Media Advisory – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Dec 17

Media Advisory – Dec. 15, 2014

On December 17, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, sex workers and their allies will be calling on Canada’s provincial leaders to take action.

Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), Maggie’s – Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, COUNTERfit Women’s Harm Reduction Program (South Riverdale Community Health Centre), and the publishers of Toronto weekly paper NOW Magazine will bring a powerful messages to the provincial government and Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne at 11am in the Queen’s Park media studio.

Wynne has already expressed her “grave concern” that the law, brought into force December 6th, will not make sex workers any safer, and the province’s Attorney-General is assessing its constitutional validity.

More information is available here: https://nowtoronto.com/news/councillors-write-to-kathleen-wynne-bill-c-36/

WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 11am
WHERE: Queen’s Park media studio

Wynne to Examine Consitutionality of C36/PCEPA

The next time someone tells you that you can’t make a difference, just tell them about the time a bunch of hookers, pimps and perverts were able to convince a Premier to request a consitutional reference.

Premier Wynne Statement on Bill C-36:

Yesterday, on December 6, after months of hearings and public debate, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into effect.

When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code, they found that each of the impugned laws placed sex workers unnecessarily at risk in a way that violated their rights to safety and security under the Charter.

As I have said before, my priority in this debate is to ensure that our laws and institutions enhance the safety of those who are vulnerable — in this case, sex workers: a class of (mostly) women, who are disproportionately the victims of sexual and physical violence.  So I believe that there is merit in considering whether the Conservative government’s new legislation meets that test.

I have listened to the debate that has taken place over the last year, and particularly since the introduction of Bill C-36.  And I am left with grave concern that the so-called Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will protect neither “exploited persons” nor “communities.”

I am not an expert, and I am not a lawyer, but as Premier of this province, I am concerned that this legislation (now the law of the land) will not make sex workers safer.

The legislation was duly passed through a democratic process.  The Attorney General of Ontario is bound to enforce the Criminal Code.  And she will.

But I have also asked the Attorney General to advise me on the constitutional validity of this legislation, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Bedford case, and our options as a government in the event that the legislation’s constitutionality is in question.

We must enforce duly enacted legislation, but I believe that we must also take steps to satisfy ourselves that, in doing so, we are upholding the constitution and the Charter.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who spoke up – sex workers, clients and allies alike. After such a difficult year for sex workers, it’s nice to know we have people who actually care about our well-being.

Letter template requesting constitutional reference of C36

Would you like to add your voice to those calling for a constitutional reference of C36, even though you’re not a sex worker? Please copy & paste the text, fill in the appropriate fields, and send it to the Premier of the province you reside in!

Thanks to the amazing Naomi Sayers for her contributions to this letter.

 

Dear Premier ________:

I am writing to ask you to refer Bill C-36, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, the new anti-prostitution laws which are in response to the Bedford decision, to the ___________ (highest court in that province) to determine if they are constitutional. Please do this before pursuing prosecutions under these laws, or directing police to enforce these laws.

Many experts and sex workers have testified that these laws are dangerous for sex workers, and will recreate the harms that previously existed under the old laws. The current Conservative Government has passed these laws despite the objections of those who will be most affected, including the most marginalized and vulnerable, outdoor sex workers.

I am not a sex worker myself, but I believe that sex workers have the same rights as other Canadian citizens, and I believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, I believe that sex workers have the right to life, liberty and security of person. These laws do not respect the constitutional rights of sex workers, and should not be enforced before the courts have evaluated them.

Please refer these laws immediately to the courts, before more harm comes to the sex workers who will be most affected by these laws.

Sincerely,

 

Open Letter to Kathleen Wynne: Refer C36 to the Ontario Court of Appeal Immediately

The Right Honourable Premier Kathleen Wynne:

Bill C36, the Conservative Party of Canada’s response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision on Canada’s prostitution laws, has now passed third reading in both the House of Commons and the Senate. It is likely to receive Royal Assent in the coming weeks, after which it will become law.

This bill is an assault on the entire sex work community. We have done our best to share our stories, and we have raised our concerns, put forward mountains of evidence, and made every possible effort to have our voices heard. But we have been dismissed, ignored, and deemed unworthy of contributing to an issue that will affect us in the most fundamental ways.

This bill will put women and marginalized peoples in danger. This bill will put vulnerable people in a more vulnerable position. This bill will unquestionably visit violence and death upon sex workers, and will recreate the same conditions that allowed predators like Robert Pickton and Gary Ridgeway to thrive.

This bill absolutely violates the rights guaranteed to us by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Minister Peter MacKay has even admitted as much, when he claimed it may hold up under Section 1 – a tacit admission that it fails the protections afforded by other sections. But I remind you – this is the very same government that insisted the previous laws were indeed constitutional, and the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. They ignore and disrespect the constitution at every turn, and they have allowed ideology to trump rationality time and again. Their credibility is non-existent, they engage in decision-based evidence-making instead of evidence-based decision-making, and their contempt for the Supreme Court is blatant and appalling.

When I spoke to you at Queen’s Park back in June, you assured me that your concern was with how this law would affect vulnerable people, and you have publicly stated that you will continue to monitor the situation. You said you would consider all available options. Now, Prime Minister Harper is trying to force you to dedicate provincial resources to enforcing this law, which is a failure on every level. Will you allow him to force his will upon you, and the sex-working citizens of Ontario?

I ask of you this – as soon as it receives Royal Assent, please refer this bill immediately to the Ontario Court of Appeal for a constitutional reference, and do not pursue prosecutions until they determine its constitutionality. You cannot, in good conscience, expend provincial resources on the enforcement of this law when it is so clearly in need of judicial review at the highest level. The sex work community cannot afford years of violence and death as this law works its way through the courts.

Doing so would cost you nothing, and you would simply be doing your due diligence to ensure the laws our provinces enforces meet the basic constitutional standard that all laws much satisfy. Sex workers are Canadians who deserve the full protection of our constitution, and do not deserve to be treated like we do not matter.

The time to act is upon you, and you are the only person who can prevent Stephen Harper’s laws from putting sex workers in grave danger. You must stand up to him now. If you do not, you will either be standing with him, or standing idly by while predators and exploitative criminals use these laws to their advantage. There is no middle ground on this issue.

I implore you, Premier Wynne – please stand up for what you know is right.

The “Bedford Rule” for Conservative Party Clients?

I’ve generally stayed away from the Bill C36 discussion (and blogging altogether) for a variety of reasons, but rather than rehash them now, I’ll just cut to the chase. On September 10, Terri-Jean Bedford appeared before the Senate committee assessing Bill C36, and said the following:

“If this law passes I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at, I promise.”

For many years, Barney Frank had a rule regarding the exposure of closeted gay politicians – those who did not actively work to limit gay rights in the USA would have their right to privacy respected, but those who engaged in gay sex acts behind closed doors while also publicly opposing the advancement of gay rights deserved to have their hypocrisy revealed, regardless of the consequences. Known as the “Frank Rule” he explained it to Bill Maher in 2006:

“I think there’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. People who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door, and do it themselves.”

Many of my past clients have had public profiles; I remember one enjoyable dinner date with a client, where we talked about seeing each other on the same TV program on different nights, and gave each other pointers for our future appearances. Some of my clients have been active in politics, either before, during or after the time I saw them. Although I can’t see myself ever “outing” a past client for any reason, I can certainly understand where Terri-Jean is coming from.

If members of the Conservative Party have purchased sexual services and they are simultaneously seeking to criminalize that very act, then Terri-Jean is well within her rights to reveal their actions, and their hypocrisy. Those who value their own privacy have no right to impose on the privacy of others, which is precisely what C36 will do. In that sense, respect for privacy is very much a two-way street – if you’re an elected official who doesn’t respect the privacy of other Canadian citizens, then you can’t expect the citizens to respect your privacy either.

It would not surprise me at all if a large number of male Conservative Party MPs are suspiciously absent during the next Parliamentary session, when Bill C36 is set to be voted into law.

Agree? Disagree? Comment below and tell me why!

Terri-Jean Bedford responds to new proposed prostitution laws

Reprinted with permission

Unlike the government I have read the document in question and had it carefully explained to me by experts. The new law would basically prohibit the purchasing of and advertising of sex for sale. It would also penalize persons who were in an exploitative relationship with sex trade workers. Mr. MacKay called sex work degrading and said other means must also be added by other bodies to enable women to get out of the sex trade.

I see now why Mr. Harper told McKay to table the bill while he was out of the country. The bill is a rework of the old legislation and will fare no better. We may not even need a constitutional challenge to gut it. It spits in the face of the courts and judges will know this. It repeats the legal and safety shortcomings of the old laws. It does not even define what is and what is not a sex act. As a dominatrix I need to know this so I can punish Mr. Harper for such incompetence.

Mr. MacKay called the sex trade degrading. Who the hell is he to tell women they have to only have sex for free? Who the hell is he to tell consenting adults what they can and cannot do in private? How can he stand for a ban on advertising an activity that is legal? I have news for him. Many women love being sex trade workers. Many men who visit sex trade workers, which include some well known members of his own party, are prominent and highly regarded members of society who love their families.

This is the same government that kept insisting that the old laws were constitutional and should be kept. Are we going to believe them now? Neither he nor Mr. McKay nor the dumped Mr. Nicholson would say if they had read the decision of Justice Himel which the Supreme Court endorsed. It said there are plenty of existing laws which address the worst aspects of prostitution, aside from the ones she struck down.

Politics is the oldest profession. Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay have trumped up incompetent and unethical legislation so they can blame the courts when all restrictions on the sex trade, as distinct from other forms of business, are finally removed. Just like the rest of his “Tough on Crime Agenda” this is a scam and ignores real measures that could be taken to protect Canadian women. Organized crime, human traffickers and exploitative pimps are celebrating today. Mr. Harper is encouraging the women in the sex trade to go underground, where these evil people lie in wait.

Terri-Jean Bedford Responds to the Federal Government’s Consultation on Prostitution

Reprinted with permission from Terri-Jean Bedford

Government Prostitution Survey Results- A Message From Terri-Jean Bedford

The survey is a scam. I say that despite the fact that the respondents agreed with us that the sale of sex should remain legal. The respondents were also not decisively against the purchase of sex or in favour of charging all the associates of sex workers. So even this rigged survey, assuming we are being correctly informed about the response, does not give clear direction to the government. I say the survey was rigged and a scam for a number of reasons. Here are some of them. For one, who drew up the questions? Why wasn’t there a question asking if the government should tell consenting adults what they can do in private for money? Why wasn’t there a question asking what should be included in the definition of a sex act or sex? Why wasn’t there a question about which crimes police should ignore in order to devote scarce resources to ensuring that women only have sex for free? As to criminalizing the purchase of sex, I am including below an open letter from many leading Canadian intellectuals familiar with the issues at hand. I ask you to read the letter. Look as well at who received it and who sent it. It should convince you that if the government does introduce the so-called Nordic approach it will ensure that Mr. Harper and his ministers will be seen as cowards only looking out for themselves by doing what organized crime wants them to do: meaning preventing women from protecting themselves, ensuring they can only have sex for free and denying consenting adults in private basic liberty. We can do better than that. Ask the Supreme Court.

OPEN LETTER CALLING FOR DECRIMINALIZATION OF SEX WORK IN CANADA AND OPPOSITION TO CRIMINALIZING THE PURCHASING OF SEX

Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada,
Hon. Tom Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada,
Hon. Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,
Mr. Jean-Francois Fortin, Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois,
Hon. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada,

Dear Sirs and Madam,

Re: Evidence-Based Call for Decriminalization of Sex Work in Canada and Opposition to Criminalizing the Purchasing of Sex

We, the undersigned, are profoundly concerned that the Government of Canada is considering the introduction of new legislation to criminalize the purchasing of sex. The proposed legislation is not scientifically grounded and evidence strongly suggests that it would recreate the same social and health-related harms of current criminalization. We join other sex worker, research, and legal experts across the country and urge the Government of Canada to follow the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and support decriminalization of sex work as a critical evidence-based approach to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers. A large body of scientific evidence from Canada, Sweden and Norway (where clients and third parties are criminalized), and globally clearly demonstrates that criminal laws targeting the sex industry have overwhelmingly negative social, health, and human rights consequences to sex workers, including increased violence and abuse, stigma, HIV and inability to access critical social, health and legal protections. These harms disproportionately impact marginalized sex workers including female, Indigenous and street-involved sex workers, who face the highest rates of violence and murder in our country. In contrast, in New Zealand, since the passage of a law to decriminalize sex work in 2003, research and the government’s own evaluation have documented marked improvements in sex workers’ safety, health, and human rights. Therefore, we call on the Government of Canada to join with global leaders, community, researchers and legal experts in rejecting criminalization regimes, including those that criminalize the purchase of sexual services, and instead support the decriminalization of sex work in Canada as scientifically-grounded and necessary to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers. Below, we briefly outline our key concerns.
Continue reading

Terri-Jean Bedford addresses the Law Union of Ontario

This is the prepared text of the speech delivered to the Law Union of Ontario by Terri-Jean Bedford on March 21, 2014. Following her speech she has asked her supporters to distribute the text to the media and general public. Miss Bedford is a plaintiff in Bedford Versus Canada, in which three of Canada’s key prostitution laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in December 2013. Reprinted with her permission.

Before I say anything else I want to acknowledge Dr. Henry Morgantaler, who died this summer. I appreciate what he was up against, not just because I have been in legal wars and in jail too, but also because both of us were advocating for women. Blessed be his memory.

Now, on the lighter side, let me tell you a little story I think you’ll appreciate. Some years ago I was whipping a client strapped to a bench. With each lash he had to call out “thank you mistress, another please” and he had to sound like he meant it. After he had wept to my satisfaction I removed his restraints and let him kiss my boots. Then I told him to get dressed and meet me at the front door. Now get this. When I let him out the door we said goodbye to each other. He said “Goodnight mistress”. I said,“Goodnight, Your Honour”.

Speaking of judges, our judges are now, thankfully, addressing the federal government’s so called “Tough on Crime Agenda”, which is a scam. The government itself is an offender if laws passed are unconstitutional, or contrary to Canada’s values. Is it patriotic to focus on length of sentences and ignore overcrowding in prisons? Ignore the misuse of warrants? Ignore the underfunding of legal aid? Ignore spousal abuse? Ignore the shortage of shelters for women, or of shelters that accept family pets so the wife beaters can’t use the family pet as a hostage? Is it patriotic to be caught by surprise by the sexual harassment scandals about women and minorities in the armed forces and the RCMP? And, my friends, is it patriotic to tell women they can only have sex if they have it for free?
Continue reading

Scientists vs. Ideologues

A scientist engages in evidence-based decision making, whereas an ideologue engages in decision-based evidence making. Which one are you?

Do you read a range of opinions and consult evidence from different sources before you make up your mind? Or do you cherry-pick stats and studies that suit your predisposed attitudes, and overlook anything that’s inconvenient to your opinion? Do you let your political identity (liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, whatever) dictate how you should feel about something, based on whether it’s a “left-wing” or “right-wing” issue? Or do you look at each issue of public policy independently, and realize that the world isn’t easily divided along a black-or-white dichotomy?

Once you’ve allowed yourself to be told how to feel about something because of what your political identity is, that’s when you stop being an independent thinker, and start being a partisan hack. Life isn’t about good or bad, left or right – it’s about choosing the best (or in some cases, least-bad) option amongst many. Never forget it.