Dominatrix Slaps Government

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“Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford on the Proposed New Prostitution Law”

In 2007 I was one of three women who began a constitutional challenge of the prostitution laws. I am the Bedford in Bedford Versus Canada. Before that I was wrongly convicted under these laws, which were struck down in 2010 by Justice Himel. In 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal basically supported her decision and in 2013 the Supreme Court, Chief Justice McLachlin writing, voted unanimously to support it as well. They said the laws were arbitrary, too vague, worked against stated objectives, endangered specific groups and put unfair restrictions on a legal activity, the sex trade. Unfair because no similar restrictions exist on other legal activities.

All through this Mr. Nicholson, the Justice Minister, insisted the laws were constitutional, while Mr. Harper hid from the media and said he didn’t know who I was. Who were they kidding? Perhaps the legal advisors they had then were the ones who are advising them now. 

Finally Mr. Harper dumped Mr. Nicholson and replaced him with Mr. MacKay, possibly to reward Mr. MacKay for making the RCMP a hotbed of sexual harassment and coverups. Mr. MacKay, with Mr. Harper out of the country of course, tabled new laws to replace the ones struck down and made other amendments to the Criminal Code.

That was over a week ago. I have been reading and hearing a lot of reaction since that time. In fact, so much has been written and said about the proposed new law in recent days that I don’t need to tell you about it here, except to say again that it will not survive the courts, is not enforceable on any significant scale and is a gift to organized crime if it does stand up.

Word is getting around already that these new laws will bog down. In my opinion, the end result is in sight. The government will once again, as in the past, fail to legislate private sexual behaviour of consenting adults, abortion rights, rights to safe injection sites, mandatory minimum sentences, same sex marriage, inter-racial marriage, and so forth. This is just more politics at the expense of the vulnerable to kiss up to religious nuts. This hopefully last chapter is no surprise to me at all given the government of the day.

I don’t know to this day if any of these men have even read the 2010 judicial decision. If they did they would have realized that a three year trial of such depth would have provided some insights about needed changes, and they could have changed the law back then. Instead it is only now that they decide the purchase of sex should be illegal. They had three years to arrive at this brilliant insight. The judge in 2010 told them to act then if at all. They chose not to act, but to run, and they are doing it again. 

This is because these new laws are actually designed to fail, and they know it, but it makes the issue go off their desk for a while. They do not seem to understand or care that the new laws create the same harms and injustices as the old ones, probably worse. Instead, they want to oppose prostitution, or appear to do so, at all costs – and the costs will be high.

If they were seeking to assist vulnerable Canadian women they would, as I have said, have read Justice Himel’s decision, which said, after a three year trial, that no new laws were needed. She said existing laws that were not challenged, laws against human trafficking, assault, confinement, coercion, and so forth, addressed the worst aspects of prostitution. The higher courts agreed because it is a waste of law enforcement resources to punish consenting women for not having sex for free.  You would need a camera in every bedroom. 

Yet, Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay said more study and consultation, under their supervision, where the outcomes could be controlled, was needed. They were wrong, they never even said they looked at the evidence from the three year trial, or the recent submissions of hundreds of Canada’s leading intellectuals.  They are fooling almost no one with their cynical and malicious partisanship. They don’t seem to care that they are throwing law enforcement into chaos and creating an open field for terrorists, child pornographers, burglars, drunk drivers and the like – by having the police chase after consenting women and their customers for not having sex for free.  

Mr. MacKay called the sex trade degrading. He is wrong. For starters, the customers are there by choice. They are half the transaction. Most of the women who work in it are there by choice. How many people who clean toilets for minimum wage at a burger joint while getting sexually harassed in a poor job market are doing that by choice? The sex trade business is booming.

The fools who ask if you want your daughter to be a sex worker might also ask if they want their daughters joining the army abroad, changing bedpans in a nursing home, selling shoes, collecting garbage, or working in menial jobs while getting sexually harassed in the bargain. Or do you want your daughter to get married and be one of the ten percent of women who are battered by their partner – an issue Mr, Harper won’t get tough on for fear of offending his base. The people who use the “Do you want your daughter?” argument are fools, because they single out the sex trade.

And while we are at it, I want my daughter to work in the sex trade, but it is her choice. And on top of that, I want your daughter to work in the sex trade, for it to be her choice, and for you to mind your own business and move to a country where women are controlled very strictly so you can have your way there.  Many women in the sex trade work their way through college, support their kids without daycare, do not work long hours and are their own boss – despite the laws that reduce safety, which were struck down despite the opposition of uninformed religious nuts and others.

Mr. MacKay said the sex trade has been around for thousands of years. So it appears he is a historian as well as a sex therapist. Sex is indeed very popular, as he and his father know. More brilliant insight. Unfortunately, if women don’t have sex for free they are, in his view, degraded. Sounds like Reverend Jimmy Swaggart and Reverend Jim Bakker, two television evangelists who preached like Mr. MacKay and Mr. Harper while being adulterous to say the least. The most sanctimonious usually have the most to hide. All in due time.

Did I mention that Mr. MacKay was minister in charge of the armed forces of Canada, where sexual harassment, assaults and coverups were rampant? Did I mention that women who came forward became victims of Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay as well as of the abusers? Never have whistle-blowers been so persecuted in Ottawa. Now to top it off they are seeking to limit the conditions under which women in Canada can have sex in private with another consenting adult. All this while sending our troops abroad to fight for freedom, or criticizing non-democratic governments! Wow!

Oh, and did I mention that under the proposed new law a man will likely have more chance of going to jail for paying a woman for sex than for raping her on a date or beating his wife? Many women like being sex trade workers. Many women in other occupations don’t like what they do and dream of exit strategies from other occupations. Many more women, women with choices and means, would go into the sex trade if Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay would allow them to protect themselves and stop calling the free choices of women in the bedroom degrading.

All that being said, I view victory as inevitable for our side. This outburst by the government at the expense of more dead women is one thing on the list of their criminal justice program. Like the others it will fail, and our police will be able to get back to dealing with real criminals, and not just chase after women who don’t have sex for free or the men who pay them. 

I am asked if Mr. Harper is still calling me and asking me to accept a job in the Senate, as a government whip. I had to tell him to stop calling. I could not accept the job. I was afraid I would run into too many former clients on Parliament Hill.

Terri-Jean Bedford’s memoirs, Dominatrix on Trial, are available on line and at Chapters-Indigo stores.

I Spoke at Concordia University – Part 3

After opening remarks we responded to questions we were given in advance. Here is another question and the answer I gave. Assuming we can’t continue with the status quo, what model should Canada adopt for regulating the sex trade industry? The Canadian model. Regulate it like you would regulate any other business. Enforce labour laws that do not mention consenting adult behaviour in private. Police no more frequently. Encourage and act on legitimate complaints. Regulate the sex industry for payment of taxes, health and safety, zoning and so forth just as often and just as enthusiastically as if it was a factory making shirts. Enforce human trafficking laws, but do it for nannies and domestics and mail order brides and sweat shop workers on an equal basis to sex workers. Enforce laws against child pornography to the extent you catch more than 2 or 3 per cent of offenders. Enforce laws against domestic abuse by building more shelters for women, and have shelters that accept family pets so the pets are not used as hostages by wife beaters. And elect a prime minister who walks the walk. Mr. Harper said judges should not make laws. Then he hides behind the skirts of judges through 2 appeals when the judges said he should not appeal, but just bring in new laws via Parliament, if at all. All the time organized crime and terrorists and human traffickers and predators are thanking him because the laws he kept saying were constitutional were the ones that prevented safety for women.

The Debate Before the Debate

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?

The Laws Fall Further

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.

Taking the first step

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.

Interviews and Appearances

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

University of Windsor Speech, Part 3 of 3

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

University of Windsor Speech, Part 2 of 3

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.

University of Windsor Speech, Part 1 of 3

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.

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Read the Decisions

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.