I have seen and been told that there has been a constant stream of articles saying the government should not criminalize the purchase of sex or being a pimp. It appears that a couple of items in favour of that approach, such as put forward by Member of Parliament Joy Smith, have been demolished. Other articles have revealed how police in several areas of Canada are cooperating in treating the sex trade, whatever that is, just like any other business. So the question going forward is who gets hurt. If Mr. Harper brings in new laws, instead of basically enforcing remaining laws for a change, organized crime and bad pimps and so forth will prosper and celebrate. If he does what we have advocated, women will be safer and better off in every respect. If he finds the idea of women being paid for sex acts (which he has yet to define) wrong, he should look at the booming businesses of strip clubs, massage parlours, dungeons, and escort agencies that have flourished since he came into office. It’s a little late in the game to get up on a high moral horse. I’m up on mine, and I think women should not be legally required to perform sex acts only for free.
I have been getting reports and reading media from all over the country and it is quite clear that there is no consensus among authorities or the public that the purchasers of sex acts, whatever that means, should be targets of any new legislation. Ditto pimps, whatever they are. Instead, there is a consensus that if people are being forced into sex work or want out of it they should have help made available to them. Just like our side has been saying. But let’s not stop there. Let’s have help for our women in uniform who are being sexually harassed and assaulted. I wouldn’t want my daughter in the military or the RCMP. Too much sexual abuse. Let’s have exit strategies and rescues for them as well. We might even want to throw in a rescue program for whistle blowers in the civil service who have been betrayed. Is this beginning to sound like a “Tough on Harper Agenda”?
This is the fourth of four instalments.
Professor Young remained active for me, and when I reopened in downtown Toronto just after my conviction he asked the police if they had any objection to what I was doing, which was identical to Thornhill – which resulted in a massive raid and trial. I was open 4 years. No raid, no trial.
Another lawyer, Pierre Cloutier, advised me on and assisted me in the handling of the administrative matters of my business, like registration and minute books and so forth.
Just after I closed Professor Young told me he was considering challenging the constitutionality of some of the prostitution laws in court and wanted me to be one of the plaintiffs. Want to know what is involved in a Charter challenge? Try it some time. Half a million dollars for starters. Add to that tons of volunteer legal time. The work involved with the experts. Try 3 years of hearings and related preparation. Try dealing with government lawyers who do not hesitate to offer crap as evidence and argument. If you don’t believe it was crap ask Judge Himel and the Supreme Court. Try to deal with a government that orders their lawyers to make it go away by any means necessary and then orders them to appeal, when there are no grounds to appeal, simply to make the issue go away. A government that has no regard for Charter challenges.
Then try dealing with a portion of the media who in one breath points to the downsides of the sex trade, whatever that is, while turning a blind eye to the finding of the courts that the very laws they are fighting to retain are largely the cause of those evils. Try dealing with commentators who bring in obscure new studies or reports, not tested in court, to attack legalization of the sex trade, while ignoring the findings of a virtual 3 year public inquiry, with evidence tested in court, that resulted in the Himel decision and what it had to say about other countries. Barbara Kay and Margaret Wente are two recent examples of such cherry pickers who don’t even say in their columns if they have even read the decision. Rosie DiManno said “read the damn decision”, out of frustration with such lousy journalism.
It was never our intent to work our way to the Supreme Court. If Mr. Harper and his justice ministers were doing their jobs, they would have said that even if Judge Himel was partly right the laws needed changing, and not defending. They had the choice of acting all along. But they put themselves first.
In 2011 I published my memoirs, where I tell all about my legal battles. I got help from, you guessed it, a lawyer. Sender Herschorn and his staff were wonderful in ensuring I was within the law in writing the book, in what I said in the book and in advising me on drafts. He wrote to those mentioned in the drafts and sent them copies and made sure that no one had grounds to sue me. He also helped me with the writing and was encouraging throughout. He assisted me in private legal matters as well.
So you see, there is a great deal that lawyers can do for their clients in the sex trade, or those considering entering it, other that just react to charges or arrests. Lawyers can act proactively. Chanelle and Karen are going to talk about that, and believe me, they know their stuff and I am so grateful to share this time with them tonight because what they have to tell you is very important.
I want to conclude by sharing just one last thing about lawyers with you. It’s the same lousy joke I tell whenever I speak to audiences of legal professionals or law students. The one good thing about the joke is that it’s so bad it ensures I have to shut up and sit down immediately. Here’s the joke.
Question: What’s the difference between a dominatrix and a woman lawyer?
Answer: The dom returns phone calls.
Thank you all very much.
This is the third of four instalments from my prepared text.
I also want to talk tonight about lawyers and my long journey at their side. First I want to bring to your attention that I believe that Val Scott, Amy Lebovitch and I probably got too much credit for striking down the prostitution laws. Our legal teams got too little credit. Let me drop a few names: Professor Young, Marlys Edwardh (who fought for Dr. Morgantaler), Ron Marzel, Stacey Nichols, Sabrina Pingitore, Kendra Reinhardt, Katrina Pacey, Daniel Sheppard and other lawyers fought for our side directly and indirectly.
I have been fighting, and my lawyers have been fighting on my behalf, against the laws that were struck down for 20 years. In my youth I was too poor and lacked the support to contemplate challenging the laws. But in 1994, when I was raided in Thornhill that changed. I had support. You can read all about that in my book, but with that support I took a position. I was selling role play and refused to sell sex. Yet I was raided and charged as a prostitute. David O’Connor represented me at my bail hearing and did a good job. The late Ken Danson began my defence preparations and Morris Manning took over from him. Morris also represented Dr. Morgantaler. My supporters recommended that change and Ken was supportive. Ken told me, even after he was replaced, “Terri, you can’t plead guilty. Promise me you won’t”. Morris lived up to his reputation and at my trial he had the charges thrown out because they were too vague. Unfortunately that did not hold up on appeal. Murray Klippenstein took over. He worked with Charlie Campbell and was advised by Paula Rochman and assisted by Wendy Snelgrove. That was in part because I and my supporters felt that lawyers with a reputation as activists were going to be important as the matter became a high profile battle of attrition. During this time George Callahan, a true gentleman and pit bull as the situation required, assisted me in ensuring my private affairs were in order. He also joined Klippenstein’s team, which was then disqualified. They were ruled in conflict because they represented all the accused together. Fortunately, Osgoode Professor Alan Young signed on as an advisor to the team and was ready to take over if the Klippenstein team was disqualified and he did. He was assisted by lawyer Leah Daniels, who taught at Seneca, when my trial finally got under way in 1998. They spent all summer on the case and had a team of students assisting them.
It was a barn burner of a trial. The CNN truck and all the major networks staked out the courthouse in Newmarket, wherever that is. The trial went on for weeks and the questions to be decided, as some reporters said, were as fundamental as those raised in the recent Supreme Court decision – in my view more fundamental. Judge Roy Bogusky, with all the mass media assembled, gave a short oral decision. He said the people there had to make a living and were in a hurry to leave. What a fool. Even he was lucky to get a seat at the trial. He refused to say which of the things I did were not legal and what he did specify was for such poor reasons that no appeal that was not rigged would uphold such a disgusting miscarriage of justice. He said the misuse of the search warrant was an understandable reaction of young bucks. Rosie DiManno finished off his reputation for good in her column.
Professor Young and Paul Burstein (who needs no introduction) did the appeal in 1999. Well, Judge Finlayson of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote the worst decision in its history. Read it some time. It was so poor, lawyers told me, that it meant that a stripper or waitress could be charged as a prostitute and it was almost impossible to have a search warrant that could be challenged. It was so poor that judges afterwards threw out prostitution and bawdy house charges simply because my conviction and appeal decision were such garbage that they became precedents to cite when acquitting. Ever wondered why prostitution convictions fell steadily since, despite the rising population and the growth of the sex trade, whatever that is. Answer in part, Finlayson.
Some of this was pointed out by now Judge David Corbett, who sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. He worked with Lucy McSweeney and Timothy Banks, then an articling student, when David prepared his masterful factum in 2000. Unfortunately it was not heard.
This is the second instalment from my prepared text.
Mr. Harper has replaced Mr. Nicholson with Mr. Mackay, the former defence minister. Women and minorities being harassed in the armed forces is more of a problem than enemy fire. Let that be Mr. Mackay’s legacy. Now it appears he is going to add to it by bringing in new laws that will not stand and will not be enforced or be obeyed, perhaps something like the so-called Nordic approach. If they bring that in it will blow up in their face. My fellow speakers will be telling you all about that shortly. But I want to make a couple of observations of my own.
For one, that approach targets men and Mr. Harper gets more support from men than women. The governments in that brought in that legislation are more left wing and more female supported than Mr. Harper’s government. It also means we women can accuse a guy who took us to dinner of trying to buy sex from us. The potential for blackmail of men is endless because women cannot be charged for selling sex. I’m sure Mr. Harper’s power base of white collar men will be thrilled to have that hanging over them.
And remember something else, something very important. The other countries who outlawed the purchase of sex acts, whatever they are, did not have a Himel decision which the Supreme Court has made a guideline for new legislation. Those very laws from other countries might be illegal in Canada. Discriminatory, too broad, overreaching, work against their stated objectives, blah, blah, blah and on and on against the Nordic approach; I think we get it.
Judge Himel said that laws other than the ones she struck down address the worst aspects of prostitution, aspects which, in large measure, resulted from the laws she struck down. So no new laws need to be introduced. The higher courts agreed. They seemed to say there was nothing less patriotic than to take the position the government has taken and is considering.
And of course law enforcement officials point out that serious criminals would go undetected and unpunished if resources had to be devoted to ensuring women only had sex for free.
And there’s more. Perhaps most important of all. New legislation must tell us what we cannot do in private as consenting adults for money or not. The Supreme Court said new laws, if vague, would not be viable, whatever the approach. When a new law comes in it will have terms of reference. It will say “for purposes of this act, a sex act is defined as” and blah blah. If the blah blah is not clear, the law is not itself legal. Thank you Beverly MacLaughlin. Home run girl!
Now tell me, what part of all this does Mr. Harper not get? Why didn’t Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Mackay, who are lawyers, resign rather than advocate laws that everybody knows are unworkable and are a disgrace to a free society?
I cannot comment responsibly about Mr. Harper’s economic, foreign or environmental policies and so forth. But what I can say is that, in my opinion, on matters of criminal justice he has fallen beneath the dignity of many of the criminals he says he is getting tough on.
Not only that. Some of you may have heard that Mr. Harper keeps calling me and offering to appoint me to the Senate, as a government whip. Well, I am a convicted prostitute, and he keeps trying to buy me, so he would be a John. I will have to report him. No – means – no, Stevie! Bad boy! Well, enough about him.
This is the first of four instalments from my prepared text.
Before I say anything else I want to acknowledge Dr. Henry Morgantaler, who died this summer. I appreciate what he was up against, not just because I have been in legal wars and in jail too, but also because both of us were advocating for women. Blessed be his memory.
Now, on the lighter side, let me tell you a little story I think you’ll appreciate. Some years ago I was whipping a client strapped to a bench. With each lash he had to call out “thank you mistress, another please” and he had to sound like he meant it. After he had wept to my satisfaction I removed his restraints and let him kiss my boots. Then I told him to get dressed and meet me at the front door. Now get this. When I let him out the door we said goodbye to each other. He said “Goodnight mistress”. I said,“Goodnight, Your Honour”.
Speaking of judges, our judges are now, thankfully, addressing the federal government’s so called “Tough on Crime Agenda”, which is a scam. The government itself is an offender if laws passed are unconstitutional, or contrary to Canada’s values. Is it patriotic to focus on length of sentences and ignore overcrowding in prisons? Ignore the misuse of warrants? Ignore the underfunding of legal aid? Ignore spousal abuse? Ignore the shortage of shelters for women, or of shelters that accept family pets so the wife beaters can’t use the family pet as a hostage? Is it patriotic to be caught by surprise by the sexual harassment scandals about women and minorities in the armed forces and the RCMP? And, my friends, is it patriotic to tell women they can only have sex if they have it for free?
Did you know that our constitutional challenge prevented a mandatory minimum prison sentence for keeping a common bawdy house? Even a sad sack like former justice minister Rob Nicholson should have realized that the law was flawed. Justice Himel struck down the law in 2010 and the government was caught completely off guard. They didn’t even know the decision was being released. I doubt if Mr. Harper and Mr. Nicholson even knew of the challenge. Yet, an appeal was announced within 3 hours of the release of the decision, despite the fact that Judge Himel said Parliament’s involvement was required. Same reflex reaction after losing at the Ontario Court of Appeal. Nicholson said the government’s position was still that the laws were constitutional. Beverly MacLaughlin and the Supreme Court, in my opinion, then confirmed that Mr. Harper and Mr. Nicholson and their cronies were either liars, who just wanted the issue to go away, or dummies. She did not say which. Take your pick. Then remember that this is the same gang that may be drafting new legislation.
After opening remarks we responded to questions we were given in advance. Here is another question and the answer I gave. What are some of the potential positive effects of the opposing models? Here are 4 potential positive effects of the Nordic Model: (1) It creates jobs for those working in law enforcement (2) Women can make money by blackmailing any guy who takes her to dinner saying he tried to buy sex from her (3) Women can blackmail any landlord saying she paid them with money she got from selling sex (4) If you are making a good living committing crimes unrelated to the sex trade the police will be less able to catch you because they will be hunting down women who get paid for sex or men who pay them, while all over the place women are having sex for free.
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.
After opening remarks we responded to questions we were given in advance. Here are the questions and the answers I gave. Here is the first question, in 2 parts. With the striking down of the 3 parts of the criminal code how are communities responding? What processes are under way in Canada today? First of all, the laws were under-enforced for years, and the number of charges were falling dramatically even though the population and sex work businesses were expanding. The laws left in place for another year are themselves illegal. For this reason the police and crown attorneys are dropping many charges laid under those laws. Also, they have mostly stopped enforcing the laws. Sex workers are coming out of the shadows and into the light where it is safer. For the future, if authorities use any laws to control when consenting adults have sex by any description, they will violate the ruling of the Supreme Court. That ruling said that the laws, and their enforcement, must not be arbitrary, discriminatory, overreaching and so forth. The original judge was explicit. She said the worst aspects of prostitution were addressed by other laws. We must move away from a moral basis and toward a safety basis and that means enforcing the laws on the books that were not struck down, for a change.
(Here is the text I prepared and delivered for my opening remarks at a conference about where we should go from here for the sex trade). It’s good to be back in school. In 2 of the facilities I ran we had classrooms too, complete with desks and blackboards. Have you ever been in the classroom of a dominatrix? I made the students, most of them middle-aged men, dress as girls. Their lessons usually included the strap, the whip and of course standing in the corner. The tuition was hundreds of dollars per visit, and they would leave deep in debt. Just like Concordia. So, we may have new prostitution laws. The government wants our input. That’s going to be tough, since they won’t specify what they are talking about. I think it’s safe to say they mean, by prostitution, sexual intercourse for money or other payment. But what about what I do? If a man pays me to kiss my feet, or for me to spank him with his pants on, is it prostitution? I wrote an article which some of you may have read asking many such questions. I am on record as saying that any model or whatever we may discuss, must first specify what behaviour between consenting adults in private is being controlled by the government. The Supreme Court, and the lower courts agreed. Any new laws must be clear in defining what constitutes a sex act. If they are not, no model will be enforceable. So I look forward to hearing from my fellow speakers tonight, and perhaps from you in the audience, what I can and cannot do if I open another facility. And why. One thing everyone is agreed on is that sex workers, whatever that means, have a right to safety. The courts were clear. No other person involved in a legal activity is prevented from taking basic safety measures. The fact that some operators who hire and supervise sex workers are not good people is not a basis for legislating against that practice. Women are sexually harassed in the RCMP, the armed forces, offices and the home. Why not outlaw the people responsible for that? Why just the so-called pimps, good and bad? And why should I not be allowed to hire security, salespeople, receptionists and so forth? Why should I be denied police protection for doing a legal activity? Why single out sex workers, whatever they are? If Mr. Harper gets tough on prostitution he will be doing what organized crime and terrorists want him to do, meaning, he will divert the already strained resources of police, courts and jails to cracking down on women in their bedrooms while dangerous criminals get a pass. The Harper government, in 2010, announced an appeal of Judge Himel’s decision within 3 hours of it’s release, which caught them off guard. Shame. Then, after the Ontario Court of Appeal sided with her for the most part, Mr. Nicholson, then Justice Minister said the government still believed the laws were constitutional – all 3 laws. Well, 14 judges say he was either lying or stupid. You choose which. The sad part is that this is the same Harper bunch that may bring in new legislation? Mr. Harper himself has not even answered the simple question of whether he has read the Himel decision. Sad. I can’t comment responsibly on his policies on the economy, foreign affairs or the environment. But I can say that the less he brings in to regulate the sex trade, and the more he does to enforce the laws still on the books to protect women, the better he will be doing his job. Thank you.
Laws supposedly meant to protect sex workers by penalizing only so-called pimps and clients, and not sex workers, will replicate the harms and illegalities of the laws just struck down and may not survive the courts. The other countries did not have our recent court ruling on what makes laws themselves right or wrong. That ruling makes the Nordic Model wrong. There are several things wrong with the Nordic Model. Here are a few of them. (1) Anti-pimping laws criminalize anyone who shares in a sex worker’s earnings, including her husband, other family members and friends. Police can harass or threaten people around her who they may wish to suspect as an associate. (2) The laws even form a barrier to sex workers who wish to marry and or leave the business for other reasons. A husband becomes legally vulnerable, even if he shares the household expenses. Women who support their husbands in whole or in part in other occupations, and, yet, no one passes laws against living off the proceeds of their work. Why are sex workers singled out from women in other occupations? That singling out is not legal after the recent court decision. (3) The Nordic approach also makes sex workers less safe. Pimps often provide services for and protection to sex workers. For example, they drive women to appointments, wait in the car, and know when to worry if the woman does not return. They copy down the license plates of cars into which street walkers climb, which provides some safeguard against the women simply disappearing. (4) Laws against clients endanger sex workers on the street. These women are the most vulnerable of sex workers because they lack the safety of working indoors and non-violent men are far more likely to be afraid of and discouraged by the prospect of being arrested than are psychopaths. This is especially true of family men or those who have a respected position in their communities. A minister, a lawyer, a teacher, a psychologist or a doctor have a great deal to lose by being arrested and having the arrest publicized, so are reluctant to take the risk. (5) There will not necessarily be fewer women selling sex, however, especially on the street level where driving forces like drug-use keep the numbers high. With a smaller pool of customers for whom to compete, these women may act with less caution; for example, they may be more willing to get into cars they might otherwise not get into. On the other hand, there will be as many physically abusive men and criminals in the client pool because a person who is willing to beat or to kill a sex worker is unlikely to be discouraged by the possibility of a minor charge of buying sex. The preferred clients have moved to the Internet, but the dangerous ones stayed on the streets. (6) Those on the streets work in risky conditions because they go further into remote areas. Under the Nordic Model they have to do the negotiation very quickly. It doesn’t give them any time to assess risk. The quick negotiation will also result from a client’s unwillingness to linger a moment longer than necessary. (7) It is currently common practice for sex workers to screen their clients in advance to seeing them. They know the client’s name and phone number. Under the Nordic Model, however, clients have more incentive to remain anonymous rather than risk arrest. Sex workers will have to accept calls from blocked numbers and won’t know who they are seeing. So much for the Nordic Model. (8) There is no indication that the Nordic Model, as being considered for Canada at present, would adequately define what are not permissible acts between consenting adults in private for money or not, and so the law will fail for that alone. (9) I could go on and on, but enough for now.
The federal government is now seeking input from Canadians about how to
regulate sex acts between consenting adults in private. Problem is, they
don’t say which acts are sex acts. I asked this in a paper I circulated last
month called “Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation”.
I asked straight questions. The answer to each question was a yes or no. I
also asked for a why to each yes or no. I said that Mr. Harper’s sexuality
would guide his answers, and it was his answers that were going to guide new laws. So I think before Canadians give their input they should be clear
about exactly what it is the government wants direction on. Is it going to
be illegal to run or go to a fetish house where no sexual intercourse
occurs? Are couples who play bondage games at home for free to be arrested if some sort of payment is deemed to have occurred? The Supreme Court said any new laws cannot be over-broad or arbitrary. They also said that new laws must be clear with precise definitions. Is the prime minister going to take the unbelievably stupid option of the Nordic Model and top it off without giving precise definitions – just so he can buy some more time while the courts again repudiate him – and so keep the sex trade underground, which puts women in unnecessary danger, and is what organized crime wants? How long is he going to put limited law enforcement resources under further strain while not even speaking out about sexual harassment of women at work, in the RCMP, in the armed forces – or domestic abuse? Does he want the forces of the state controlling men who might be clients of sex workers? A man might be afraid to pay for dinner on a date. A women could blackmail a man by reporting to the police that he tried to “buy sex”. I look forward to hearing from him. I’m sure you do too.
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?
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.
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.