I don’t envy the judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada. Most observers believe that their appeal decision of the lower court decision striking down Canada’s prostitution laws will end up in the Supreme Court. But until that last court makes a decision, do we keep the old laws in place? Knowing what we know, that means the dangers facing women are ignored yet again. If they do this they will live the rest of their lives in shame. Or do the judges make the lower court decision effectively immediately and put the onus on Prime Minister Harper to act instead of hide. It promises to be interesting.
I will continue, in these blogs, answering questions and giving my views on the decision striking down the prostitution laws, and the appeal of that decision, for another week or two. By then it is likely that the decision of the appeal court will not be released until the New Year. I will continue blogging about my book, Dominatrix on Trial, over the holidays. I have received many questions I have yet to answer. I am so grateful for the interest being shown in my story by people all over the world.
I believe I am right to be so critical of the Prime Minister for appealing the decision striking down the prostitution laws. Common sense should tell him he should not reject all the findings of a 3 year virtual public inquiry, and not even say whether he has read it? The judge pointed out that prostitution is flourishing under the current laws, and would not increase significantly if those laws were dropped. Not only that, but keeping the current laws, she said, actually works against the objectives of both the government and the laws themselves. I hope the Ontario Court of Appeal points all this out to him as well.
In my book Dominatrix on Trial: Bedford Versus Canada, there is a chapter where I commented on the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, and where I quote what I wrote to him. Since then, I have addressed him verbally in the media. I have said he is a bad boy and that he lacks courage. I have said either he does not care much about women, or if he does he has not shown it in his reactions to Judge Himel’s decision. He has ordered his lawyers to keep the Himel decision before the courts so he can avoid dealing with it. The government’s decision to appeal was made and announced in less time, about 3 or 4 hours, than it took to get the decision and read it. That is verifiable. This may do him more political damage than he realizes.
The current debate on prostitution must recognize the insanity of the government telling adults that they can have sex when they want and with whom they want, yet legislating that they have it for free. Do you remember when having sex at all, for free or otherwise, was illegal between members of the same sex? Oh, and by the way, do my activities as a dominatrix, when no genital contact occurs, qualify as sex? Interesting times ahead.
In my book Dominatrix on Trial I explained the reasons for the prostitution laws being struck down. I want to say again here that it was a 3 year process. It was not a sudden decision by a judge making a decision on impulse. The grounds offered by the government for overturning the decision have been, in my view, either irrelevant or weak. Saying there is a downside to the sex trade and not saying there are downsides to many other activities is a feeble reason for the laws to stand. I hope and I think that the Ontario Court of Appeal will tell Parliament it must act. Then the real discussion can begin.
There have been many people asking when the Ontario Court of Appeal will release its decision on the September 2010 decision of Justice Susan Himel. That decision struck down the laws restricting activities around prostitution, which has always been legal, in Canada. (Yes, the laws were a fiasco). My short answer is that I don’t know, but when they do I will have plenty to say to the Prime Minister, no matter what the court says. He is going to wear this issue like a tight girdle.
I have been getting many requests to go to functions to raise funds and otherwise show support for our constitutional challenge. Again, I appreciate all invitations and I am a very social person. But the reality is I am very ill, often in pain, and sometimes, because of that, not in good spirits. But when I am well for a few hours I love going into my social media site and my web site and these blogs and interacting that way. I have been sharing many photos and writings, including excerpts from my recent book that I have accumulated over the years.
Whatever the appeal court decides, there are so many issues requiring decision that it is almost inconceivable that they would not call upon the federal government to get involved. If and when they do I will have plenty of advice for the Prime Minister, who says he is against prostitution, whatever that is, but does nothing to make it illegal. It is amazing how anxious he is not only to support the positions the Liberals took for so many years, but also that he is supporting the most disgraceful laws the Liberals kept in place. Maybe he should stop behaving like a Liberal lackey.
There is an expectation that the decision of the Court of Appeal on the striking down of the prostitution laws is automatically going to the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, this is not a given. For one thing, if the appeal goes decidedly in our favour, the Supreme Court may not consent to hear another appeal. For another, the government of Canada can choose to bring in new laws which address the points made by Justice Susan Himel in September 2010. She pointed out that this is a matter for Parliament. What is the Prime Minister afraid of?
The decision the appeal judges are deciding on found that the exhaustive evidence is that the current laws do little to discourage prostitution, are under-enforced anyway, are discriminatory, and encourage real criminal behaviour. The judge pointed out that prostitution would not dramatically increase if the laws are removed. The judge pointed out that Canada was lagging most of the developed world in changing its prostitution laws. The judge pointed out there will be less violence against women if the current laws are struck down than if they remain in place. Yet Prime Minister Harper announced his intention to appeal in less time than it took to get and read the decision. Bad boy!
When the decision comes out it is important to remember above all that the judges are deciding on the decision of the superior court by Justice Susan Himel. She read tens of thousands of pages of affidavits and transcripts of cross-examination and spent 9 days in court hearing arguments by numerous lawyers. She took one year to prepare her 131 page decision. You can also read a summary of what she decided in my book Dominatrix on Trial, which all good Canadians should buy.
It is expected by many that a major court decision will be released soon. I will be blogging about that this month. I have been asked to. As many of you know, in September 2010 Justice Susan Himel struck down the 3 laws which were intended to restrict prostitution in Canada. Prostitution itself is legal. The government’s appeal was heard in June 2011 by 5 judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal. I will have much to say in these blogs both before and after the decision comes out, and much after. Keep visiting this site. And thanks for all the support we have been getting.
In Canada the public hearings into the serial killing of women by Robert Picton has begun. Picton abducted dozens of prostitutes from Vancouver to his pig farm and murdered them there. The hearings are looking at why he went undetected for so long. I have been asked to comment, but I say that everyone should listen to those testifying before the commission and read the decision. We cited the Picton matter as evidence that the prostitution laws should be struck down, and we won. Yet the government appealed, in less time than it took to get and read the decision. This time, however, the hearings are public and what we said about the laws will, I think, be amplified. But as I say, let’s listen and watch. That means you too Prime Minister Harper.
The decision on the appeal of the September 2010 decision striking down Canada’s prostitution laws is expected in the coming months, if not weeks. We, the parties to the proceeding, will be advised of the date of the release a few days in advance. I have had to wait for numerous verdicts and decisions during my legal battles, and I have learned a few lessons on how to handle the wait. For one, it does no good to dwell on it or worry about it. If I do an interview or respond to correspondence, or do something else tangible, I will think about the matter of course. At other times I work at chasing the matter from my thoughts when I am alone. My friends know they should not raise the topic when with me. This way I don’t burn out. I have the added advantage that Val and Amy, the other plaintiffs, have also done their share. A number of activists have also been very supportive in furthering the cause in the media. Of course the lawyers have as well.
After the activities following the release of the September 2010 decision I turned my energies, when I had them, to finishing my memoirs and then promoting them. If, after the decision on the appeal is released there is another appeal, as most expect, I will have prepared myself for a long process with episodes of activity. That is the way to run the long race – pace yourself.
Well, the appeal hearings are finally done. They ended this morning after just a short sitting. I was home for lunch. Today the lawyers for the federal and provincial governments and our lawyer Professor Young replied to the intervenors. As I have said before, the intervenors, in my opinion, just reinforced or reiterated the arguments made by us and the government lawyers. However, the judges wanted them to be heard.
Yet again, these hearings were about Judge Himel’s 131 page decision and the evidence presented to her. New arguments and evidence were not relevant. The question is whether the judge erred. But of course so many commentators and even lawyers wanted to speak to the issues as if the issues were being raised for the first time. They just don’t get it.
I have made many comments in public this week and last. Some have taken offence at some of my remarks and some have pointed to factual errors I may have made. Others have praised what I have said, and of course some have disagreed. I apologize if I made any factual errors or poor choices of words. I assure all of you that I would never intentionally do so. I am not a lawyer or professional spin doctor, so I don’t have the presence of mind that they do. Yet, if I was not to speak publicly, I would be condemned as too scared to do so, just like Prime Minister Harper (even though I haven’t even touched him yet). I am doing the best I can. I am so grateful to all the other activist gals who are speaking to support our side.
I was in not at the court today. I am following the plan to attend on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the week. My health will not stand going every day. And it works out well. Monday was the first day, so significant decisions might have been made on how to proceed or whatever, and it was wise to be there. Wednesday was our presentation by Professor Young, which I told you about in my previous blog. And tomorrow, Friday, there are the replies to the presentations of the intervenors the day before, and a scheduled ruling on the extension of the stay on Justice Himel’s strike-down of the prostitution laws.
Today, Thursday, the numerous intervenors were heard. It is important to keep in mind that the judges were presented with materials by the intervenors well before today. The issue is whether the lower court judge erred, not further arguments or evidence about the issues. A knowledgeable supporter watched the full proceedings from the media overflow room and told me that there was nothing unexpected in the proceedings. Judge Himel ruled against having any intervenors, excepting the Province. However the Court of Appeal overruled her and there were three intervenors in the main hearing, all opposed to our motion. Yesterday there were many more, about half in favour and half against.
I hope they added something to the question of where the first judge might have erred, if at all. But let us not lose sight that the present laws are the worst laws we can have, whatever your views on prostitution, whatever that is. And further, almost all commentators seem to agree that Parliament, not judges, should make the changes. That brings us to Prime Minister Harper, as usual. As I said before, he is clogging the courts so he can hide from leading on this issue. Impressive? More about that another time. Much more.
I was in court for the entire sitting on day three of five scheduled. The seats were hard and narrow and my back was killing me. On day one I was only there half the day and yesterday, day two I was not there at all. However it was so interesting I often forgot the discomfort. Alan answered back for our side. He answered the judges more directly than the federal and provincial crowns. His summary was so on point and moving that after we rose I went outside and wept tears of joy.
Reporters approached me outside but I asked them to give me some time. A couple did interview me as I sat on a bench in the shade after the hearing. But, as I said before, the focus must now be on the lawyers, judges, other activists and the issues – particularly whether Judge Himel erred or not in the decision now under review. But I wasn’t going to miss our day in court, and Alan’s presentation, for the world. He answered back so well that I had to cry. It was one of those times when one has the feeling that the fight is worth it and right can triumph in the end.
It seems to me that the editors of the Globe and Mail support our side. The Toronto Star also seems headed in that direction. My view is that Parliament should bring in new laws. I will have plenty to say about that in the future. Tomorrow, Thursday, the interveners will be making presentations. My understanding is that fifteen groups have submitted documents to the judges who will question all their lawyers briefly. I don’t know how that is enough time for so many groups to be dealt with, but if it is the appeal concludes Friday. On that day the judges will decide if the stay on the striking down of the laws continues, and what the terms of the continuation will be. Or, they may say the laws fall on Friday night or shortly after. We will see.
We have now had two days at the Ontario Court of Appeal and both the federal and provincial governments have been questioned by the panel of five judges. I was not at the court today, but from reports and from what I saw yesterday it appears that the judges are having problems with the appeal. Tomorrow my lawyer, Professor Young, will respond. I am hoping to be there. On Thursday the intervenors on both sides will make their presentations and on Friday final replies and discussion on possible extension of the stay on Justice Himel’s decision striking down the prostitution laws.
I am struck by the crown attorneys on the one hand saying that the government has no responsibility to protect prostitutes (prostitution is legal while activities surrounding it are not) yet at the same time arguing for the present laws because they say they want to protect prostitutes (which is nonsense).
Already there is widespread acceptance of the need for Parliament to act. The National Post today called for Parliament to overhaul the laws to make them more logically consistent. I found it amusing that their editors noted that prostitution is legal and then concluded their editorial by saying that prostitution should be legalized.
When Parliament does get around to acting the important thing is that the laws are clear, equitably enforced and recognize that this is a free country; and that what consenting adults do in private is not under the control of Prime Minister Harper
Today was the first of five scheduled days before the Ontario Court of Appeal, who are reviewing Justice Susan Himel’s striking down of Canada’s prostitution laws in Ontario. She issued her decision in September 2010 and there is a stay on the strike-down until at least June 17.
I attended most of the day and then went to the CBC for interviews. Now I’m back home and here I will stay until, I think, Wednesday. On that day Professor Young, my lawyer and head of our lawyers will reply to the federal and provincial governments’ arguments.
From what I saw and what I heard the federal government lawyer was not doing well with the judges. That comes as no surprise. The issue is whether Justice Himel erred. She took a year to prepare her decision. It was 131 pages. There were 88 volumes of evidence and transcripts. Hers was not a whimsical utterance. From what I and the press have seen so far it appears that it is standing up on appeal.
In my comments to the press I attacked the Prime Minister Harper. I believe he can stop deferring dealing with the fact that the present laws are a fiasco, whatever your views on prostitution, but I think he is afraid to do it. I look forward to when Parliament considers new laws, as I think they will. That is what I have fought for. But I am mad at Mr. Harper for his determination to keep intact the laws the Liberals kept intact for so long at such a high human cost. Nothing can be worse than what we have now, whatever your views.