal Analysis
"Essays, papers, articles and presentations that analyse the impact of the legal system on sex workers in Canada and around the world."

Created: February 1, 1999

M is for MUTUAL, A is for ACTS: Male Sex Work and AIDS in Canada
"Dan Allman reviews twenty-five years of Canadian research on prostitutes, their clients, street youth, and injection drug users and discovers data that challenge misconceptions about men who sell sex and the spread of AIDS.…"

Created: February 20, 1999

Chris Bearchell (1953 - 2007) Homepage
"Commemorates the life and achievements of this fierce activist, writer, editor, organizer of Canada's gay rights movement… News of her death brings sadness that is unimaginable. Chris Bearchell passed away at 7:40 am on Sunday, the 18th of February at Vancouver General Hospital at the age of 53…"

Created: November 29, 1999

Ms Gay Vancouver XIX: Organza's Year in Review (Internet Explosure)
"On September 28, 1998 (11 months after proclaiming: 'it's only a costume'), I began my term as a goodwill ambassador — Ms Gay Vancouver XIX — along with Mr. Gay Vancouver … raising money for charities of our choice."

Created: January 3, 2000

Information About Copyright
" contains images of works of art both copyrighted and from the public domain. Copyrighted works are presented under the Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act"

Created: January 15, 2000

"A web 'zine with the theme of gay sex outdoors and other public places. Explicit, sexy pics! … Trailblazing – We package our infocards with a condom and lubricant and leave them to be found where guys enjoy sex."

Created: April 13, 2001

Rose Bud
"With all this medical marijuana madness, it's time for a little more cannabis culture…"

Created: November 26, 2004

The Story of Patient X
"Patient X became sick with terrible flu-like symptoms and then a mysterious measles-like rash of small red dots which eventually covered most of his upper torso, eventually creeping out from under his collar. For a week and half he could not eat, felt constantly nauseous, suffered from constant severe chills, developed a mild case of pneumonia and lost 15 lbs.…"

Created: March 16, 2005

Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver: End of an Era
"After over ten fantastic years of fighting for law reform and human rights for sex workers the principal directors of SWAV have determined that the Alliance had achieved its principle goals…"

Created: May 17, 2005

$WE@&R! Sex Workers' Workbook
"$ex, Work Education, Advocacy & Research ($WE@&R!) is an easy-to-use way for workers in the sex industry to give their opinions about laws, policies, regulations and benefits. Help us promote greater sex-worker involvement in legal reforms that affect your work life.…"

Created: October 6, 2006

Committee to Unite Prostitutes! (CUP)
"Our organization is aimed at helping prostitutes get it together to identify common concerns and make their voices heard. Anyone committed to promoting sex-worker solidarity can join…"

Created: October 22, 2007

Society of Syphilitics (SOS)
"Much of what people know about syphilis is wrong. Syphilis is often hard to detect and symptoms are not always obvious. Standard syphilis tests can be unreliable, and negative test results do not mean for certain that you don't have syphilis. What's more, syphilis is not always easily cured — especially if the disease is not treated soon after you first catch it…"

Created: August 10, 2008

Sex Workers' Rights
Report of the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration (Brussels 2005) – "In 2002 a small network of Dutch sex workers and activists gathered in Amsterdam to organise a conference that would give sex workers an opportunity to respond to the proliferation of repressive new legislation and policies being enacted throughout Europe.…"

Created: April 9, 2009

Chris Bearchell's Camp Swampy
"In her Last Will and Testament, Chris left her share of the land and her home to Will Pritchard, who she trusted to take over stewardship of Camp Swampy — hoping it could remain a resource, shared by her many friends who helped make her dream home come true.…"

Awards… [97 Walnut] [Members] [Traffic Statistics]

Created: February 12, 2010
Last modified: February 25, 2010
Walnet Walnet Institute
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710