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.
Over the last several days I have spent several hours reading articles and comments posted on the Internet relating to our Supreme Court victory striking down Canada’s laws intended to restrict prostitution, whatever that is. The first thing that had me shaking my head was that when critics of our position point to the negative aspects of sex work, they often completely fail to realize that when something (or related activities) is illegal, those negative aspects arise largely because of the very fact it is not legal. They also fail to point out that women are victims in many conventional workplaces. In the Canadian and American military sexual harassment and rape are almost systemic, as are the cover-ups. Even in offices women are subjected to it. Domestic household servants are trafficked in illegally and sexually abused, yet we don’t outlaw nannies. Many factory workers in Canada are trafficked in illegally and sexually abused, and we don’t close factories. They also fail to point out, and this is critical, that in the future many women who come from advantaged backgrounds, or who have choices, will enter the sex trade. They did not do so before because of fear of the authorities and the negative aspects created by the laws that were struck down. I know a number of such women who earn good livings now, love their work and are free from the sexual harassment, low wages and long hours that are the lot of so many women. If the government does not bring in any laws to replace the ones struck down, and for a change enforces the immigration and other laws, I have no doubt that the people who look into the sex trade will find fewer members who were forced into it and fewer who want to exit.
On Wednesday I distributed an open letter to Mr. Harper asking 6 questions concerning the debate on possible new laws on prostitution. I called it “Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation” because it is precisely that which might determine his answers to the 6 questions posed in the letter. The questions were: (1) What is a sex act? (2) What is a prostitute or a sex worker? (3) What is a bawdy house? (4) What is an indecent act? (5) What is violence? (6) What is a conservative? He has not responded yet. Nor should he. He should for a change read what the judges of all the courts wrote. Most of those I heard from or whose comments I read or were conveyed to me agree that he must first specify exactly what private behaviours between consenting adults he might want to control. Most of the reaction said that should happen before any “model” is considered. Many noted that if he failed to specify, new laws might not be constitutional. I am glad I sent out the letter, because I was concerned that the debate might proceed without being clear on exactly what was at issue.
I am the Bedford in the Bedford Versus Canada case, in which the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s laws against prostitution once and for all. I am trying here to provide some thinking points to those who think new laws should be added to the criminal code to replace the ones struck down. All recipients may share or publish this article in whole or part. Terri-Jean Bedford.
Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation
6 Questions for the Prime Minister
By Terri-Jean Bedford
New prostitution laws may be on the way. Much will now depend on the sexual orientation of the Prime Minister: on his orientation towards restricting or not restricting what consenting adults do in private. He must answer questions for a change, questions a real leader would not evade.
Prostitution has always been legal in Canada. Yet, in 2010, in response to a motion I and others filed, the laws to restrict activities around prostitution were struck down by Justice Susan Himel. She said any new laws in the Criminal Code that may be put in their place, not that any are needed, should have some constructive purpose. The Ontario Court of Appeal basically agreed in 2012 and in December 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed with the Himel decision. They also said the laws were too vague and arbitrary, and any new laws must not be.
All this time Mr. Harper and his then Justice Minister, Mr. Nicholson, insisted the laws were constitutional. Now 15 judges have once and for all put to rest their feckless handling of our constitutional challenge. Since Prime Minister Harper has a majority government and runs a tight ship, he is the one on the spot now. That means him telling you, yes you, what you can and cannot do in private and what happens if you break any new laws he may bring in.
That’s where I come in. I have 6 questions for him. If he evades any of them, or refuses to be specific and clear, he is a coward. I believe his sexual orientation, meaning what he thinks is proper between consenting adults, will guide him.
Question 1: What is a sex act?
Is it a sex act when a man gets an erection and inserts his penis into a woman or another man? Is orgasm an issue here? Is it a sex act if one stimulates a partner’s genitalia with one’s mouth? One’s hand? One’s foot? I won’t ask again whether having an orgasm changes the answer, but consider this an ongoing issue too in this and the other questions. Is it a sex act if a registered masseuse massages a naked man, without touching his genitals, and he has an erection? What if the masseuse is not registered? Say it’s me. Is it a sex act if I give a naked man a massage while he is fully restrained and I don’t touch his genitals? What about a woman? Can I touch her breasts? What type of restraint is legal? What kind of restraints may I use? What if, with his consent, I tickle him until he cries? Is it a sex act if, with his consent, I whip a man who is restrained and naked? Where can I strike him? How hard can I strike him? What implements may I use? What if he gets an erection during the whipping? What if he masturbates afterward in front of me? What if there is another man watching and masturbating during the whipping? Is it a sex act if I buy female clothing for a man and help him into it? What if he gets an erection during this time? Is it a sex act if a man grovels at my feet and kisses my boots while I humiliate him?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 2: What is a prostitute, or a sex worker?
Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she has sexual intercourse with a man in gratitude for a favour, such as home repairs? What if she just gets a promissory note? What if he just tells her she is pretty in return for intercourse? What if a man pays his wife or girlfriend for sex? Is a woman a prostitute or a sex worker if she is compensated to perform oral sex on or stimulation by hand of a man’s penis? What about if he just paid her to hold his hand? What if he pays her and just masturbates in front of her while she verbally humiliates him by calling him a lackey of the Prime Minister? Is a woman a prostitute or a sex worker if she is paid to tie up a man and tickle him? Whip him? Spank him? What if he remains fully dressed? Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she is paid to buy female clothing for a man? Is she a prostitute or sex worker if she is compensated for helping him into it? Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she is a stripper in a bar where there is no physical contact with the patrons?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 3: What is a bawdy-house?
Is it a bawdy-house if a woman, almost daily, stays home and has sexual intercourse for money or some other form of payment? What if she just sells oral sex or hand jobs? What if a man pays to just look at her as she washes dishes? Is it a bawdy-house when in this home or place of business there is no genital touching and just bondage and tickling? What if all customers are fully clothed? What about a cross-dressing service? Is it a bawdy-house if the woman sets up a dungeon with bondage and discipline equipment and rents the room to others who are not involved in any financial transaction – such as a married couple? What if she sells tickets to watch her and an employee do S&M sessions? Is an erection by one of the viewers an issue? Is it a bawdy- house if the woman advertises any of the services above and nothing at all happens in the house? Is it a bawdy-house if the woman advertises and delivers the above services for free? Is The House of Commons a bawdy-house if a female Member of Parliament flashes some thigh and an honourable member’s member becomes erect?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 4: What is an indecent act?
In response to my earlier questions I presume Mr. Harper has already defined and listed what sex acts are, what makes a woman a prostitute or a sex worker and what constitutes a bawdy-house. I presume he was specific and clear and left no room for non-elected officials to make up the rules as they went along. Unclear laws undermine enforcement of the law and may even lead to more crime.
Now let’s have a go at indecency. And let’s be clear about something yet again: this is about adults – consenting adults, in private. Let’s start with a basic question. Under the old laws, indecency was loosely defined as something that violated community standards in terms of harm to the community and how public that something was. Can the Prime Minister be more specific? I can’t. I repeat, I can’t. Me! If anyone knows about acts in private between consenting adults, it is yours truly. Yet, I can’t. Can he? Judge Susan Himel and the Ontario Court of Appeal basically struck down the old laws partially because they were too vague. In the legal services community a cottage industry has grown up of students writing papers on why the laws Judge Himel struck down are so at variance with fundamental justice. So it is important for the Prime Minister to be specific and clear. Oh, and one other little detail. He should tell us why in each case. That means that if he lists something as indecent or obscene, he will tell us what his rationale for this is.
I think you get the idea. I look forward to his lists and explanations.
Question 5: What is violence?
As a dominatrix, I enjoy controlling and punishing men. As a dominatrix I have never been charged with assault or unlawful confinement, despite significant acts of restraining, whipping, spanking, tickling and pinching of clients. When men play tackle football and get injured, is it violence? Is paying to get whipped by me where no injury results more violent or more abhorrent than being blindsided in a legal football tackle by a 300 pound lineman whose job it is to tackle an opponent hard? If so, why? If I put one of the Prime Minister’s lackeys into chains, and tickle him until he cries, is it as violent as one of those wrestling or mixed martial arts shows that are so popular? These are examples of men and women consenting to be injured. So, for the sake of my trade as a dominatrix, Mr. Harper must tell me if anything I do is illegal violence, and why.
Question 6: What is a conservative?
Here’s what I think a “small c” conservative stands for. He believes government should respect the privacy of the citizen. He respects the rights of consenting citizens to privacy in the bedroom or dungeon. He believes that these freedoms should extend to all segments of society. He believes they have the freedom to discuss what they will do there before they get there. He believes that citizens are entitled to have sex before marriage. He believes that they must not be legally required to have that sex for free and can accept money or other payment for it if they wish. He believes government should refrain from restricting citizens to arbitrary moral judgments. He does not lie. He does not evade, but rather answers questions. He takes positions. He is not a coward.
Now to a well-known “large c” Conservative, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When I look at how he measures up to conservative values in dealing with the current decisions being made on the prostitution laws, I think he comes up short. He says prostitution is bad, yet he is not clear on what he means by prostitution. In any event, who gave him the right to tell you or me how to live our private lives? I think prostitution, whatever that is, is good. I think people should be free to decide this for themselves. I also know that prostitution is going on all over the place under his government, and that often women – get ready for this – are actually asking criminals to protect them from the authorities under the laws the Prime Minister has fought to retain.
Mr. Harper’s handling of this issue to date has been a blow against safety for women and in favour of organized crime. Going forward, he really must define his sexual orientation if he is serious about doing his job.
In various occupations women are subject to violence, intimidation, sexual harassment and even rape. I believe only about 10% of rapes are even reported. Women in the RCMP, Armed Forces and police forces are routinely being sexually harassed. Do you want your daughter in these situations? Do you want them being nursing home orderlies? Do you want them working in sweatshops, or minimum wage service jobs where sexual harassment may be thrown in as an extra? These same women, by the way, are having sex when and with whom they want. They may have sex in sex clubs. They may work in massage parlours. They may be strippers. Yet, when they simply decide to ask for money, at a good rate of pay, for intercourse or some fantasy role play somehow someone’s line has been crossed. That line and those who draw it should be ashamed of themselves. If women chose to sell themselves or men chose to buy sex with them, nobody has any right to tell these consenting adults what they can or cannot do in private; and no clever play on words will make it otherwise.