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Thread: Mtl Mirror article: Safety last

  1. #1

    Mtl Mirror article: Safety last

    In light of heated discussions elsewhere, I'm posting this article from this week's Mirror since it may be of interest to some.

    Safety last

    December 17 was the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. In the weeks preceding this hopeful occasion, five hookers were found murdered in Ipswich, and a few days after, another was killed in Laval. Sandwiched between the tragedy and cruel irony was the delivery of the report of the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

    For a few years, this subcommittee, comprised of Conservatives, Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP members, heard testimony from many groups that have vested interests in Canada’s criminal prostitution laws. Prostitution is legal in Canada, yet many of the laws surrounding it make it nearly impossible for people to work safely. As Kara Gillies of Maggie’s, a sex-worker resource centre in Toronto, says, “From the onset, sex workers had to fight to get a seat at the table. Initially, the subcommittee hearings included researchers, service providers, police and other so-called experts, yet the people with the true expertise, the country’s sex workers, were excluded from the process.”

    Though Jenn Clamen of Stella says of the completed report (for which she and Gillies testified), “The recommendations were void of any concrete measures and accountability,” both she and Gillies call it an interesting documentation of the contemporary issues and debates surrounding prostitution in Canada.

    Still, prostitutes aren’t happy with the results and it’s no wonder. The report is an insult, a substantiating disavowal, a buffet presented to the starving as a display of food rather than a meal. “The subcommittee report presents both research and anecdotal evidence that Section 213, commonly referred to as the ‘communicating’ law, has failed to deter street prostitution and yet has had a harmful—in fact murderous—impact on sex workers,” says Gillies. “But did the committee call for the repeal or even amendment of this dangerous legislation? No. They danced around the issue with vague comments and lacklustre recommendations that ignore the voices of sex workers, academics and social workers alike.”

    Chapter five of the report, which addresses the negative effects of criminalizing sex work, is indeed stacked with compelling, evidence-based testimony on the impact of Section 213. According to John Lowman, a professor at the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser, this law—which prevents prostitutes from communicating in public with potential clients, thereby forcing them to make rushed judgments—has unquestionably facilitated the murders of “lower-echelon sex workers.” As the report says, “in many of the cities we visited, a number of witnesses indicated that the enforcement of Section 213 forced street prostitution activities into isolated areas, where they asserted that the risk of abuse and violence is very high.”

    On this issue, the abolitionists do little but make moralizing and curiously lascivious comments. Sergeant Matt Kelly of the Vancouver police makes wholesale remarks about the “myths” of women enjoying the sex trade, while Lyne Kurtzman of the Alliance de recherche IREF/Relais-femmes asserts that we must avoid “introducing provisions that remove barriers to the trade in women’s bodies and legitimize the fact that men have unlimited access to the bodies of a certain number of women, thus creating two classes of female citizens: so-called respectable citizens and those dedicated to the sexual comfort of men.” There are many problems with prostitution (one being sweeping generalizations) but the fact that it provides, and we’re talking specifically about consensual circumstances, male sexual comfort is hardly one of them.

    Clamen believes the root of the problem is that the entire report approaches sex work not as a labour issue, but as a social problem. “We are not surprised, per se, with the outcome,” she admits. “To think that the committee would have acknowledged sex work as an income generating activity, so a job, is a stretch considering most of society has not been able to wrap their heads around that yet.”

    The 125-page report can be downloaded at, if you’re interested. In a few weeks, coinciding with the Robert Pickton trial, libertarian Toronto lawyer Alan Young intends to launch a constitutional challenge claiming the current laws go against the charter for human rights. Though Young will have sex workers on the stand, Clamen says, ideally, she would like to see constitutional challenges brought up all across the country and, eventually, in a coordinated effort. “This needs to be led by sex workers and informed by sex workers at every stage of the process,” she says firmly.

  2. #2

    Robert Pickton

    Why we make attention to this?

    - To have a record in serial murder
    - To make money
    - to change something

    If we choose the third way, I propose, in Montréal, collaboration between different organisations... Police with Stella... and you and me...

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