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?
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.
With the momentous decision from the Supreme Court on December 20, Canada’s highest judicial authority confirmed what sex workers had known for many years: three of the laws restricting our trade were unconstitutional, and were decisively struck down. In their ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada left no doubt that these laws were not only ineffective, but dangerous; the SCC also told Parliament, in no uncertain terms, that watered-down versions of the same laws would not be acceptable replacements.
The court included a one-year stay of proceedings before the existing laws are to come off the books, ostensibly for Parliament to draft new laws. I have already written extensively on the Five Fatal Flaws of the Abolitionist Approach, and why criminalization of the clients is unwise. Further to that point, it is my contention that no new laws are required. The existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada are more than adequate to allow law enforcement to target the more harmful circumstances connected to prostitution, while simultaneously allowing consenting adults to do as we choose in the privacy of our own homes.
When it comes to prostitution, there are three aspects of sex work that the public finds most intolerable: the exploitation of children and youth, illegal trafficking in persons against their will, and disruptive displays of sexual solicitation. Each of these aspects are adequately covered by existing Criminal Code provisions, as I will outline below, and it is clear that the existing laws already give law enforcement the tools they need to stop these offenses when and where they occur.
I received this press release in my inbox today, from my good friend Terri-Jean Bedford:
Dominatrix to Question Harper
I am the Bedford in the Bedford Versus Canada case. In their 9-0 decision last month the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s laws against prostitution once and for all. On the morning of January 8th I am releasing an article I have written, of just under 2,000 words, called “Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation”. In this article I try to provide some thinking points to those who think new laws should be added to the criminal code to replace the ones struck down by the Supreme Court. All recipients may share or publish this article or extracts from it. It is part of my contribution to the debate now under way. You may also see my recent blogs by visiting my Web site: terrijeanbedford.com. I can be reached at: email@example.com.
I can hardly wait to hear what she has to say, but I suspect it might be along the lines of, “Stepher Harper has been a very bad boy…”
I’m heading out of town tonight on a long-planned (and non-reschedulable) family vacation, so I won’t be online or reachable when the decision drops tomorrow morning. To my sex worker colleagues and allies, I’ll be with you in spirit, hoping that the SCC upholds Justice Himel’s original decision from September 2010, which would lead to the FULL decriminalization of sex work in Canada.
Fingers crossed, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and let’s hope that the court issues a ruling based on rationality, rather than ideology. Decriminalization is the ONLY choice.
Just wanted to repost this video from a year ago, and talk about the reasons I don’t get stressed about the holidays anymore: instead of trying to buy everyone the “perfect gift”, my family and I give money to various charities in each others’ names. Watch the video to find out more!
… My criticism of him comes from a very special place – I was actually dumb enough to vote for him.
I don’t know if this makes my criticism of him more or less valid, but please, keep that important fact in mind before you accuse all his opponents of being leftie union-lovers. There are plenty of us who appreciate a fiscally-responsible platform who DON’T appreciate lies and deceit – and Ford will find that out in the next election when he struggles to gain 20% of the popular vote.
Also, why in the hell is my TweetBlender stuck on tweets from two months ago?!?
Throughout the drawn-out Rob Ford crack-smoking saga, one thing has been made abundantly clear: Rob Ford has very poor judgment. As a Mayor, as a person, and as a representative for the City of Toronto, Rob Ford’s judgment has continually proven lacking. This, above all else, is the reason that he should resign immediately.
As I wrote in previous articles about this subject, it’s not his now-confirmed crack use that’s even the problem. Even though crack cocaine is a highly addictive substance that should not be clouding the mind of any elected official, occasional crack use (as odd as that phrase may sound) isn’t necessarily something that should trigger an automatic resignation. However, exercising terrible judgment in the consumption of crack brings a world of other problems with it, not the least of which is criminal association.
Rob Ford’s friendship with known criminal Sandro Lisi is well-documented, and the recently-released (though heavily redacted) ITO from Lisi’s arrest warrant details their relationship, including exchanges of manila envelopes on multiple occasions. More disturbing than his association with Lisi is Ford’s use of city resources/employees during his attempts to retrieve the video, such as “Director of Logistics” David Price, who earns $130,000 per year on the City’s dime. Most disturbing of all is the fact that Rob Ford was foolish enough to put himself in that position in the first place, and in doing so, make himself vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.
Hey Toronto! Want to make sure City Council knows just how sick you are of the three-ring circus the Ford Brothers are putting on for us? Join us for a Save Toronto Rally at Nathan Phillips Square on November 13 at 12pm. This is the first day that City Council will be convening since the sh*t really hit the fan, and it’s time for our representatives to really listen to their city!
We’ll be asking City Council to take strong action against Rob Ford, and tell him and his brother – in no uncertain or wishy-washy terms – that they’re not going to stand for this nonsense any longer. Check out the website for more details:
We’re a group of volunteers from all walks of life, supporters of a wide range of political perspectives, but united in our conviction that Rob Ford has to go. I’ve been asked to be the official spokesperson for the event, so if anyone in the media would like more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For anyone else looking for information about the event or if you’d like to lend a helping hand, check out the website or email email@example.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at @SaveTdoto and catch up on the news that way.
Most importantly, this is about Rob Ford The Mayor, not Rob Ford The Man – we wish him all the love and support in the world in overcoming his addiction problems, but as a Mayor, he’s clearly not fit to lead our great city any longer. Let’s make sure City Council gets the message loud and clear!