Current Legal Debate

Guide to the Issue Clippings
Collection 2014 - 2019


For a full discussion of the background and issues see the materials on the excellent Web site of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. I have also written and spoke extensively about the dangers of the new law, and my comments are contained in the menu item Blogs, Articles and Speeches on this my site. Recently I was asked what I thought of Prime Minister Trudeau's handling of the issue, so I wrote the following.

Justin Trudeau and Sexual Slavery
By Terri-Jean Bedford
Canada's Most Famous Dominatrix

Sexual Slavery in Canada exists in part because the government has legislated that men may not pay women for sexual services, so women can, if men obey the law, only have sex for free. Of course the same applies to same sex encounters.

The Canadian Constitution states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Everyone includes sex-trade workers. In 2013 in Bedford Versus Canada The Supreme Court struck down the laws against keeping a common bawdy house, living on the avails of the sex trade, and communicating for the purpose of buying or selling sex. Selling sex was and is legal. The court found that the laws worked against their stated purpose and exposed women engaged in a legal activity to danger. For example the courts said that by preventing sex trade workers from working from secure premises or hiring security, the laws exposed the workers to danger.

In 2014 Bill C-36 was passed to replace the laws struck down. The bill made paying for sex acts or assisting sellers illegal. Opponents to C-36 said it would drive the sex trade underground. For example, landlords might be reluctant to provide secure premises and security guards discouraged from protecting sex trade workers. This led to women being exploited by unethical people who break the law as a matter of course. Human trafficking has become more common since C-36. The evidence in the Bedford case was that something like C-36 would have such bad impacts.

If sex trade workers did not have to operate underground to protect their clients from being charged, the authorities could concentrate on situations where the workers are forced, under-age or in Canada illegally. C-36, makes no distinction between consenting and non-consenting adult sex acts. The law is currently being challenged in the courts as not being in line with fundamental justice, for most of the reasons cited in Bedford Versus Canada, along with other reasons.

Prime Minister Trudeau's party voted against C-36 when in opposition, saying the evidence did not support this ideologically driven measure. Again, the evidence is that laws like C-36 drive the trade underground, making it more dangerous for women and lucrative for criminals. The judge who struck down the old laws at the outset said no new laws were needed. She said the existing laws against illegal immigration, assault, and forcible confinement, among others, already address the worst aspects of the sex trade.

Despite all this the sex trade is booming. A strong economy is one reason. Reason number two is that most clients of sex trade workers don't even know what the law is. Reason three, under C-36, being paid for having sex is not illegal. This alone encourages some women to do it. Reason four, advertising on-line is now done off-shore. Reason five, landlords and hotels who obey the law lose revenue. Reason six, the authorities do not have the resources to clamp down.

What all this means is that the authorities are concentrating on nuisance complaints and reported exploitation. So, to both buyers and sellers, the law does not seem to be a major factor. If the sex trade were legalized or decriminalized it would reduce human trafficking and exploitation. Clients of sex trade workers could avoid going to places run by criminals who abuse women. They could safely report such places to the police. Cash rewards could be offered for doing so. Licensed and inspected establishments could report competition breaking the law. Like in churches and schools, illegal activity would still occur, but less. Finally, the police could concentrate on serious crimes and situations where non-consenting women were being exploited, rather than taking the futile approach of discouraging demand. This has never worked. Men should be allowed to pay women for sex acts and vice-versa.

The choice before Mr. Trudeau is clear. Does he want to help women, or keep a law that hurts them? Right now he is doing the latter. He is doing what his predecessor Stephen Harper and organized crime want him to do. He is doing nothing. Politics is the oldest profession.

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