Carleton University Speech

It’s good to be back in Ottawa again, and I’m pleased to be part of this important conference. The students and staff from The Carleton Human Rights Society and The Womyn’s Centre, and others, organized it. Those others include The Pauline Jewett Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies. They include the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, and the Department of Law and Legal Studies. And also the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. Please join me in thanking them for all they have done. 

Then there are the sponsors of the conference. Thanks to Ottawa Public Interest Research Group Carleton, The Rideau River Residence Association, The Graduate Students’ Association, The Carleton Disability Awareness Centre, and the other clubs and departments who helped out.

Wow. Carleton certainly has much to boast about. And, I’m told their dominatrix courses are first rate. Here’s a riddle for you. What do a dominatrix and a woman professor at Carleton have in common? Answer. They both give you marks.

I have been to Ottawa before. I have been to Ottawa several times to fight the laws against the sex trade. In 1994 I was charged with running a bawdy house, The Bondage Bungalow. The charges were thrown out of court in 1995. The Crown won their 1996 appeal and in 1997 I was at the Supreme Court, which threw out my appeal. We went to trial in 1998. I was convicted, but to this day cannot tell you why. I lost my appeal in Ontario in 1999. That decision was legendary for how bad it was. In 2000 the Supreme Court in Ottawa refused to grant leave to appeal. Of course during and before all that I was in court many other times, and in jail, all under the old laws, which were finally struck down as unconstitutional. And remember, most of what happens is not publicized. I wrote a book about that called Dominatrix on Trial.

After the hearings and decisions in Toronto on the constitutional case from 2007 to 2012, I was back in Ottawa again in June 2013 for the hearing day for the final appeals in Bedford Versus Canada, the case that struck down the old laws against prostitution once and for all. You probably remember the pictures of demonstrations by sex workers and those against sex work in front of the court. Reporters told me they had never seen anything like it at the Supreme Court. I came to Ottawa again in December 2013, when the decision was released. It was a day that made headlines around the world – just like in 2010. I came to Ottawa yet again, in September 2014, to testify about the proposed new law, Bill C-36, at the Senate. I got thrown out for not shutting up. In November 2014 I came to to Ottawa again, to the University of Ottawa campus to speak to the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, who made me the recipient of their award for 2014. They didn’t throw me out.

And now I’m here again, this time at Carleton, but what a difference. Instead of me getting thrown out the government got thrown out; just under 2 years after their prostitution laws were thrown out. The new law, Bill C-36 is doomed one way or the other. And, at long last, we may finally have a fair and open discussion in this country about the sex trade, and about who decides what, before any policies are adopted. 

But before I tell you what I think should be allowed and not allowed, I want to speak to you about why there is a sex trade and what it means in the real world.

I’d like to begin by talking about the motivations of sex trade participants and activists, for and against. Why motivation? Well, it explains so much.

Let’s start with the clients, and here I will focus on heterosexual men paying women. There are of course several reasons why men pay women for sex acts, whatever that means. Let’s take married men. After a while most of them crave some variety. They see women on television and the Internet, at work and on the street or when they socialize with friends. They are attracted to some of these. They remember what it was like at the beginning of their relationships, and miss that excitement. They miss being physical with a woman without knowing her baggage. The then and there. And if the woman is discreet, like a sex worker, he can confide in her the way he can’t confide in his wife or girlfriend. He can tell her the kinky things he wants to do but is afraid, often with good reasons, to tell his partner. It’s a lot of pressure to keep deeply felt desires secret, let alone have them fulfilled. It may be something as simple as having sex without worrying about satisfying his partner or being pressured about commitment.

Then there are clients who have no partners. They may be handicapped. They may be shy. They may be too poor to marry. They may be separated or divorced. Or, they may simply not want to live with a woman or have a steady girlfriend. A man who has sex with a sex worker once a month is as sexually active as many couples married for several years, at least those couples that even stay together for several years.

So, our clients have a piece in the puzzle of their lives available to them. Many have told me that knowing they were going to have a session with me once a month or whatever seemed to make the rest of their lives much better. It was a wonderful secret to have. And keeping it secret protected them from ridicule or damage to their relationships with their partners, if they had one, or their families. It is unfortunate that we have to live secretly so often in what we say and do, but that is reality.

Now, on to the motivations of the sex trade worker. Well, why does anyone do anything? Usually it’s because they need an income, or more income. How many women want to clean toilets for low pay or want to work in a factory for low pay? How many want to serve in the armed forces and get sexually harassed, and persecuted if they complain about it? The point is that few people would do their jobs for free, even if they had big savings. And they often choose to follow the money.

Sex workers can make good money. You may only need a few hours a month for the administrative parts of the job and seeing a client once a week might provide enough income to get by. It may not be the only thing you do for money, or the only thing you do. Some students work their way through university, and some of them see only one client or a few. Some have sugar daddies. They can work around their class schedules and so forth. Other sex workers work for agencies. Others are in business for themselves.

Women want to be desired and pursued. Being paid for their time and attention is very flattering to some. Some women enjoy sex with multiple partners. I could go on with examples of why women may be attracted to sex work. But at the bottom of it is money. If the government wanted to reduce sex work among those less inclined to it the best way is to invest in higher welfare for single mothers and in daycare centres, and in collecting court ordered payments from dead-beat dads.

Now, how does one go about being a sex worker in a safe setting? Well, for one, have a steady location, with others on the premises who can act as security. When I had my houses I had a baby monitor hidden in the room with my security employee in another room who was on the alert when I had clients. The clients never knew, although they were told security was on the premises. You can hire expertise about advertising for such clientele as you wish on the Internet and elsewhere. You can also join an agency where these services are shared. And of course you can meet men in bars and hotels, among other places, aside from the streets. I won’t go into any more details now, but I think you get the idea.

Now get this. From time to time the law may, repeat may, be a minor factor, repeat minor factor, in what you choose to do. The old laws were rarely enforced, the new law almost never has been and is going the way of the dodo one way or the other. The authorities only have the resources to concentrate on clear cases of human trafficking and underage sex workers and clear violence against women that comes to their attention. Even if the new law was upheld and vigorously enforced, the trade would just go further underground, and its worst aspects would proliferate.

Prior to 2010 the prostitution laws were a mess. The sale of sex was legal, as was its purchase. But if it was done from the same location repeatedly, or if someone earned an income helping a sex worker, or if people communicated for the purpose of paid sex, they were breaking the law. Not only that, but sex acts were not listed. For example, if I tied up and whipped a client, and I have done plenty of that, especially to professors, under what circumstances is it a sex act? I think you get the idea. Not only that, but the laws themselves endangered people engaged in a legal activity – paid sex. Professor Alan Young organized and led a constitutional challenge to the prostitution laws. I was one of the 3 plaintiffs. Val Scott and Amy Lebovitch were the others.

In 2010, after almost 2 years of hearings and one year of deliberation, Judge Susan Himel, issued a 131 page decision. I quote from my book what she said. “She found that our application was right. The laws against communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution, and keeping a common bawdy house were unconstitutional for a number of reasons. For one thing, they did not achieve their objectives but in fact worked in the opposite direction. She agreed that the laws prevented prostitutes from protecting themselves, and that the laws protected the perpetrators of violence against women more than they inhibited such violence. She agreed that indoor prostitution was safer than street prostitution. She agreed that the current prostitution laws were only minimally enforced. She agreed that the laws were too broad, leading to unelected officials distinguishing right from wrong. She agreed that striking down the laws would not lead to a dramatic increase in prostitution. She pointed out that numerous other laws are already on the books to combat the worst aspects of the sex trade.” So, the judge was saying the laws themselves were illegal.

The government fought our application. They spared no expense. They appealed when there were no grounds to appeal. They offered crap as evidence and arguments. Above all they wanted the issue to go away as long as possible. They did not want to be in the position of having to tell women when and under what conditions they could engage in sex acts. They did not want to define what are and what are not sex acts. They knew that women were being abused and killed because of the laws. They knew from the evidence in our case. But they also knew from the Pickton Inquiry, where the judge said the laws were much of the cause. They knew because of the epidemic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women into which they refused to call an inquiry. They knew but they put themselves first and kicked the can down the road. They lost right down the line and the Supreme Court laid down guidelines for any new laws that might come along.

The government, as we predicted, brought in a variant of the so-called Nordic model, which penalizes purchasers of sex acts and those such as advertisers who assist sex trade workers with their business, but does not charge those selling sex. As predicted the new law was not constitutional in the view of independent legal experts. Professor Young, in his testimony before the Senate annihilated the law’s constitutionality. The witnesses appearing in support of C-36 gave the same crap that was rejected by the courts. Conservative commentators prostituted themselves to support the bill. Overpaid and under-worked trained seals. C-36 replicated the flaws of the old laws and was no less unconstitutional.

So, why did the Harper government bring in Bill C-36? Why did they spend endless dollars on lawyers, biased witnesses and other lackeys to appeal the findings of the trial that struck down the prostitution laws, or to defend the shameful Bill C-36? The answer is that they were pandering. Religious Christians and others did not want women to have the freedoms they now  have. These same donors to Mr. Harper and his party fought access to abortion that we now have. They fought against same sex marriage.
Mr. Harper pandered to these types of people when he fought court rulings on safe-site injections, medical marijuana and mandatory minimum sentences. He said he was being tough on crime. He lied. 

For example, if Mr. Harper was really interested in protecting women, as he claimed, he would have at least spoken out against wife beaters, dead-beat dads, lack of daycare or affordable housing, high tuition for women students from non-privileged backgrounds or the shortage of women’s shelters or shelters who accept family pets so the wife-beaters don’t use the pets as hostages. On these matters, and on matters like prison overcrowding and the wrongly convicted, or backlogged courts, or the cost of legal representation, he was silent. He talked about the rights of victims. What about the victims I just mentioned. Again, pandering to a base of donors and a base of voters. It was no different with the sex trade. He acted like he was promoting more missing women. No wonder he refused to call the inquiry into missing aboriginal women. The courts had already told him that the laws he was advocating were part of the cause. And then, with C-36, he doubled down. Under Mr. Harper human trafficking has become rampant. Tough on crime? Please. 

He and his so-called justice minister were even caught up in their own lies. Mr. MacKay and his officials were testifying in support of C-36. When he and his officials were asked about the constitutionality of C-36 being questioned extensively by reputable legal experts, they said there was no need to refer the law to the courts. Then, within minutes, when asked what acts were sex acts under the law, they said the courts would have to decide.

I have spoken elsewhere about Mr. MacKay’s record regarding sexual and minority harassment in the armed forces when he was minister. Mr. MacKay is a national disgrace, as is Rob Nicholson his predecessor as justice minister. I have spoken about him before as well. They have got part of the fate they deserved when their party was humiliated in the election. But enough about them. 

Now that Mr. Harper and his lackeys are out of office I believe this new Parliament can do better. They can tell Canadians to take their moral judgements and shove them. Instead, crack down on corporate crime. Crack down on tax evasion. Crack down on those traffic in undocumented foreign women as nannies or men as farm workers. Crack down on terrorists. Crack down on polluters. And like I said before, have the authorities help women who are forced to do what they do or stay where they are, and not on women who are are acting freely. Stay out of the private sex lives of consenting adults. Show some courage on that issue. The people will approve. Not all of them – but enough.

Tomorrow the new Parliament will meet for the first time and in 2 days the Throne Speech will be delivered. We may hear more of the new government’s pending decisions on what to do about the sex trade. They have already committed to repeal or amend C-36. I think the federal government is right if it calls for a task force report before telling Canadians under what circumstances they may be paid for sex acts. And the Supreme court also said that for any new law to be legal it must not be vague. It must tell me, as a sex worker, as a dominatrix, and as a woman, what I may or may not do in the privacy of my bedroom. I believe they must begin by setting a time-line for the repeal of Bill C-36, and call for its non-enforcement until that happens.

In other countries liberalization of the laws restricting the sex trade has been a success. In every area of society and the economy laws are broken and things happen underground, and the sex trade is no exception.  Yet, for their own purposes, governments or journalists cherry-pick the so-called evidence. The most blatant and frightening examples in the debate on C-36 were when Margaret Wente and Barbara Kay, two somewhat prominent conservative journalists, ignored even mentioning judge Himel’s exhaustive review of court tested evidence about other countries and cited a recent study each, neither of which were court tested, and both of which have been discredited, to support C-36. Their lack of integrity in debating this issue is frightening. They have sunk to the level of hate groups on the Internet. Fortunately both of them are old and I don’t think anyone takes them seriously any more, if they ever did, or if they have even heard of them.

But even more of a danger than lies and funded propaganda, is morality. We must never allow policies to be driven by morality – as opposed to the considerations of freedom, safety and privacy. That’s the Canada I want.

In the sex trade that means I can operate a brothel or dungeon in full view and with full protection of the law. It means that I can’t force anyone to enter or stay in the business against their will. It means I obey the labour laws obeyed by a restaurant or factory. It means I pay taxes. It means I do not assault anyone. It means my employees do nothing they are not comfortable with. It means my customers are free from harassment and their privacy is protected. It means I can advertise my services. It means that any restrictions on where I locate and where I advertise and who I hire are the same as, say, any other adult entertainment facility. It means that people who have a moral objection to my line of work can go to Hell. These are the same people, all too often, who objected to birth control, equal pay for women, homosexual relations, same sex marriage, interracial marriage and more. These are also the same people who in one breath condemn sex for sale and within hours buy it. If you want to know who is on that list, a good guide is to look at who is most sanctimonious.

I hope historians and other researchers will tell the stories of those who, for decades, fought for the freedoms and protections that sex workers and members of the LGBT community have been and are now in the process of achieving. The names that make the media are the tips of icebergs. Great changes take time, money, effort, perseverance, savvy and many good people to come about. 

As you hear the presentations over the next day or so and read the materials you are being provided, you will see that some things are getting better in Canada, and you will find out more about how and why that has come to pass, and share your findings. We are obviously at a landmark time in deciding the most crucial questions on issues relating to the sex trade.

But in my view the most crucial question should be asked the most often. The question is 2 words. It is the question at the heart of almost every level of almost every issue. Here are the 2 words. 

“Who decides?”

I want to thank you again for having this important conference and for inviting me to speak here tonight. 

Message From Terri-Jean Bedford

I am the Bedford in Bedford Versus Canada, where Canada’s prostitution laws were struck down. Many have been in touch to ask for my reaction to the results of the recent federal election. I have as a result prepared the following remarks for activists and others. I confine my remarks to how the new government should proceed to change the federal legislation, Bill C-36, now in place to regulate the “sex trade”.

The landscape for the future of Bill C-36 has changed. The political party supporting Bill C-36 was rejected by voters. The party that voted against C-36 was elected. The new prime minister has pledged to listen, and to make evidence based decisions, instead of imposing laws which reflect some specific morality.

The new Parliament must withdraw C-36. Nothing should be passed in its place, but if anything is it should promote the safety and dignity of sex trade workers, and allow them to protect themselves. Morality based considerations should have no place in the discussions where consenting adults are concerned.

To that end there should be no doubt about who at what age is entitled to do what in private, for money or not. Aid for those wishing to exit the trade should be available. It could be made available by enhancing various federal programs. Human trafficking or forced entry into the sex trade should be stopped and can be enforced via laws not specific to the sex trade. At the same time any harassment of consenting adults buying or selling sex acts should be stopped. The government has no business interfering in the sex lives of consenting adults.

A national deliberation on how these goals can be achieved should occur. This would clear away the myths, selective or unverified evidence, and stories that cloud proper discussions.

So it is understandable that time will be required, if something like a round table or public inquiry or further parliamentary hearings occur.

That requirement for time does not diminish our astounding victories these last few years. Let us remain active in the national debate to come, and move beyond the bumps in the road that may remain. We owe that to those who fought for our cause before we did and when we did. The cause of advocating for sex trade workers is now in good hands and, if I am able to, I will continue to help when asked.

Terri-Jean Bedford

Reaction to Peter MacKay’s Resignation

Earlier today Peter MacKay resigned as Canada’s Justice Minister. I am being asked for my reaction. I said in a brief statement earlier today that his legacy will be that he abandoned Canadian women. In earlier speeches I said that his legacy will be the open season of sexual and other harassment of women in the military while he was Minister of Defence. In any event, his legacy should not be one of courage or public service. Let me tell you why. Mr. MacKay betrayed his political allies when he merged his party with Mr. Harper’s in 2003. It was betrayal because much of his support to be leader was given in response to his promise of no merger. He sold out for power. His failure to take responsibility for the sexual harassment and related scandals in the military was an act of cowardice. Prime Minister Harper moved him to the Justice portfolio before the scandal broke. When MacKay got to Justice he was the perfect lackey for the shameful government response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the prostitution laws. If Canada is a better place for women it is because Bill C-36 is not being enforced and will not be significantly implemented for long, if at all. Most of the rest of the government’s criminal justice law reform is equally shabby. And nobody can tell me any achievement, legitimate achievement, of Mr. MacKay’s that he should be proud of – which I find shocking. I will say of Mr. MacKay’s departure what I said one time of Mr. Nicholson’s, his predecessor’s, departure: that hopefully the replacement will not be another cowardly mediocrity.

Dominatrix Responds to Kathleen Wynne

Dear Premier Wynne:

Today is a sad day in Ontario. It is disappointing that you and Attorney General Meilleur have made this assessment, and beyond regretful that you have done so without any consultation with the people most affected by this flawed piece of legislation. Sex work activists and allies have continuously attempted to arrange meetings with you and your staff, and have been repeatedly rebuffed. This is not merely discourteous, but downright insulting.

I am not a legal scholar, nor am I as educated as the lawyers who have spoken out on this issue. However, I know that when 200+ lawyers and legal experts sign a letter concerning the potential unconstitutionality of these laws, I can have faith that they know what they are talking about. Yet, Ms. Meilleur states there is “no clear unconstitutionality” in these laws, as if that were a legal certainty? The only thing certain about these laws is that they are certain to put sex workers in danger.

Premier Wynne, when you claim there is “no clear unconstitutionality” in these laws, even a layperson such as I can read between the lines. Just because something is not clearly unconstitutional does not mean that it is, indeed, constitutional. In fact, one of the very reasons I and my colleagues have requested a legal reference is because the laws are so unclear.

Sadly, any politician who blindly enforces an unclear law is engaging in poor public policy. Mark my words, this is not over – the laws will be contested in the highest courts in the land, and they will fall, just as the last laws did. Premier Wynne, you could have shown the courage to bring this issue to the courts, to seek clarity and help sex workers stay safe. Instead, you will now be the one to argue for the right of the state to control the behaviours of consenting adults, just as your predecessor Dalton McGuinty did. Ms. Meilleur will have to stand up in court and defend Harper’s laws, and argue for their constitutionality, just as her predecessors Chris Bentley and John Gerretsen did. But along the way, sex workers across the country will be victimized, violated, and violently harmed because of these laws.

Your refusal to meet with any sex workers before forming your opinion is insulting. Your refusal to refer these laws to the courts, when you yourself spoke of your “grave concern” regarding the effect of these laws, is disappointing. We expected better of you, and apart from a few well-scripted platitudes, you have let us down. Today is indeed a sad day in Ontario.

A Message From Terri-Jean Bedford

I want to congratulate and express my profound gratitude to sex workers and others across Canada for making any significant implementation of Bill C-36 unlikely. We have fought long and hard to expose the old laws as unfair, and they were finally invalidated.

It is obvious now that any significant attempts to enforce Bill C-36 will fail. Major police forces and premiers do not want to enforce the legislation. Any attempts at implementation will cause controversy and only speed the end of such attempts. The legal invalidation will follow in time.

I want in this message to give special thanks to some of those who have fought long and hard these last months. Val Scott, as always, has been at the forefront in every respect. Val will be seen in Canadian history as a major bringer of change. Amy Lebovitch, whose participation in the constitutional challenge was so critical, and who is now the Executive Director of the Sex Professionals of Canada, is owed the gratitude of the country. Nikki, former Executive Director of that organization, has in recent years devoted her amazing abilities and energy to the fight. I also want to mention some of those those who have been at the forefront these last months: Jean McDonald, Alice Klein, Alan Young, Katrina Pacey, Andrea Houston, Richard Elliott, Brenda Cossman. There are so many others. 

I thank you all. My close supporters thank you. I know that the Canada of today and tomorrow have every reason to thank you. And I would like to think that the many who have fought the old laws in the past, and suffered from them, are adding their thanks too. Well done my friends.

Prostitution Law Mr. Harper’s unenforceable act

Globe and Mail Lead Editorial
December 12, 2014

Prostitution Law
Mr. Harper’s unenforceable act

Canada’s new anti-prostitution law came into effect this week, but it’s doubtful anyone involved with the so-called “oldest profession” much noticed.

Citing concerns over constitutionality, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says her province will not rigorously pursue prosecutions under the new law, which among other things criminalizes advertising sexual services and soliciting near schools, parks and houses of worship.

“I am left with grave concern that the so-called Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will protect neither ‘exploited persons’ nor ‘communities’,” said Premier Wynne.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark expressed similar intentions in a meeting with the Globe’s editorial board this week when she said she supports the Vancouver Police Department’s decision not to make the law a priority.

Now come reports that the Montreal police service’s vice unit is in no particular hurry to enforce the law either. Like police in Vancouver, they will focus their efforts on sex worker safety.

So after Ottawa disregarded initial objections from many experts over its proposed bill, then ignored the possibility the legislation would swiftly be struck down in court, it is now confronted by the reality the law is unlikely to be enforced in the places where the sex trade does its briskest business.

Quite the trifecta.

When the Supreme Court invalidated the core provisions of this country’s out-dated prostitution law in late 2013, the government had an opportunity to address the human tragedies caused by prostitution.

Instead, we are left with a text devoid of authority.

This government has a history of selectively heeding advice on matters of criminal justice and policing, and the Globe’s reporting has also uncovered a worrying pattern of presenting sub-standard, error-ridden legislation to Parliament.

Evidence is mounting, then, of a surprisingly slipshod approach to what is claimed to be a core priority.

As a result, the government finds itself confronted by a vexing question that is entirely of its own making. When does a law cease being a law?

Maybe it’s when nobody feels obligated to submit to it.

Kathleen Wynne has ‘grave concern’ about new prostitution laws

Today, Kathleen Wynne addressed the so-called “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” formerly known as Bill C-36. She claimed that she has “grave concerns” over the constitutionality of this act, and has asked the Attorney General of Ontario, Ms. Madeleine Meilleur, for an opinion on the constitutionality of the Conservative Government’s new law.

Sex workers have consistently maintained that this law puts us in great danger, and I applaud Kathleen Wynne for showing respect for the consitution, something Stephen Harper has consistently refused to do. I am confident that the Attorney General will recommend referring it to the Ontario Court of Appeal immediately.

In doing so, Kathleen Wynne can spare sex workers of this country the burden of time-consuming and costly legislation, and more importantly, will prevent sex workers from being targeted for violence and abuse while a constitutional challenge works its way through the courts. I am certain that the Supreme Court will see this “law” for what it truly is – an unconstitutional, partisan piece of nonsense that should never have been tabled in the first place.

OCLA 2014 Acceptance speech

I see some former clients in the audience. How was today’s caucus meeting? It’s good to be back in Ottawa. Maybe this time I won’t get thrown out. But in case I do, I want to first thank the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, executive and members alike, for this award and this event.

Yet, I have to admit I was surprised by the honour. After all, you guys believe in freedom. I believe in bondage. You like free speech. I gag my clients. You support equality. I preach female superiority. You promote humane treatment of prisoners. I torture mine. But why fuss over details?

Tonight I’m going to tell you about my journey through the criminal justice system and how and what I learned about civil liberties. The main point of my talk is that I did not travel and learn alone. I had and have a group of supporters who are steadfast. None lawyers. I will have some words about them. I will also talk about activists, activism, and those who govern us. And I have certainly had lawyers at my side. I’ll talk about them first. 

Val Scott, Amy Lebovitch and I probably got too much credit for striking down the prostitution laws. Our legal teams got too little credit. Let me drop a few names: Professor Alan Young, Marlys Edwardh, Ron Marzel, Stacey Nichols, Sabrina Pingitore, Kendra Reinhardt, Katrina Pacey, Daniel Sheppard and other lawyers, and law students, many law students, who fought for our side directly and indirectly. The amount of work they did was staggering. They were hardly paid, if paid. They could have made money hand over fist using their talents elsewhere. Their opposition, acting as lackeys for the governments of Canada and Ontario were overpaid, under-worked and accumulated defined pension credits indexed to inflation.

For 20 years I have been fighting, and my lawyers have been fighting on my behalf, against the laws that were struck down once and for all last year. In my youth I was too poor and lacked the support to contemplate challenging laws, or even defending myself in court. But in 1994, when I was raided in Thornhill that changed. I had support. I took a position. I was selling role play and refused to sell sex. Yet I was raided and charged as a prostitute. I, and I might add, my four fellow defendants, entered not guilty pleas. That alone got their charges dropped.  I was able to fight on.

David O’Connor represented me at my bail hearing and did a good job. The late Ken Danson began my defense preparations and Morris Manning took over from him. My supporters recommended that change and Ken was supportive. Ken told me, even after he was replaced, “Terri, you can’t plead guilty. Promise me you won’t”. Morris had the charges thrown out because they were too vague. Unfortunately that did not hold up on appeal. Murray Klippenstein took over. Murray has since risen to prominence. He worked with the highly regarded Charlie Campbell and was advised by Paula Rochman and assisted by Wendy Snelgrove. That was in part because I and my supporters felt that lawyers with a reputation as activists were going to be important as the matter became a high profile battle of attrition. During this time corporate lawyer George Callahan, a true gentleman and pit bull as the situation required, assisted me in ensuring my private affairs were in order. He also joined Klippenstein’s team. At trial the team was disqualified. They were ruled in conflict because they represented all the accused together, but only after the charges on those other than me were dropped.

Fortunately, Osgoode Professor Alan Young signed on as an advisor to the team and was ready to take over if the Klippenstein team was disqualified, and he did. He was assisted by lawyer Leah Daniels, who taught at Seneca, when my trial finally got under way in 1998. They spent all summer on the case and had a team of students assisting them. They flew in experts and prepared an elaborate defense.  

It was a barn-burner of a trial. All the major networks staked out the courthouse in Newmarket, wherever that is. The trial went on for weeks and the questions to be decided, as some reporters said, were as fundamental as those raised over a decade later in the recent Supreme Court decision – in my view more fundamental. The media treated it as front page news, and many of the spectators attended the entire trial for research purposes. Judge Bogusky had a landmark case and the country expected a landmark ruling after a twelve day trial, probably a long written decision which would work its way through the higher courts. He had a few weeks after the close of the trial before he gave his decision.

So what did Bogusky do? He gave a short oral decision. He said the reporters and spectators there had to make a living and were in a hurry to leave. He said there was no reason to rule on what was illegal between consenting adults in private that supported my conviction. The reasons he gave for convicting me were so weak that he was ridiculed in the media. No appeal court that was not rigged would uphold such a disgusting miscarriage of justice. He said the misuse of the search warrant was an understandable reaction of young bucks. Rosie DiManno finished off his reputation for good in her column in the Toronto Star. When I went for my sentencing I faced a broken old man who was angry and humiliated because he got what he deserved. He had become a laughing stock. But it was no laughing matter. He ran his court like it was the time of Stalin. To this day, I do not see a basis for the conviction. 

But wait, it gets worse. Professor Young and Paul Burstein did the appeal in 1999. Well, Judge Finlayson of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote the worst decision in its history. Read it some time. It was so poor, lawyers told me, that it meant that a stripper or waitress could be charged as a prostitute and it was almost impossible to have a search warrant that could be challenged. It was so poor that judges afterward threw out prostitution and bawdy house charges simply because my conviction and appeal decision were such garbage that they became precedents to cite when acquitting. He lied about evidence. He saw absolutely no merit in my appeal. Lawyers were alarmed by his decision. So were judges. Ever wondered why prostitution convictions have fallen steadily since, despite a rising population and growth of the sex trade? Answer in part, Finlayson’s decision.

Some of this was pointed out by now Judge David Corbett, who sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. He worked with Lucy McSweeney and Timothy Banks, then an articling student, when David prepared his masterful factum in 2000. Unfortunately it was not heard. Corbett needed all his abilities just to find the words to explain why Finlayson’s decision was so appalling. The Crown’s Reply was as bad as Corbett’s appeal factum was good. No justice. But wait. Look at what happened in the years after.

Professor Young remained active for me. When I reopened in downtown Toronto just after my conviction he asked the police, in writing, if they had any objection to what I was doing, which was identical to Thornhill. Well, I was open four years and even gave media tours. No raid, no trial. What a contrast. In York Region the police tore my place apart, broke laws and so on. The Crown came at us with full force in a battle of attrition. The judge, and the appeal court, in a manner Stalin would have approved, produced a conviction and fined me $3,000. The legal fees and legal time amounted to a king’s ransom. The property values in the area of the raid fell by hundreds of thousands of dollars per house. I had no place to live and no means of support. Compare that to the Bondage Hotel in Toronto. No investigation. No raid. No trial. And so forth. Who, I ask you who, decides the difference?  And there were other civil liberties issues that arose during all this. But I have spoken about those in my memoirs.

But lawyers were not only at my side to fight charges. When I was in business again another lawyer, Pierre Cloutier, advised me on and assisted me in the handling of the administrative matters of my business, like registration and minute books and so forth. In 2011 I published my memoirs and got help from, you guessed it, a lawyer. Sender Herschorn and his staff were wonderful in ensuring I was within the law in writing the book, in what I said in the book and in advising me on drafts. He wrote to those mentioned in the drafts and sent them copies and made sure that no one had grounds to sue me. He also helped me with the writing and was encouraging throughout. He assisted me in private legal matters as well.

So you see, there is a great deal that lawyers can do for their clients in the sex trade, or those considering entering it, other than just react to charges or arrests. Lawyers can act proactively. So can non-lawyers with legal training, such as paralegals or law students or case managers from law offices.

All this moves me to speak about what I call secret rules that exist in the Canadian criminal justice system. Here are a few. Secret rule: search warrants are not just to gather evidence. Secret rule: each defendant must have his or her own lawyer to fight a charge, so if not rich likely cannot fight. Secret rule: legal aid given to those charged is not viable in court for a proper defense. Secret rule: if you do raise the funds or help to fight they come after you with all guns as punishment. Secret rule: your resources are better spent anticipating and on moving on after a bust and ensuring those busted are expendable. Secret rule: laws are left vague so authorities don’t have to account for their actions. Secret rule: constitutional challenges are so expensive that it can be decades before long due challenges are ever brought forward. The prostitution laws ruled unconstitutional in 2010, 2012 and 2013 were unconstitutional 20 or more years before they were challenged. Secret rule: there is window dressing to obscure all these secret rules. Things like credit for time served, legal aid, charges not standing up because of civil liberties violations are all cited by governments like Mr. Harper’s as evidence that the system favours those charged. 

Secret rules gave rise to a new organization: The Harper Brotherhood of Overpaid and Under-worked Trained Seals. Unless pressed by a scandal they do not speak out against wife beaters, workplace harassers, bullies of all types, dead beat dads, corporate thieves, polluters and I could go on. Organized crime has never had it easier because institutions and organizations that speak for people without means do not have the ear or heart of the Harper Brotherhood.  Anyone belonging to a union, or who is a sex worker, or who is part of an anti-poverty groups, or who belongs to an environmental group, or who is an intellectual, or even who is a judge is not being listened to. The Harper Brotherhood does not believe in accountability. They do not believe in transparency. They do not believe in open debate. They are creating a Canada where young people see laws made for the wrong reasons and so are all the more tempted not to respect or obey the law.

I say again and again that I cannot comment on the government’s policies on external affairs, the economy or on what it is doing to protect the environment. I only comment on their policies in areas where I am informed properly. But if what I see in those areas is going on elsewhere, I have to wonder how patriotic Mr. Harper and his brotherhood of trained seals are.

Is it patriotic if laws passed are unconstitutional, or contrary to Canada’s values as laid out by the Supreme Court? Is it patriotic to focus on length of sentences and ignore overcrowding in prisons? Is it patriotic to ignore the misuse of warrants? Is it patriotic to 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?

We have seen, in Canada, not too many years ago, morality and vice squads arrest drinkers, gamblers, gays, lesbians, readers of adult pornography, and sellers and buyers of sex acts in the absence of a list of prohibited acts. 

Since then we have also seen changes. Now, governments sell alcohol, sell lottery tickets, gays are openly gay, lesbians are openly lesbian, adult pornography is part of cable television packages and now, thanks to Bill C-36, legalization of the sale of sex acts has been formalized. Maybe one day, we will even get a list of what constitutes a sex act under Bill C-36. Until then, we may have to learn by trial and error.

These freedoms did not fall from the sky. They were fought for. But by whom? I dedicated my memoirs to The Dozen. None are lawyers. They are citizens who saw wrongs being done to someone they knew. So, first of all, they were mad at those who did it. Second, it alerted them to the broader issues and they got angrier. Third, they realized they could make a difference individually and collectively. Here is what I learned from them, and from the lawyers and activists with whom I have fought.

If there is a wrong committed by the authorities, find the enemy of your enemy and become their friend. Find people with money, time, numbers or compromising information. But above all, above all, make sure the effort is in the hands of capable, reliable people. We don’t have lawyers doing court cases only because they care. They also have training on how to win and create change. The same must be true of the activists. I am an activist, but I am not a professional organizer or administrator. But I have around me people who have track records not only of activism, and maybe not even that, but of corporate success, community leadership, academic and administrative expertise and political experience. Some have money. Some have time. The lesson is to put together a winning team to guide and even head the committed activists.

Let me also put it this way. If something is wrong and you want to do something about it, don’t be shy or ashamed to ask everyone to ask everyone else. If the cause is just you will be surprised at how often you get what you want simply by asking for it, asking for it and asking for it. When enough good, capable, reliable people are asked enough they will attract more such people. 

Let me come back to the lawyers for a moment. I have had about 20 lawyers represent me and/or my fellow defendants or plaintiffs. One of them, Professor Alan Young, should get the Order of Canada. Another, David Corbett, became Canada’s first openly gay judge. Most of the others have distinguished themselves in ways too numerous to mention. But they all have had something in common, something very important. They fought for what was right, not profitable or career enhancing. Lawyers will devote part of their time to the high ideals of their profession, if asked. Lawyers get angry about some things too. I have many recollections of how incensed many of those representing me were at how the authorities have behaved. It is good to have a skilled and angry lawyer on your side, and one skill that is crucial is that he or she works well with the activists and supporters.

Now, sadly, one lawyer is the polar opposite of all that. Former justice minister Rob Nicholson. I want to tell you about one single moment in his life. I think it was a defining moment for both him and Canada. In March 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal basically upheld Justice Himel’s 2010 decision striking down the key laws against prostitution. A few weeks later Nicholson stood up in the House of Commons and said something to the effect that he was pleased to say that the government would appeal to the Supreme Court and would not discuss the matter further until the court had ruled.

Now let me tell you why I think that was a defining moment.  

Reason number one. I think he knew there were merits to what Himel’s decision contained, merits that he could have acted upon immediately – like allowing sex workers to hire off-duty police as security or work in groups from fixed locations, or support spouses and children who lived with them. I think he knew the laws were void for vagueness and could have made them clearer and fairer. I think he knew that other laws could, as Himel said, be used to control the worst aspects of sex work. And I think he knew the laws themselves created dangers for women and resulted in deaths. I think he knew all this yet, with pleasure, as he put it, appealed the whole package.

Reason number two. He knew or should have known that it was against every principle his party stood for to lump consenting harmless adult behaviour in private, like women paying younger men for sex, men keeping women, women like me who enjoy punishing and humiliating men who pay me to do it, in with trafficked or abused women. That is not allowing for individual autonomy and responsibility for one’s own decisions. I think he knew all this, yet, with pleasure, he appealed.

Reason number three. If I am wrong about the first two reasons it was definitely an even more defining moment. Perhaps he actually believed his stated position that the laws were constitutional, and that no changes were needed. If that is true, if he believed that nothing being said by all the judges, experts, sex workers and others had any merit at all  he is a mental defective.

So, my friends, it was a defining moment because it was then and there that the justice minister proved himself and his government to be either liars or mental defectives. Three levels of court are there to show it. 

Did, Nicholson, the country’s highest legal official, who swore to defend our constitution forget, or even know, what is involved in mounting a constitutional challenge? How many has he done? He should try it some time and see what it involves. For instance, big bucks. Add to that tons of volunteer legal time. The work involved with the experts. Try 3 years of hearings and related preparation. Try dealing with government lawyers who do not hesitate to offer crap as evidence and argument. If you don’t believe it was crap ask Judge Himel and the Supreme Court. Try to deal with a government that orders their lawyers to make it go away by any means necessary and then orders them to appeal, when there are no grounds to appeal, simply to make the issue go away. A government that has no regard for Charter challenges. A government that dismissed with a wave of a hand tens of thousands of pages of court tested evidence that should have been an alarm bell to any reasonably intelligent person.

Then try dealing with a portion of the media who in one breath points to the downsides of the sex trade, whatever that is, while turning a blind eye to the finding of the courts that the very laws they are fighting to retain are largely the cause of those evils. Try dealing with commentators who bring in obscure new studies or reports, not tested in court, to attack legalization of the sex trade, while ignoring the findings of a virtual 3 year public inquiry, with evidence tested in court, that resulted in the Himel decision and what it had to say about other countries. Barbara Kay and Margaret Wente are two recent examples of such cherry pickers who don’t even say in their columns if they have even read the decision. Rosie DiManno said “read the damn decision”, out of frustration with such lousy journalism.

Mr. Harper has replaced Mr. Nicholson with Mr. MacKay, the former defense minister. Women and minorities being harassed in the armed forces is more of a problem than enemy fire. That will be the MacKay legacy. Let me speak for a moment about Peter MacKay. He recently said he was not aware of sexual harassment in his party or in parliament and so forth. He of course conveniently forgets to mention a few things. One is the problem of rape and sexual harassment in the armed forces during the time he was defense minister, as I have just mentioned. It is also an epidemic in the RCMP. But with Vic Toews as minister, who is surprised? But why be surprised at any of this. Elmer MacKay, Peter’s father, was a prominent conservative. When it comes to father and son ask around. Ask Karlheinz Schreiber. Ask David Orchard. Ask Belinda Stronach. Ask Brian Mulroney’s former staffers. Ask the women in armed forces about the culture of blame the victim, blame the women who come forward. Ask around about the fecklessness of the Integrity Commissioner’s office. Ask about the iron grip the government has taken on the internal audit process and destroyed it. Ask about Mr. MacKay’s appearances before the Senate and Commons justice committees where he skated around legitimate questions about C-36. Why didn’t he get thrown out? And this, this is the guy who is talking about zero tolerance for abusive behaviour towards women? Good heavens, he is the only guy in Ottawa who doesn’t know what is going on if he is being honest. His notion of accountability and zero tolerance would scare Joseph Stalin. Well, enough about Mr. MacKay. Believe me, you’ll be hearing plenty more about him and his in the months to come.

Well, regardless of what he knows I also know a few things. I and my supporters and many others have been asking around. You wouldn’t believe what I am being told and shown. I will not take up any more time tonight about what we have been told and provided with, except to say that I will not accept criticism if I, and my fellow activists, refuse to keep to the high road in the debate on the new sex trade laws or in dealing with this government and its supporters. The government and its trained seals hit bottom long ago. They deserve everything they are going to get. They don’t deserve fair treatment. If sex workers are worried about the code of confidentiality, and we are, we must remember that the Harper Brotherhood has disregarded all sorts of codes of honour and we should not, in a fight for the lives of our sisters, feel compelled to hold ourselves to a higher standard. 

Canada faces some threats from terrorists and hate groups. Our men and women in uniform are fighting for us here and abroad. We know what they are fighting against. But let me respectfully say to Canadians what I think our troops are fighting for as well. They stand for security, yes. But security for what? I think they are fighting for our freedoms, meaning, yes, our civil liberties. We disrespect our citizens in uniform when we allow people with power to act arbitrarily, the way Mr. Harper and his lackeys are doing with the sex trade. We disrespect them when we allow Mr. Harper’s government to disregard prominent citizens – judges, professors, leaders in unions, churches, community organizations and other bodies in society that speak for people without money or political power.

So my friends we must all be soldiers, and each do what we can to ensure our governments at all levels are held to a standard of accountability that ensures they respect truth and properly justify their actions. For that matter, governments can hold other governments to such a standard. For example, Vancouver wants the federal government to refer C-36 to the Supreme Court and has indicated that C-36 will work against the guidelines of the Supreme Court decision

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory must now speak. She has a majority government in Canada’s largest province. He was just elected mayor of Canada’s largest city. I believe how they act, not just speak, in response to C-36, will define their level of integrity. 

Thank you again so very much for this honour, and for having me here tonight.

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford to Receive Ontario Civil Liberties Award

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford to Receive 2014 Ontario Civil Liberties Association Award in Ottawa this Friday

(Ottawa, November 10, 2014) – Recent developments have underlined a strong societal need to protect the freedoms of consenting adults in all spheres of personal, work, and professional activities. Miss Terri-Jean Bedford will receive the previously-announced 2014 OCLA Civil Liberties Award at a public event in Ottawa this Friday, November 14:

Time: 7pm, November 14, 2014
Place: Alumni Auditorium, University of Ottawa (The Alumni Auditorium is in the Jock-Turcot University Centre building, 85 University Private)

Miss Bedford has fought for the freedom, dignity, and safety of sex workers in Canada. She has joined many prominent Canadians and dedicated activists to this end. She has opposed the unjust laws affecting her profession in court, in the streets, in the Senate, in the press, and in her writings. She has even been to jail under these laws.

Miss Bedford has been an inspiration to those who work to correct society’s moral and legal hypocrisy, and to secure a human right of adult individuals to provide and buy or exchange personal services by informed consent without the state’s interference.

The event is co-sponsored by CUPE 2626 (Union of Student Workers at the University of Ottawa).

About the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA)
The OCLA vigorously advocates for authentic and unqualified freedom of expression of individuals, on all topics and in every form, in accordance with the right to free expression enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OCLA also advocates for unimpeded civil liberties and civil rights of all persons, in dealings with public and private institutions and corporations.


Joseph Hickey
Executive Director
Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA)
613-252-6148 (c)


Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford to Receive 2014 Ontario Civil Liberties Association Award (Ottawa, October 20, 2014) — The OCLA will present its 2014 Civil Liberties Award to Miss Bedford at a public presentation and reception in Ottawa in November.

“I want to be remembered for standing against secret rules”, said Miss Bedford. “My motto is that I’ll fight for my rights whether you like it or not”, she added.

Miss Bedford has fought for the freedom, dignity, and safety of sex workers in Canada. She has joined many prominent Canadians and dedicated activists to this end. She has opposed the unjust laws affecting her profession in court, in the streets, in the Senate, in the press, and in her writings. She has even been to jail under these laws.

Miss Bedford has been an inspiration to those who work to correct society’s moral and legal hypocrisy, and to secure a human right of adult individuals to provide and buy or exchange personal services by informed consent without the state’s interference.

The day in November and venue are to be announced later. Last year’s recipient was Harry Kopyto.

OCLA’s Award page, updated regularly:
Facebook event:

About OCLA

The OCLA vigorously advocates for authentic and unqualified freedom of expression of individuals, on all topics and in every form, in accordance with the right to free expression enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OCLA also advocates for unimpeded civil liberties and civil rights of all persons, in dealings with public and private institutions and corporations.


Joseph Hickey Executive Director Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) 613-252-6148 (c)