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

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.

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.

All Bill C-36 Opponents

October 5, 2014

To All Opponents of Bill C-36

I am the Bedford in Bedford Versus Canada, the case that overturned Canada’s prostitution laws. I am writing to you today to update you about part of what is being done to oppose Bill C-36, which is the new law before Parliament to replace the laws struck down.

This law, like the old laws, will fail to be enforced much. This law will eventually be deemed unconstitutional. This law will cause a major loss of credibility for those who supported it. What is being done to oppose the law is being done and I want to tell you about part of that and what you can do.

I wrote to Premier Wynne of Ontario. I asked her to refer the law to Ontario’s highest court, if and when it becomes law, to see if it is constitutional. In the interim I asked her to publicly state she would do this. I also asked her to instruct her crown attorneys not to enforce the law. All this is within her power. She has a majority government.

She spoke about my letter at a press conference and said her main concern is safety. I have been in touch with her since, but our correspondence is confidential. I am writing to ask all activists to state in any way to Premier Wynne, and indeed to all premiers, the consequences of remaining silent and doing nothing.

The consequences of this new law will likely include more missing and murdered women, sex workers forced out from safe locations and into the streets, the increased presence of organized crime in the sex trade and widespread entrapment as a way of enforcing the new laws.

Please put the focus of the debate on Premier Wynne. She has a choice. She can speak up and act, or let Mr. Harper impose his will on her. Help her and the other premiers decide. Write to them. Premier Wynne’s e-mail is kathleen.wynne@ontario.ca. Tell the media the premiers have a choice. Demonstrate if necessary. Your efforts matter. 

Yours truly,

(Signed in the original)

Terri-Jean Bedford
terrijeanbedford @ gmail.com

Bill C-36 Opponents

September 28, 2014

Dear Opponents of Bill C-36,

I am writing to many of the groups and persons who have stood with Valerie, Amy, me and our legal team against the prostitution laws that were struck down. These groups and persons have voiced their support in so many ways and their messages were heard across the country again and again. I thank all of you for that support. I have done so in person when able. 

The new law, Bill C-36 is of course an outrage. It will of course fail before the courts, fail in its implementation, and in the process its supporters will again be discredited. You and all the others have already been to helping to ensure that failure will happen.

Recently I testified before the Senate and in the question period after opening statements I was ejected. This got a lot of attention. One of the things I said, which also got much attention, was that I would expose some clients of sex workers. Everyone thought I meant politicians who supported C-36.

I have an advisory group working on the legalities and mechanics of that process. Part of that process, if in fact I do follow though, is determining what sex workers think about exposing some clients, and I am writing to ask you to tell me what you think. Please ask your colleagues to tell me as well by sending me an e-mail at the address below.

One reason for exposing some clients is to show how unfair the law is when sex workers can report clients to the police and only the client is charged. This means, it would seem, that blackmail and entrapment have largely been legalized. This would probably add fuel to constitutional challenges.

Professor Young also pointed out at the Senate that immunity from prosecution has until now only been given by prosecutors, not in legislation, as C-36 does. So exposing clients would show how irrational the law is, as well as illegal itself. Exposing would probably also add this fuel as well to constitutional challenges.

Another obvious reason for exposing is to show the hypocrisy of those who want to impose their will on others while themselves engaging in the very behaviour they want to others to stop.

Yet another reason is to ensure the public remains aware of this issue and of the dangers and are unfair hardships the government’s approach would create for those in the sex trade. Nothing attracts media attention as much as politics combined with scandals of this kind. I could mention other reasons, but enough for now.  

However, concerns come to mind too. Does exposing set a bad precedent for the sex trade overall, even if the law is not implemented to any extent or frozen in the courts right away? What other negative repercussions there be for sex workers if I did release part or all of my list? What would the consequences be if I just released one or two or a few names? What should be the criteria for names chosen for release? Would you and your members and colleagues prefer me to back off exposing clients altogether, and if so why? I seek your help in answering these questions. 

Please share this with all you wish to share it with. I will read all e-mails sent to me and take all advice very seriously when I decide what to do. I appreciate that feedback every bit as much as the support shown over these years which, I say yet again, I am sincerely grateful for.

Yours truly,

Terri-Jean Bedford
terrijeanbedford @ gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE

This afternoon I testified before the Senate Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs. I gave my speech and then was ejected from the question and answer session for failing to stop speaking when the Chair asked me to. I apologize for losing my temper. I was barely able to read my speech because I was so angry at the government for parading victims with repeated irrelevant information and then organizations who were shilling for government handouts on which they are dependent. The shameful use of victims by the government in this process, and their disregard for life by ignoring court findings, refusing to listen to their own legal staff and refusing to answer questions from legitimate sources made me snap. I have already been told that people are sympathetic to the points I made and even to my outburst. They seemed to agree that the government can’t handle the truth. They have repeatedly shown disrespect for various institutions, processes and persons. The truth will win out.

Speech to Senate Committee

Prime Minister Harper called me again. He offered to appoint me to the Senate. As a government whip. I turned him down. I might run into former clients on Parliament Hill.

I am the Bedford in Bedford Versus Canada, the constitutional challenge striking down the prostitution laws. I know the sex trade in Canada as well as anyone. I learned about the issues by working in and managing almost all aspects of the sex trade over 30 years. I have fought the prostitution laws for many of these years. I have been in jail because of the laws. I have been in court as a defendant or appellant more times than I care to remember. I am Canada’s most famous dominatrix and perhaps Canada’s most famous prostitute. I was in attendance for most of the sessions of the 3 years of the constitutional challenge. So, maybe I know what I am talking about.

In these brief remarks I will make only a few points of my own. You have a library of evidence against Bill C-36, and I don’t want to repeat or submit briefs saying what so many others have said so well.

First of all senators, when it comes to consenting adults, the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

Second, the national debate currently under way has not given enough attention to sex trade workers who don’t want to exit and are there by choice. If you ask me today I will tell you about some of them. These women, and indeed male sex workers, should not be grouped in with those who want out.

Third, what exactly is Bill C-36 supposed to outlaw? What exactly would be illegal between consenting adults in private for money? The response from some supporters of Bill C-36 are words to the effect that “everyone knows” or “the courts would have to decide”. If everyone knows, why not answer the question? If the courts have to decide, why not refer the bill there immediately?

Fourth, why does the government claim they are making the purchase of sex illegal. If it was legal to purchase sex before, where did all the John Schools come from? This new law changes nothing in that regard.

Fifth. The Justice Minister was wrong to call the sex trade degrading. The clients are there by choice. They are half the transaction. Many are pillars of the community, often business leaders, professionals and politicians.  Most sex trade workers do not consider their work degrading. Lumping them in with those who want out is not acceptable in a free society.

Sixth, those who ask if you want your daughter to be a sex worker might also ask if you want your daughter working in any number of poorly paid, dangerous or menial jobs while getting sexually harassed in the bargain. And while we are at it, I want my daughter to work in the sex trade, but it should be her choice. Not only that, I may want your daughter to work in the sex trade and for it to be her choice. If you don’t like that I suggest you mind your own business and move to a country where the choices of women in the bedroom are controlled by the government.

Senators, it is bad policy to direct scarce law enforcement resources to stop consenting adult behaviour in private – while tax evaders, wife beaters, terrorists and what have you go unpunished.

So Senators, please don’t allow Bill C-36 to pass. Stand up for your country first. Use laws you have to help those most in need, in and out of the sex trade.  

Senators, please, please don’t allow Parliament to force Canadian women to only have sex for free.

Thank you.

Dominatrix Slaps Government

To all direct or indirect recipients
Please distribute or publish as desired

“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.

Dominatrix Responds to New Prostitution Law

Unlike the government I have read the document in question and had it carefully explained to me by experts. The new law would basically prohibit the purchasing of and advertising of sex for sale. It would also penalize persons who were in an exploitative relationship with sex trade workers. Mr. McKay called sex work degrading and said other means must also be added by other bodies to enable women to get out of the sex trade.

I see now why Mr. Harper told McKay to table the bill while he was out of the country. The bill is a rework of the old legislation and will fare no better. We may not even need a constitutional challenge to gut it. It spits in the face of the courts and judges will know this. It repeats the legal and safety shortcomings of the old laws. It does not even define what is and what is not a sex act. As a dominatrix I need to know this so I can punish Mr. Harper for such incompetence.

Mr. McKay called the sex trade degrading. Who the hell is he to tell women they have to only have sex for free? Who the hell is he to tell consenting adults what they can and cannot do in private? How can he stand for a ban on advertising an activity that is legal? I have news for him. Many women love being sex trade workers. Many men who visit sex trade workers, which include some well known members of his own party, are prominent and highly regarded members of society who love their families.

This is the same government that kept insisting that the old laws were constitutional and should be kept. Are we going to believe them now? Neither he nor Mr. McKay nor the dumped Mr. Nicholson would say if they had read the decision of Justice Himel which the Supreme Court endorsed. It said there are plenty of existing laws which address the worst aspects of prostitution, aside from the ones she struck down.

Politics is the oldest profession. Mr. Harper and Mr. McKay have trumped up incompetent and unethical legislation so they can blame the courts when all restrictions on the sex trade, as distinct from other forms of business, are finally removed. Just like the rest of his “Tough on Crime Agenda” this is a scam and ignores real measures that could be taken to protect Canadian women. Organized crime, human traffickers and exploitative pimps are celebrating today. Mr. Harper is encouraging the women in the sex trade to go underground, where these evil people lie in wait. 

Supreme Court’s first Ruling on Our Case

The Court has granted the government’s request for an extension of the 30 day stay on the date on which the living on the avails of prostitution law was to fall. This is reasonable and expected, since it was only this week that the government advised the court that they wanted to appeal our victories. However, the court will, within 30 days, unless the extension is again extended a bit, not have the excuse that they have not had a chance to familiarize themselves with the matter of whether the stay should be extended while the court decides whether to hear any appeals. It is going to get very interesting. Watch.

Terri-Jean Bedford
http://DominatrixOnTrial.com