The QP Clip: The NDP cautiously opposes a prostitution bill

The exchange you can’t miss from this afternoon’s Question Period


Yesterday’s immediate opposition to Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s prostitution bill wasn’t exactly nuanced. Sex-work advocates said the new measures were unconstitutional and would endanger sex workers. The condemnation set the stage for typical drama in the House of Commons. But NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie’s opening question on the file was rather measured.

“In less than 24 hours, the justice minister’s new bill already has legal experts predicting long court battles over whether or not it respects the charter, the Constitution, and the Bedford ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada,” she said. “Will the minister skip his divisive talking points? Will he do the sensible thing and refer this bill to the Supreme Court of Canada immediately?”

No outrage. No mention of endangered women. Only a suggestion that the Tories might want to ensure the bill’s constitutionality, just in case. NDP MP Francoise Boivin raised the issue twice more, but that was it. Perhaps the Official Opposition is finding someone to review the bill before it joins a chorus of condemnation. Maybe the party is sitting out much of this fight. For now, sex workers don’t command the attention of the Commons.

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The QP Clip: The NDP cautiously opposes a prostitution bill

  1. Someone should tell sex workers, that the work they have ‘chosen’ (although it is questionable if it is really a choice) is inherently dangerous. So no piece of legislation is going to address that and neither will decriminalizing prostitution. You are basically having sex with men you have never met before! And the men really don’t want to pay for it so they are going to do whatever it takes to not pay or ‘negotiate’ down. You can use fancy words for what is happening, but it is still the oldest and also one of the most dangerous types of work around.

    Maybe the solution is for the government to establish and regulate brothels including writing OH&S regulations (and I’m sure there will be a line up of inspectors volunteering for those jobs). That would make it safer, but I’m not sure why any government (or taxpayers) would support that idea.

  2. Call me obtuse, but there’s something I don’t get with this bill: It’s okay to sell sex, but it’s a crime to pay fot it. I don’t understand the logic. How can you legally sell something to someone when the transaction puts the customer on the wrong side of the law? A dope dealer is considered a criminal for selling an illegal product and the customer who purchases said product is therefore indulging in a criminal transaction. Okay, I get that. But a customer paying for sexual favors is indulging in a criminal transaction although the person selling the favors is not acting against the law? WTF?

    • Jean,

      I think the point is that the transaction is illegal, but the person selling sex is not guilty of a criminal offense. By way of comparison, it’s illegal to sell drugs in Canada, but it’s not illegal to buy drugs (though, since it’s illegal to possess them, the cops can bust you on another basis). It’s open to parliament to criminalize a transaction, but only punish one party to the transaction (presumably on the theory that prostitutes are “victims” of their Johns. in the same way that drug users are “victims” of their dealers).

      I suspect this will likely survive constitutional challenge. Ironically, Terry Bedford’s successful challenge of Canada’s prostitutions laws will probably result in the criminalization of the previously legal sex trade. Something tells me this is not what was expected.

    • The feminist theory behind the Nordic model is that no consent is possible because of the imbalance of power between the prostitute and the john or pimp in the vast majority of cases. No consent implies that the money changing hands is actually a form of force, and hence what is happening is defacto rape…i.e. a sexual assault.

      Consent is only possible where there is a relative balance of power between the two parties. Between a john and a prostitute, this state, according to feminist theory, does not exist.

      • Remember the Nordic model was developed in those progressive social democratic states, based on the feminist scholarship of people like Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, the same scholarship that was used in the SCC Butler decision on pornography.

      • yeah yeah, we know, according to feminists, consent is definitely not a woman agreeing to something. that would suppose females actually have agency.

        no, thanks to some “scholars” (i.e. angry and lonely cat ladies) now a woman cant consent if she’s had a drink, if she’s tired, if she’s having a bad day, or if there’s a power imbalance. and you need “enthusiastic consent” for every step during a sexual encounter. that’s hawt.

        -can I kiss you there?
        -im afraid that’s not enthusiastic enough to satisfy the giant whale Andrea Dworkin and so I must refrain

  3. Nick T-V is missing the whole point. It’s not in the country NOR sex workers interests to launch a challenge and wait 6 years to potentially rescue them from this legislation. If the Supremes (and why didn’t Mulclair ask MacKay to produce the Dept of Justice lawyers written opinion on whether the law is constitutionally sound?) find the law is harmful (unconstitutional) then there is a chance for the gov’t to save face and fix it now before it actually becomes law. And if this delays things so that it’s not law before the next 2015 election, that helps Canadians including sex workers immensely. Maybe we’ll get a better gov’t to change the law. Come on Nick T-V, think! Stretch your brain.

  4. I guess everyone expects to see this law eventually declared invalid by the supreme court. But not before a protracted court battle where the the harper government will appeal the lower courts’ decision all the way to the SCC. At tax payers’ expense and while cutting back programs that actually help the people who needs it. So this will drag on for at least 5 more years. The conservatives will be portraying Justin Trudeau as a sex crazed drug addict in response to his criticism. Hoping the scandals, Arthur Porter, Duffy, his fights with the SCC are forgotten in 2015, maybe they get reelected? If they win another majority I can see their goal eventually to repeal the charter since the SCC is only there to enforce it. The problem Harper is facing in implementing his ideology is not the Supreme Court, it’s the Charter of Rights.

    • Jack, the problem is not the Charter of Rights, itself. The problem is we have a bunch of unelected Lawyers in nice robes who have the authority to change the charter on a whim.

      That being said, I’ll wait until I actually read the Bill before I criticize.

      As an aside, the Euphamism “sex-worker” is just the polite way of saying Whore, because at the end of the day, no matter what is said, that is what most people are thinking. It’s not the kind of “career” anyone would want their children involved in.

      the folks who choose this “profession” for the most part are victims of abuse, drugs, or pimps. I think the Bill will recognize that these women (and men) are most likely victims of circumstance.

      • The Charter is not worth the paper it’s written on. Whereas freedom of speech is explicitly “guaranteed” in the charter, in reality we only have freedom of speech within the bounds tolerated by the ruling class. In other words, we have no freedom of speech at all. We have hate speech laws that prevent us from, according to that “venerable institution”, the Supreme Court, criticize sodomy. Dont even think of criticizing people who engage in sodomy, but even the act of sodomy itself cannot be criticized. That’s thanks to section 1 of the charter which basically says “these rights and freedoms are guaranteed unless they offend the leftwing sensibilities of the progressive ruling class”.

        So prostitution and abortion, none of which are mentioned in the Charter, are each somehow protected by it, but freedom of speech, which is mentioned in the Charter, receives no protection at all.

        That being said, the old prostitution laws were ridiculous and this new bill is even more ridiculous. But the law should be judged on its own merit, not with respect to the Charter, because the Charter is just an illusion that our laws do not infringe on basic rights. It’s nonsense. The charter allows laws that infringe rights, as long as a judge likes the law it will remain valid, and if the judge dislikes the law it will be invalidated.

  5. The feminist scholarship that underlies the SCC’s Butler pornography decision also is the basis of the Nordic model for regulating prostitution.

    There is a solid feminist scholarly foundation for Butler and for the Nordic model whereas the basis of the harm reduction ideals of safe needle injection and Bedford are rather ad hoc.

    • “solid feminist scholarly foundation” is actually nominated for the oxymoron of the year.

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