Laws supposedly meant to protect sex workers by penalizing only so-called pimps and clients, and not sex workers, will replicate the harms and illegalities of the laws just struck down and may not survive the courts. The other countries did not have our recent court ruling on what makes laws themselves right or wrong. That ruling makes the Nordic Model wrong. There are several things wrong with the Nordic Model. Here are a few of them. (1) Anti-pimping laws criminalize anyone who shares in a sex worker’s earnings, including her husband, other family members and friends. Police can harass or threaten people around her who they may wish to suspect as an associate. (2) The laws even form a barrier to sex workers who wish to marry and or leave the business for other reasons. A husband becomes legally vulnerable, even if he shares the household expenses. Women who support their husbands in whole or in part in other occupations, and, yet, no one passes laws against living off the proceeds of their work. Why are sex workers singled out from women in other occupations? That singling out is not legal after the recent court decision. (3) The Nordic approach also makes sex workers less safe. Pimps often provide services for and protection to sex workers. For example, they drive women to appointments, wait in the car, and know when to worry if the woman does not return. They copy down the license plates of cars into which street walkers climb, which provides some safeguard against the women simply disappearing. (4) Laws against clients endanger sex workers on the street. These women are the most vulnerable of sex workers because they lack the safety of working indoors and non-violent men are far more likely to be afraid of and discouraged by the prospect of being arrested than are psychopaths. This is especially true of family men or those who have a respected position in their communities. A minister, a lawyer, a teacher, a psychologist or a doctor have a great deal to lose by being arrested and having the arrest publicized, so are reluctant to take the risk. (5) There will not necessarily be fewer women selling sex, however, especially on the street level where driving forces like drug-use keep the numbers high. With a smaller pool of customers for whom to compete, these women may act with less caution; for example, they may be more willing to get into cars they might otherwise not get into. On the other hand, there will be as many physically abusive men and criminals in the client pool because a person who is willing to beat or to kill a sex worker is unlikely to be discouraged by the possibility of a minor charge of buying sex. The preferred clients have moved to the Internet, but the dangerous ones stayed on the streets. (6) Those on the streets work in risky conditions because they go further into remote areas. Under the Nordic Model they have to do the negotiation very quickly. It doesn’t give them any time to assess risk. The quick negotiation will also result from a client’s unwillingness to linger a moment longer than necessary. (7) It is currently common practice for sex workers to screen their clients in advance to seeing them. They know the client’s name and phone number. Under the Nordic Model, however, clients have more incentive to remain anonymous rather than risk arrest. Sex workers will have to accept calls from blocked numbers and won’t know who they are seeing. So much for the Nordic Model. (8) There is no indication that the Nordic Model, as being considered for Canada at present, would adequately define what are not permissible acts between consenting adults in private for money or not, and so the law will fail for that alone. (9) I could go on and on, but enough for now.
The federal government is now seeking input from Canadians about how to
regulate sex acts between consenting adults in private. Problem is, they
don’t say which acts are sex acts. I asked this in a paper I circulated last
month called “Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation”.
I asked straight questions. The answer to each question was a yes or no. I
also asked for a why to each yes or no. I said that Mr. Harper’s sexuality
would guide his answers, and it was his answers that were going to guide new laws. So I think before Canadians give their input they should be clear
about exactly what it is the government wants direction on. Is it going to
be illegal to run or go to a fetish house where no sexual intercourse
occurs? Are couples who play bondage games at home for free to be arrested if some sort of payment is deemed to have occurred? The Supreme Court said any new laws cannot be over-broad or arbitrary. They also said that new laws must be clear with precise definitions. Is the prime minister going to take the unbelievably stupid option of the Nordic Model and top it off without giving precise definitions – just so he can buy some more time while the courts again repudiate him – and so keep the sex trade underground, which puts women in unnecessary danger, and is what organized crime wants? How long is he going to put limited law enforcement resources under further strain while not even speaking out about sexual harassment of women at work, in the RCMP, in the armed forces – or domestic abuse? Does he want the forces of the state controlling men who might be clients of sex workers? A man might be afraid to pay for dinner on a date. A women could blackmail a man by reporting to the police that he tried to “buy sex”. I look forward to hearing from him. I’m sure you do too.
There have been meetings across the country about what new legislation should replace the struck down prostitution laws. Here are some of my observations from the information that has reached me. There is a general understanding of how the so-called Nordic Model (which criminalizes the purchase of sex but not the sale) is flawed in the same ways the old laws were. There is also understanding about the horror of imposing someone else’s morality on consenting adults in private. Also, there has been no comment from the so-called abolitionist side in response to my letter saying the government must specify what behaviours among private consenting adults are prohibited. There has been much discussion about the decision of police forces and provinces to stop enforcing the existing laws which were left in place for a year. Some nasty surprises await the government if they try to bring in new laws that are not clear and not up to constitutional standards. Might we have a Canadian spring? Or are we going to just let the prime minister continue to do what organized crime wants him to do?
One by one the provinces are announcing that they are not using the struck down prostitution laws, meaning they are not laying new charges and are often dropping charges where cases were pending. We should note that the number of such charges have been falling steadily over the last few years, despite a growing population and growth of the sex trade. The reason for this last development has been that the authorities do not want to proceed using laws that are unconstitutional. For years Justice Minister Nicholson said the government viewed the laws as constitutional. Now his replacement, Mr. Mackay, says not enforcing them is not an option. Yet he is no longer being listened to. Prime Minister Harper hired these guys and keeps paying them. Do we want anyone, let alone these guys to tell us what consenting adults may do in private? For now we are free and we activists must ensure that any new laws (and there should be none) are fair and don’t do the same damage as the old ones.
I have been told by reliable sources that the so-called right wing commentators have been remarkably silent about what the government should do about our victory at the Supreme Court. They tell me that our opponents realized that the so-called Nordic model is not workable for the same reasons the old laws were not. They also tell me that my letter called “The Sexual Orientation of Stephen Harper” helped remind all discussing the issues before us that before we discuss any new laws or models, we must first decide specifically what behaviours or acts among consenting adults in private are to be prohibited and why. If that first step is not taken, on all sides of the debate, the discussion will be pointless and any new laws will be a fiasco. Any uncertainty will breed waste and misery.
I have been invited to over a dozen interviews or to speak at events in the last month. With the exception of my pre-planned visit to the University of Windsor, and the Windsor Star, I have turned them all down. I must now get ready for another round of chemotherapy and use what energy I have for doing necessary things. That being said, I spend an average of one hour a day at my computer. Half the time I reply to e-mail and Facebook messages. The other half I review articles supporters send that they think I would be interested in reading, along with some comments of their own as they see what is being said or done about the issues we have been involved in. I have resolved to tell you what I am thinking once or twice a week in a blog, and I will make public appearances or release statements beyond my blogs, if possible if any of the key people who have fought with us think I can make a difference. A link to my blogs will appear on my Web site: terrijeanbedford.com
I fought this battle before. In 1986 I was raided in Windsor, but I did not have the means to fight. In 1994 I was raided in Thornhill and decided to fight, because this time I had help. In 1998 the judge gave an appalling short oral decision after a long trial and refused to say what I could and could not do. The real travesty then was that the Ontario Court of Appeal made an even worse decision, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the matter. Professor Young said he took the case because, as he said “you guys broke all the rules”. What he meant was that the justice system was not designed to allow justice, and that if the authorities did what they did you just took it and moved on. To this day, I cannot tell you what my crime was back then. The laws as they were written were so vague and arbitrary in their enforcement, that they were unconstitutional. Remember, in my first trial in 1995, the charges were thrown out because they were too vague. But the courts then basically said that was o.k. and what was done to me was o.k. Well, it wasn’t, and the ruling last month by the Supreme Court, unanimously said so. Remember that the 3 provisions which were struck down specifically were done so in part because the Criminal Code definitions were vague as to what was a crime and what was not. That, in my view, is the first stage of the debate now under way. Exactly what private activities between consenting adults will the police devote scarce resources to stopping? The Supreme Court has now said that this must be answered before we comment on what model, or what laws, if any, should be brought in to the Criminal Code to replace what was struck down.
It’s good to come back, after almost 20 years, a winner and in the right. Remember, I had a lot of help. They say that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and that means every citizen who can should do something, however little, to ensure that our freedoms are protected. If prostitution remains legal and no new laws are passed to regulate it, things will be better. We have many other laws that protect women. We just need those laws enforced for a change.
Thank you all very much
In a larger sense WE also includes the women of Canada, for whose freedom a blow was struck, and all Canadians. This is because any new laws must meet new guidelines of fairness.
Before 2010 the federal government’s tough on crime agenda was meant to impose harsher penalties for violating laws that were themselves clearly illegal, such as the bawdy house law. When the first decision came out striking the laws down in 2010 they announced their intent to appeal within 3 hours. When the Ontario Court of Appeal basically supported the first judge in 2012 they appealed again; stating that they still believed the laws were constitutional. Now I ask you, are you going to accept anything, anything these guys come up with now?
Mr. Harper and his trained seals are on record as saying that prostitution is bad. What does he mean by prostitution? Let’s just say for now he means sexual intercourse for money. Well guess what. I say it’s good. And I happen to be right. Escort services, bawdy houses, strip joints, massage parlours and informal arrangements among adults are occurring everywhere. And this was under the now defunct laws and under Mr. Harper’s tough on crime agenda – which is a scam. Mr. Harper was doing what organized crime and bad pimps wanted him to do, which is to keep women underground and subject to blackmail and potential harm.
I can’t comment responsibly about his economic policies, his foreign policies or about what he is doing to protect the environment. But I can say that he has been a national disgrace in his handling of the matter in which I have been involved. If he is really concerned about the welfare of women, why does he not speak out about wife-beating, which is a national epidemic, or about divorced fathers who can but don’t pay child support. Why is he silent about sexual harassment in the armed forces and RCMP? Why is he silent about the shortage of women’s shelters or the refusal of women’s shelters to accommodate family pets, which abusive husbands use as hostages to keep battered wives in the home. Why doesn’t he speak out about low wages and low social assistance or the shortage of affordable housing – which encourage women to become prostitutes by the way? Why do he and his supporters undermine groups which promote human rights and address matters that affect women? A real man protects poor women and children. Why doesn’t he visit food banks or public housing complexes or our overcrowded jails? Are aboriginal women better or worse off since he came to power?
Whatever the reasons are the facts are there. Show me press clippings or videos where he has spoken on these matters. You won’t find much. What you will find is that he only needs to appeal to a minority of voters to remain in power. Thus he has hidden from these issues. Take the current matter as an example. He crows about how judges should not make policy because they are not elected. Yet he hid behind the robes of the judges to make the matter go away for a while, while the judges themselves were imploring him to get involved. Now he is in a bigger mess than ever.
How many of you saw me on television last month? One of the things I said was that Prime Minister Harper offered me an appointment to the Senate, as a government whip. Well, today, here in my home town of Windsor, I am declining his offer. You see, it seems Senators are always in trouble with the police, and I’ve had enough of that.
It’s exciting to be back in my old home town again. The university certainly has grown. One part of that growth I am told has been the womens’ studies and social justice areas of study. I am also told that the legal battles that I and so many other women have been fighting these past two decades have received considerable attention in various departments here, and for that I am grateful. The Associate Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Eleanor Maticka-Tindale was an expert witness in 2009, supporting our motion to strike down the so called prostitution laws in Ontario. In 1998 Daryl Hill of the Department of Psychology here was an expert witness at my trial, testifying about cross-dressing, and whether it was sex. Julie Fraser, a PHD candidate in that same department spoke at my fund-raiser in 2000; and both graduate and undergraduate students have visited me in person, spoke to me over the phone, e-mailed, and sent me their papers over the years. Thank you all again.
And I have also spoken here. In 2009 Professor Young, Val Scott and I spoke at the law school about our Charter Challenge, then just beginning. Now I have the pleasure to be here just after it has ended, and WE have won. I want to talk about that word – WE. We are thousands, at varying levels of involvement.
The first person to mention, in my view, is Madam Justice Susan Himel. She won too because her decision was reviewed by 14 judges, first at the Ontario Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court. In the end everything she decided was upheld.
There are of course the 3 plaintiffs, or as some would call us, affiants – Myself, Val Scott and Amy Lebovitch. Val Scott has publicly advocated for the rights of sex workers for over 20 years. Amy Lebovitch is younger than Val and I. Her participation was most critical of all because she is not retired like Val and I are and her standing was not subject to challenge.
Then there is Professor Young, who deserves the Order of Canada, and his fellow lawyers and the rest of the legal team. About 10 lawyers represented the matter through 3 levels of court. About 20 students worked on the matter.
Then there were the expert witnesses. About a dozen of them, on our side, who came to Toronto and testified for us – Eleanor included.
There were the activists and sex workers across the country who spoke to the matter and marched in the streets. One of the most prominent women in Canada is beside me today, Chanelle Gallant. She is one of the leaders of such women.
There were as well the vast number of citizens who informed themselves at universities, community colleges, high schools and informally.
In my last blog I wrote about some things that occurred to me when I read articles and comments posted on the Internet about the Supreme Court decision striking down the existing prostitution related laws once and for all. In this blog I want to mention one thing I held back on mentioning then. That is, simply, how rare it was for those commenting to say that they had read the decisions (there were 3 decisions by 3 courts). When I spoke in the lobby of the Supreme Court on December 20, 2013, and was asked about other countries, I said that any comment about other countries should be a comment about what the decision of the trial judge said. She looked at the evidence, trial tested, about other countries. Two years of hearings and tens of thousands of pages of trial tested evidence were the basis of her decision. That was part of the basis for striking down the laws. The same is true about the judge’s findings about any negative impacts on society if the laws remained struck down (none), and the negative aspects if they remain in place (many). Again, trial tested. So, if people have an opinion, it is good to know if it is informed. I don’t expect many people to read these documents of course, but it would be nice if they started their comments by saying either: “I have read the decisions” or “I have not read the decisions”. If someone says “I don’t need to read the decisions to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court, or the lower courts”, that someone is a fool.