Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Issue 15 - Evidence - September 9, 2014
OTTAWA, Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met
this day at 10 a.m. to examine the subject matter of Bill C-36, An Act to
amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision
in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential
amendments to other Acts.
Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome colleagues, invited guests and
members of the general public who are following today's proceedings of the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Today we begin a pre-study on Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General
of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Pre-studies are a unique feature of the Senate that allow committees the
opportunity to study the subject matter of a bill while it is still before
the House of Commons.
In 2007, a group of sex workers launched a court challenge to the
constitutionality of three provisions in the Criminal Code relating to
prostitution. The Supreme Court of Canada invalidated these three provisions
in December 2013 and gave Parliament one year to respond. Bill C-36 was
introduced in the House of Commons in June 2014 in response to the court's
Our first witness today is the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of
Justice and Attorney General of Canada. The minister is accompanied by the
following officials from Justice Canada: Donald Piragoff, Senior Assistant
Deputy Minister, Policy Sector; Nathalie Levman, Counsel, Criminal Law
Policy Section; and Carole Morency, who is not at the table at the moment
and will come forward later, Director General and Senior General Counsel,
Criminal Law Policy Section.
We will begin, minister, with your opening remarks. Please proceed.
Hon. Peter MacKay, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney
General of Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable senators. I
should also note, Mr. Chair, we are joined here this morning as well by Bill
Pentney, deputy minister, in addition to the very capable Justice officials
Senators, I thank you very much for your presence.
I am pleased to appear before the committee on Bill C-36, the Protection
of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. I very much appreciate the
committee's willingness to pre-study the bill. As you know, timelines are
Bill C-36 responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's December 2013
Bedford decision, which will result in the decriminalization of most
adult prostitution-related activities if no legislative response is in force
before the expiry of the court's one-year suspension on December 20, 2014.
Prior to the arrival of this bill before you this morning, we've heard
from dozens of witnesses, front-line support workers, police, police chiefs,
experts from the legal profession, academia and, of course, victims who have
testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and
Human Rights. I want to take a moment, if you will permit me, to thank all
of those witnesses, but, in particular, the many victims who testified
before committee on Bill C-36 and shared their personal reflections and
insights. I want to commend them for their courage.
I also want to express my sincere admiration for the compassionate
dedication of the front-line workers, workers who've demonstrated every day
their compassion by helping support and literally saving the lives of
individuals whose lives have been marred by the actions of pimps, johns and
very often criminal organizations. The work they do is tremendously
appreciated, respected and inspirational.
Some proponents of legalization and representatives of the industry will
come forward and tell you in the coming days that prostitution is a choice,
that sex workers start at age 18, and that only legalization can provide
them security. We disagree.
One of the witnesses that we heard from this summer, Natacha Falle, told
the committee on July 7 about the dangers and entrapments that prostitution
brings to our society. She said:
I entered when I was close to 15 years old. I came from a middle
class home in the Calgary suburbs. My father was a police officer. My
mother managed bridal shops. My seemingly normal life suddenly became
unsafe, and I hit the streets.
She later went on to state:
. . . one by one each of us ended up with a pimp and/or on drugs. My
best friend was murdered. She was shot in the head. . . .
That young woman was shot in the head by a pimp that she had known for
only three months and who had been posing as a bodyguard.
When the Supreme Court rendered their decision in Bedford, the
Canadian government had a choice to make: either legalize prostitution and
normalize the sale of human bodies, or stand up for the victims and their
families and the health and safety of our communities.
There has been much confusion about what Bill C-36 does and what it does
not do. For example, some have asked why Bill C-36 does not facilitate
selling one's own sexual services, since the bill proposes criminalization
of the purchase but not the sale of sexual services. To be clear from the
outset, Bill C-36 makes prostitution an illegal activity. Accordingly, it
does not in any way seek to condone, allow or facilitate either the purchase
or the sale of sexual services.
Bill C-36 proposes asymmetrical treatment of purchasing and selling. It
does so not because it authorizes or allows selling but, rather, because it
treats sellers as victims of sexual exploitation, victims who need
assistance in leaving prostitution and not punishment for the exploitation
that they have endured. Bill C-36, in essence, provides a legal immunity and
respects the Bedford decision and the concerns raised for safety.
But make no mistake; the dynamics have changed insofar as the government
has accepted the Supreme Court of Canada's invitation, where Madam Justice
McLaughlin, writing for the majority, stated — and I quote from the
Bedford decision, Mr. Chair and colleagues:
It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new
approach, reflecting different elements of the existing regime.
With the passage of this bill, prostitution will be illegal for the first
time in Canada. Let us be clear about Bill C-36's ultimate objective, and
that is to reduce the demand for prostitution with a view to discouraging
entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to
the greatest extent possible. The enormity of that challenge is not lost on
anyone, yet this should not dissuade this laudable goal of eliminating this
inherently degrading and dangerous activity.
Reducing prostitution reduces exploitation, violence and suffering for
many lives. Therefore, Bill C-36's legislative objectives are completely
different from the objectives of the current law, which, according to the
Supreme Court of Canada, primarily regulate the nuisance effect of an
otherwise legal activity. Bill C-36, on the other hand, as I said, would
make prostitution an illegal activity, and any constitutional analysis would
be based on its new legislative objectives and framework.
The considerations and calculations of the court have therefore changed,
and the premise upon much of which the Supreme Court based its decision has
also changed, with prostitution becoming illegal. As well, the focus — the
target, if you will — is now on pimps and johns.
Bill C-36 reflects a fundamental paradigm shift toward the treatment of
prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately and
negatively impacts on women, children and other marginalized and vulnerable
groups. Of particular note are Aboriginal, First Nation women and new
Prostitution is not a victimless crime. Rather, it victimizes not only
sellers but also communities in which prostitution takes place, including
and specifically children — children who may be exposed to it — and society
itself by normalizing the gender inequalities inherent in prostitution.
Furthermore, commercialization and institutionalization of prostitution —
for example, when prostitution takes place in strip clubs, massage parlours
and through escort agencies — exacerbate its negative impact and inherent
I know all here would agree that one of the main functions of the
criminal law is to protect the vulnerable and, make no mistake, prostitution
targets the vulnerable and preys on victims.
Research indicates that entry into prostitution and remaining in it are
both influenced by a variety of factors such as poverty, youth, lack of
education, child sex abuse, other forms of child abuse, drug and alcohol
addiction, and mental health issues, among others.
Research also shows that prostitution is an extremely dangerous activity
that poses a risk of violence, psychological harm and trauma to those
subjected to it, regardless of the venue or legal framework in which it
A system of laws that facilitates prostitution for the benefit of
individuals who freely claim to choose it — in other words, a form of
legalization or decriminalization — would result in greater demand for
sexual services and a corresponding increase in the exploitation of
vulnerable populations, including children and teenagers, to meet that
demand. Such an approach, I believe, would also normalize the
commodification of vulnerable groups, primarily women and girls. This is
corrosive on Canadian society and counter to the enormous gains that have
been made throughout the country to advance gender equality.
The Supreme Court's argument in Bedford has forced us to make a
critical decision. If we were to adopt a system that facilitates
prostitution, we would further harm the vulnerable majority, both those who
have been subjected to exploitation through prostitution and those who are
at risk of being drawn into it.
Let me be clear: The government's priority is to protect vulnerable
Canadians. Doing nothing was never an option and would have been an
abdication of responsibility of the government — a responsibility to protect
individuals, particularly vulnerable persons. I repeat: It is the
government's priority and fervent belief that we must protect vulnerable
Canadians. Bill C-36 reflects that priority.
Let me address, first and foremost, the issue of demand. This bill seeks
to achieve its objectives by tackling the demand for sexual services. For
the first time, as I said, in criminal Canadian law, the purchase of sexual
services would be criminalized. As I said, this would make prostitution
illegal, as acknowledged by the Library of Parliament's legislative summary
on this bill, which states that criminalizing the purchase of sexual service
"constitutes a de facto prohibition of prostitution. . . ."
To complement the purchasing offence, this bill proposes to criminalize
advertising the sale of sexual services, also for the first time in Canadian
criminal law. The sale of sexual services is banned. It is fueled by demand
for the services and the advertising that contributes to that demand.
To clarify the scope of this offence, because there has been some
confusion in this regard, a person who advertises the sexual services of
other persons would commit the offence and the person who knowingly assists
other persons in advertising sexual services for sale would be a party to
However, the person who advertises their own sexual services could not be
prosecuted for this offence because Bill C-36 treats the person as a victim
of sexual exploitation. So the new law will target those who purchase the
bodies and the lives of other human beings. This approach is consistent with
the bill's objective of reducing the demand for prostitution while treating
those subjected to it as victims who need assistance, not punishment.
Bill C-36 also maintains but modernizes offences that criminalize those
who seek to capitalize on the demand created by purchasers. Proposed new
offences would prohibit materially benefiting from the prostitution of
another individual and procuring another person to provide sexual services.
The "material benefit" offence would replace the former "living on the
avails" offence found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Bedford.
It also takes into account both the Supreme Court of Canada's concern
that living off the avails of the offence prevents the hiring of bodyguards
and other persons that could enhance safety, as well as the very real
concern that those same bodyguards would become exploitative to maximize
their profits. Accordingly, legislative exceptions would apply to
non-exploitative relationships, enabling sellers to interact with others on
the same basis as anyone else. I will go into that in more detail.
For example, the material benefit offence would not apply to those who
offer goods or services through legitimate businesses or informally, for
example, an acquaintance who provides protective services. Other examples
include financial accounting, delivery or driving services — those that are
readily available to the public.
However, if a person who fits within that legislated exception becomes
exploitative, such as by using violence or financially benefiting from
another's prostitution in a commercial context, such as in a strip club or a
massage parlour, that person would be subject to a charge under the material
benefit offence. The relationship, as we know, can obviously change or morph
into an exploitative one, and a parasitic or exploitative relationship does
Mr. Chair, Bill C-36 would also modernize existing procuring offences.
Whereas the proposed material benefit offence does not require a proof of
active involvement in the prostitution of others, the proposed procuring
offence requires active involvement such as causing or inciting others to
engage in prostitution. This is consistent with the existing Criminal Code
approach and justifies the higher penalties imposed for procuring.
Mr. Chair, colleagues, I've already noted that Bill C-36 proposes to
criminalize the purchase but not the sale of sexual services. This bill
would also expressly immunize sellers from prosecution for any part that
they might play in the proposed purchasing, material benefit, procuring or
advertising offences. In particular, Bill C-36 would not prevent sellers
from implementing certain safety measures noted in the Bedford case,
such as selling one's own sexual services from a fixed, indoor location and
hiring legitimate bodyguards, in addition to the personal advertising that I
I've also already stressed this is not because Bill C-36 in any way
condones, enables or allows the sale of sexual services. Rather, this bill
treats those subjected to prostitution as victims and weighs in the balance
the need to protect the vulnerable as most important. The reality is that
while we as a society work towards Bill C-36's objective of deterring and
ultimately abolishing prostitution, just as we do with all other criminal
offences, some sadly continue to remain subjected to it.
This bill would, however, criminalize certain conduct engaged in by
sellers in limited circumstances where such conduct is deemed to harm
children. As introduced, Bill C-36 proposes a summary offence that would
have criminalized communicating for the purposes of selling sexual services
in public places where children can reasonably be expected to be present.
This is the wisdom of the previous committee, where witnesses before the
House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights expressed
concern about this offence as introduced. I had previously heard a broad
array of opinions in previous consultations about this specific section of
the bill. I must say that even in policing circles there is a broad array of
opinion on this subject.
In response to the concerns raised at the committee, the government moved
to amend the offence by narrowing its scope to apply only to specific places
that are or are next to three locations designed to be used by children:
school grounds, playgrounds and daycare centres.
The main objective of the amended offence remains the same: to protect
children from exposure to prostitution, because such exposure would result
in vulnerable children potentially being drawn into a life of exploitation.
The offence also protects children from additional harms associated with
prostitution, including being exposed to drug- related activities, drug
instruments, such as syringes, or to used condoms or other dangerous
By clearly establishing the parameters of criminal liability the amended
"communicating" offence carefully balances the different interests at
play, which include the need to protect sellers from exploitation and
violence, as well as the need to protect vulnerable children from the harms
associated with prostitution.
The Supreme Court in Bedford acknowledges the particular
importance of protecting children and, in that vein, this bill includes
harsher, escalating penalties for those who engage in acts associated with
Mr. Chair, the complementary funding element is something important to
mention here. The government believes that the best way to address
prostitution's inherent risks and harms is to reduce its incidence and help
those subjected to prostitution to exit. In that regard, the government has
announced it will provide assistance through complementary funding of $20
million over five years. This is in addition to other federal initiatives,
including the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking; the National
Crime Prevention Strategy; the Victims Fund; the Aboriginal Justice
Strategy; and funding to address the issue of missing and murdered
It's also important to note that there is funding provided by provinces
and territories, which are primarily responsible for the delivery of many of
the needed services in areas such as housing, social and medical services,
education programs, occupational and vocational training, and victim and
addiction services and treatment and counselling.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, the testimony that you will hear I suspect will
open your eyes to a very sad reality that is often not understood and
certainly perhaps not known by the majority of Canadians: a world of
exploitation where only money counts and where there is terrible suffering,
violence and exploitation happening everywhere in the country.
I encourage you to consider the final results of the government's public
consultation on prostitution-related offences in Canada, which garnered more
than 31,000 responses as well as the technical paper I tabled before the
Justice Committee on July 7, 2014, which contains references to the body of
research available on prostitution and provides legal analysis of the bill's
law reform proposals. I have brought a copy of this paper with me today for
In conclusion, prostitution, as we all know and it's a penetrating
statement of the obvious, is a complex social issue requiring a
multi-pronged response. This bill proposes much-needed criminal law tools to
address prostitution which takes into account all safety concerns, including
those outlined in the Bedford decision, as well as the broader safety
and societal concerns posed by prostitution more generally. Specifically,
those subjected to prostitution must be protected from violence and
exploitation; communities must be protected from prostitution's harmful
effects, including exposure to children; and society must be protected from
the normalization of a gendered and exploitative practice.
But the complexity of this issue requires much more than just legislation
to fill the legal void created by the Bedford decision. In
recognition of this fact, the government has dedicated funding to assist —
buttressing current programs — in ending the multi-faceted harms in
Finally, Bill C-36 and its complementary funding reflect our government's
commitment to work together with our provincial, territorial and civil
society partners to reduce the harms caused by prostitution, with a view to
one day bringing this inherently dangerous activity to an end by paving the
path to a more productive, peaceful and prosperous life for prostitutes and
I thank you for the work you are undertaking on this bill. I thank you
for being here on this day, and I look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, minister. I understand you will be
with us until 11 a.m.?
Mr. MacKay: That's correct, but I'm willing to stay longer, if
The Chair: And officials will be here until noon, available for
Mr. MacKay: That's correct.
Senator Baker: Welcome, minister, to the committee once again.
We realize as well the main questions here are with regard to the
constitutionality of this new provision. I recognize that you are a former
Crown prosecutor and you have litigated Charter arguments. You are used to
doing up a factum concerning the Charter and arguing it before the courts.
In one particular case I recall, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the
Court of Appeal of Nova Scotia and you were the Crown prosecutor in that
particular case concerning sections 8 and 9.
Having said that, I'd like to put three questions to you at the same
time. The first question deals with the outlawing of activities that take
place in public. This was one of the major considerations of the Supreme
Court of Canada, in that it drove the activity into the dark alleys and
endangered the people who were involved in it. What makes this bill immune
from unconstitutionality when one of the provisions of the bill does exactly
the same thing?
The second point perhaps you might want to comment on is that two recent
polls in Canada, one done by your own department, show that Canadians are
divided on the issue fairly evenly of whether or not prostitution should be
My third question is this: I look at your bill, and in proposed
subsection 286.5 there is an exemption. It states that "No person shall be
prosecuted for . . . an offence under 286.2" — which is receiving a
material benefit from prostitution — "if the benefit is derived from the
provision of their own sexual services" — in other words, to protect the
prostitute from being charged. Then the next proposed section goes on and
says the same thing about advertising. Then the third proposed section goes
on to say that no person shall be prosecuted for aiding and abetting in any
of those offences if it concerns the provision of their own sexual services.
Prior to that, we go back to the next page and there's an exemption there
for those people who are working for prostitutes, that is, bodyguards or
receptionists. If you go back even further in the bill, it also provides
protection for those who are living with a prostitute, if indeed it is what
is called under the legislation a "legitimate living arrangement."
So when you say that de facto prostitution is being made illegal in
Canada for the first time, yes, de facto, but what about de jure? Is in fact
the act of prostitution for the first time in Canadian history being made an
illegal activity? All of our legislation dating back to 1869 does not
include a provision that says that the act of prostitution is de jure
illegal. Can you comment on any of those, minister?
Mr. MacKay: I will, senator. Thank you for that very penetrating
and important question.
With respect to your first and third questions, you've actually answered
much of the reasoning behind the delineation between why we would prosecute
or target the pimps and johns but not proceed with prosecution of
prostitutes themselves. It's because of both the commentary found in the
Bedford decision but also the very proper recognition that prostitutes
themselves are victims. This will be disputed by some, but I think the
overwhelming jurisprudence and objective examination of fact will tell you
that the vast majority are not in prostitution by choice. The very reason
that the Supreme Court, in my estimation, struck the three provisions of the
Criminal Code was because weighing in the balance and using the Charter
analysis the dangers inherent in prostitution required a different approach.
Madam Justice McLachlin and the court invited Parliament to put a new
framework in place that included and does include now making prostitution
illegal now for the first time.
As to your question about why there is a legal exemption and why we have,
in essence, immunized prostitutes from being prosecuted from the three
constituent elements of procuring, communicating and operating a bawdy
house, as well as aiding and abetting or being party to events, they are
essentially immunized but for communicating in a public place or in
specified areas where children would be present or in areas designed
specifically for children to be present, for example, playgrounds or
I would argue that this bill does not, as some have alleged, drive
prostitutes into the dark, into the alleys or into places where they would
be at greater risk or — and this is an extremely salient point — be forced
to curtail certain actions and steps that would make them less vulnerable,
for example, the examination of the individual or the opportunity to perhaps
record information. This bill, while it isn't an enabler, recognizes there
are certain steps to be taken to reduce risk.
Having said that, and I've stated this earlier, it's my belief that
prostitution is inherently dangerous. There is very little that can be done
to completely eliminate that risk. This bill goes to great lengths, after
great consultation, examination of facts and international examination of
other jurisdictions, to try to lessen the risk while at the same time
protecting the vulnerable. It's drawing that very firm line between who we
consider to be the perpetrators, the johns and the pimps, and targeting them
with police and criminal sanction. It does so in a way that we believe
eventually, through all the efforts, combining provincial and territorial
efforts, many of the groups that we heard from who are doing outstanding
work in this area, moves prostitutes to a better place, giving them better
options, and giving them access to the type of support we think will improve
their lives and draw them out of prostitution to a more productive place.
Your last question was about the conflicting polling data. It isn't
surprising to me that we have strong differences of opinion on this subject,
as on other subjects. Again, it's an understatement to say this is an issue
that's been around for a long time and people have a tendency to form very
fervent views. However, looking at this from a criminal justice perspective,
we believe that we have it right in this bill. After looking at the
recommendations and advice of the Supreme Court and hearing from an
extremely large number of Canadians, some 31,000 who took part in the
on-line consultation and face-to-face meetings that were held, we believe,
on balance, that this is the direction that the country should be heading
when facing this very complex issue.
Senator Batters: Minister, thank you very much for attending here
today. I would like you to tell us more about the legislative objectives of
this proposed Canadian model and the evidence on which these objectives are
I come from Saskatchewan. I've lived almost all my life in Regina. Prior
to coming to the Senate, I was the justice minister's chief of staff in
Saskatchewan for four and a half years, so I had a unique vantage point into
Saskatchewan's criminal justice system.
From what I saw, the average prostitute in Saskatchewan is probably a
14-year-old Aboriginal girl, who was probably beaten up earlier that day by
her pimp and is likely addicted to drugs. For that young girl, the world of
prostitution is not a choice. It's coercion, desperation and exploitation;
it is not a choice.
This confirms what you have mentioned, that prostitution is not a choice
in the vast majority of cases; it is a dangerous activity, and people who
enter prostitution start at a very young age. Could you comment on that,
Mr. MacKay: Thank you, senator. Your description of the graphic
life circumstances of many prostitutes in your province and others is quite
accurate and it feeds into the questioning from Senator Baker as to the very
objectives of the bill.
As I mentioned, this is a fundamental paradigm shift in approach under
the criminal justice system in Canada that we are proposing through this
bill, and that is treating prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation,
treating prostitutes themselves as victims, as they are in the scenario you
The overall objectives of this bill are to reduce the demand for
prostitution by targeting the consumer, the pimps and the johns who are the
enablers; making prostitution itself illegal, which is a move away from
simply criminalizing certain aspects or parts of the practice; and
discouraging entry into prostitution itself. I think preemptive efforts
should not be undersold as critical to what we are attempting to do here:
deterring prostitution at its very origins so that the underlying causes, of
which there are many, remain the type of work being done in other areas of
mental health, addiction services, poverty, housing and child care. Those
are issues that I know you, in your previous career, were working on closely
to deter and, ultimately, diminish prostitution to the greatest extent
Some were scoffing at the fact that we hope to eliminate prostitution, as
I previously said. That is what we are, in effect, attempting to do. Is it
something that will happen quickly? Of course not. Is it something that will
require enormous effort? Beyond any criminal justice initiative, it will
require enormous effort and investment.
I believe these new objectives, coupled with the programming that I
mentioned earlier, are the right thing to do. I believe this is the advice
that we've been receiving and it is the example that has been pursued in
other jurisdictions that has helped to address the extremely inherently
dangerous practice of prostitution. It has a very broad and sweeping impact
on so many communities in Canada and will require a particular approach that
will be unique to them.
This bill, I believe, goes a long way to allow our criminal justice
officials but it will bring about greater collaboration to address all of
those underpinnings of prostitution.
Senator Batters: Minister, since Bill C-36 introduced, there has
been a lot of misinformation in media reports concerning the advertising
provisions of this bill. I would like you to clarify the advertising
provisions as they relate to individuals who sell their own sexual services.
Mr. MacKay: As I previously mentioned, the selling of one's own
sexual services will not be criminalized by this bill. It is focused on
those who enable and perpetuate prostitution — the advertisers themselves
and the pimps who use advertising — and it applies to all forms of
advertising. In this bill, we view advertising as one of those causes that
have to be addressed. But, again, for reasons that are clearly stated in the
Bedford case and have been clearly outlined by witnesses, on balance,
prostitutes themselves should not be subject to criminal prosecution.
When one considers all of the factors we are discussing here, we believe
targeting those who are enabling the advertising and those who are enabling
prostitution through that medium will be, in fact, subject to prosecution.
Senator Jaffer: Chair, with your permission, may I ask the clerk
to distribute a small chart that I had prepared for the minister to look at?
Minister, thank you very much for your presentation and for being here
today. I have a number of questions, but I know time is limited so I will
try to ask them as fast as I can.
In the House of Commons hearings on July 7, Mr. Piragoff stated in
responding to a question:
The overall objective of Bill C-36 is to reduce prostitution,
discourage entry into prostitution, and to deter participation. It also
recognizes that the process of trying to deter prostitution is not an
easy avenue, and that in the course of that people who engage in
prostitution and selling sexual services need to be protected.
Minister, the latter part of this statement is most pertinent in
addressing what Bedford requested, not so much to decrease
prostitution but rather to protect the women who are in the work. You have
been very persuasive in your desire to protect sexual workers. Can you
specifically state how you feel in this bill that women will be protected,
that sexual workers will be protected? I know you've spoken very
persuasively about reducing prostitution and I don't think anybody in this
room disagrees with you on that, but I disagree with you in the emphasis you
have put in the sense that my reading of Bedford is that we need to
protect sexual workers; the sexual workers have rights as well. I'm not
completely confident that this bill will protect sexual workers. Can you
please elaborate on that?
Mr. MacKay: Thank you very much, Senator Jaffer. I am emphatic in
my belief that this bill will do both; in fact, it will help reduce
prostitution itself, but will create the climate in which prostitutes can
take certain specific measures, steps to further protect themselves or
insulate themselves from violence. Reducing the demand, targeting the
perpetrators — pimps and johns — is a major thrust, focus of the bill. The
bill also focuses, as I said, law enforcement's resources and attentions
primarily on those responsible for prostitution, mainly the individuals who
exploit women and in particular those who are drawn to prostitution because
of their vulnerability.
To answer your question specifically, it is this bill's underlying
premise that it would not prohibit individuals, as some would argue and
certainly as the court accepted, from taking specific measures to protect
themselves. They include mainly fixed indoor locations being not precluded
from areas in which sexual services are sold, including indoor locations,
whether this is done independently or cooperatively. It also allows for and
is permissive in the sense that individuals can have bodyguards in their
employ. They can have individuals, for example, who act as spotters, who
record certain information, which acts as a deterrent.
I've spoken already about the advertising, and this issue of
criminalizing the receiving of financial or material benefit by individuals
who are around them who are not in an exploitative relationship. These were
all factors, among others, that the court pointed out increased
vulnerability of prostitutes.
We have eliminated, I believe, some of those barriers to taking steps to
ensure greater safety. Having said that, I need to emphasize that there is,
in my view, no possibility of eliminating all of the inherent dangers
because of the very nature of prostitution and, having just answered your
question about how to create better, safer conditions, it's not the intent
of the bill and it's certainly not the intent of the government to enable,
encourage or further foster individuals entering prostitution. Prostitution
is now de facto illegal, but the emphasis and the focus is on the purchaser
and the perpetrator, the pimps who are attempting to exploit and gain
materially from prostitution itself.
The Chair: We will have to interrupt. I gave the lead questioners
a little more latitude but the minister will be leaving soon. We have an
opportunity for each senator to ask a question while the minister is here,
so I encourage you all to tighten up your questions, and, minister, I know
it's a challenging subject to deal with in a cursory way, but I encourage
questions and answers to be as brief as possible so we all have an
Senator McIntyre: I have two quick questions. My first has to do
with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. As I understand, provisions under the
act would apply in the case of an individual under the age of 18. In other
words, the act would cover any interactions that would involve someone under
the age of 18. I want you to confirm that.
Mr. MacKay: That's correct.
Senator McIntyre: My other question has to do with the human
trafficking component of this bill. Can you explain why human trafficking
and prostitution are closely linked and cannot be separated from each other?
Mr. MacKay: That's a very good question. First, I do confirm, as
you said, the that Youth Criminal Justice Act would apply here and found
within the pages of Bill C-36, as you know, are efforts to augment the
penalties associated with child prostitution in particular, because this is
clearly a more aggravating circumstance when individuals fit that definition
of a child. They are more vulnerable.
On the human trafficking component, trafficking, like prostitution, is a
terrible crime. It's exploitative at its core. Many women, in particular new
Canadians and Aboriginal Canadians, are subject to trafficking for the
purposes of prostitution, so therefore they are inextricably linked and, in
my view, in the criminal justice system they cannot truly be separated in
our approach, in our response, in our efforts to alleviate the harm and to
extricate women from these very exploitative circumstances.
A lot of jurisdictions that we examined that have decriminalized or
legalized prostitution have actually seen an increase, an uptick in human
trafficking, which proves the point that they are in fact closely linked and
associated. It's for that reason that we have not gone down the road of
legalization or decriminalization, because we believe that it would bring
about greater harm and a rise in trafficking. Jurisdictions we've looked at
prove that out.
Again, referring to outside jurisdictions, the European Parliament
interestingly quite recently, just this spring, endorsed what is being
described as classically the Nordic model. While ours is the Canadian model,
it borrows heavily from that approach, and the Council of Europe recommended
that member states observe this approach that included the focusing on
perpetrators while focusing their rehabilitative efforts and efforts to help
exit prostitution on the prostitutes themselves.
This bill, these amendments are consistent between the human trafficking
offences and the proposed prostitution offences found in Bill C-36. It
increases the maximum penalty; it imposes mandatory minimum penalties for
receiving material benefit from child trafficking; and I believe it is again
an approach that recognizes that these two societal ills are very closely
Senator Joyal: I would like to draw your attention to proposed
subclause 286.5 in the bill. I will give an interpretation of it and I would
like to have your comment, if possible.
According to my reading of proposed subsection 286.5, a prostitute can
advertise her service or his service; can hire a cab to go and pick up a
customer; can hire a bodyguard; can partner with other prostitutes to offer
her services and be totally within the legality of that section. Am I right
in interpreting that clause that way?
Mr. MacKay: The answer, Senator Joyal, is that if it is not of an
exploitative nature; that is, if it is not providing material benefit to a
third person. It's obviously going to be examined in its circumstance. That
is, is there intimidation? Is it done in a way that perpetuates violence or
addiction? Otherwise, the answer is yes.
Senator Joyal: In other words, a person who, totally of her or his
own free will, offers his or her sexual services against money —
essentially, it's a commercial transaction for remuneration —
Mr. MacKay: It's remuneration, yes.
Senator Joyal: — can advertise his or her service on the Internet,
for instance, or in any newspaper or magazine. As I said, they can hire a
cab, a taxi driver, to go and pick up customers, who contacts that person;
they can hire a bodyguard at her or at his apartment, to make sure that
safety is maintained; and that person would be totally within the legality
of proposed subsection 286.5. That is, as you said and I agree, if that
person is not working for a pimp or a john to give a percentage of the
remuneration, or is a person under threat, either not having his or her
drugs, or all the other circumstances that we might understand.
I want to concentrate on the act of selling sexual services against
remuneration under free will.
Mr. MacKay: The short answer is yes. There is immunity from
prosecution. In the strict legal sense it is a criminal act, but there is
specific immunity set out in the Criminal Code in that section.
Senator Joyal: If there is immunity in that context, how can you
then target the person who pays for those services as being a criminal? That
is where I have some problems connecting the logic of those legal activities
within proposed section 286.5 and the fact that a person receiving those
services would pay for those services.
Mr. MacKay: The short answer there is that the immunization from
prosecution is because of the clear recognition that the prostitute is a
victim. Therein lies the difference. You have individuals who are victims
and individuals who are materially benefiting and exploiting. It comes back
to your earlier question of exploitative relationship. The exploiter is
participating in a criminal act; the prostitute, even though willing in some
cases, is the victim. It's a power imbalance that we are trying to capture
in these code sections.
Senator Joyal: There is a nuance between the fact that I am a pimp
who is exploiting a person, him or her, and I am subjected to the context of
a criminal exploitation. In the context of a free operation of her own will,
without the context of exploitation by a pimp, how can the person who pays
freely for services that are legally advertised, that are legally offered,
and that are legally performed, that scenario, be seen as the complicity of
a victim status that the provision does not recognize for that person who
offers his or her service freely? That's why I think there is a nuance that
the court will want to investigate.
Mr. MacKay: They will investigate, without doubt, and will look at
the individual circumstances in every case. I would suggest, senator, that
the very question of "is it of free will," when one considers the
circumstances of the prostitute, whether there are a plethora of underlying
causes of addiction, exploitation or violence, is it truly of their free
will and is there an acceptance — I don't believe there is — by courts or by
experts who examine prostitution that it isn't a power imbalance, that it
isn't the commodification and gender exploitation that is so endemic in
prostitution; that is so associated with how women in particular and young
women find themselves in these circumstances.
Telescoping back, that is what we must keep in mind in what these
sections attempt to accomplish. We believe that the providing of immunity
for the prostitute allows the right focus, the force of the law, to be
brought to bear on the perpetrators, while at the same time providing safer
conditions in which women who continue to practise will eventually be able
to avail themselves of exit programs and strategies. It is a simultaneous
effort that will have to occur.
Your committee is looking at this bill but please, senators, keep in mind
that the continuation of programming and the good work that is being done,
and we hope will be bolstered by further funding and resources, will allow a
clear path for prostitutes to leave prostitution. It is that simultaneous
effort that I think will bring about results. How quickly and effectively we
are able to do that really begins in part with the passage of this
legislation, but obviously a great deal of the harm that is being done will
be lessened when we lessen the demand and we increase the availability of
programming and optionality for prostitutes.
Senator Plett: I have a list of questions, but obviously I won't
be able to ask them all. Thank you for being here.
First, let me say I support the intent of the bill; I support the bill
completely. I am one of those who wish the bill would maybe go further than
In the immunity part of the bill, we talk about the prostitutes being
victims. Senator Batters said 14-year-old girls and I support that 100 per
cent. We have 14-year-old boys or 14-year-old girls selling drugs. They
don't have immunity. They are also victims somewhere along the line and yet
they are charged.
My concern is this, minister: In the long term, if we take away the
customers we close down the business. I understand that and support that.
However, in the short term, is the pimp going to say to the 14-, or 15-, or
16-year-old girl, "I am losing many of my customers. You cannot be
prosecuted, so you just go out there and hustle a little harder to make sure
you keep as much activity going as possible." Do we have some short-term
solution for that? I agree with the long term; I support it 100 per cent. I
would like you to address that.
Quickly, regarding the $20 million, how was that figure of $20 million
arrived at? I read in one report that the United States has $10 million for
10 times as many people doing the same thing. Where did we get the $20
Mr. MacKay: Answering your latter question first, the $20 million
figure we believe is a reasonable investment to begin. It's also important
to view that figure as complementary to other programs and other resources,
including the Aboriginal Justice Strategy and ongoing programs delivered
and, in some cases, also financed by provinces and territories. That
$20-million figure should not be viewed in isolation. There are other
specific investments in the area, to reference Senator McIntyre's question
about combatting human trafficking. That is a component element, but also
overlapping funding. There is the National Crime Prevention Strategy and the
Victims Fund. All of this should be seen in its totality and not in
isolation as that $20-million figure.
I would also respond to your question about a short-term impact. We want
an immediate impact, obviously. The mindset, we hope, that will quickly
evolve is that the victims will feel empowered to come forward and report if
they are in this exploitative relationship and find they are being
victimized by pimps and by johns. We heard this testimony. We heard from
prostitutes that there is in many cases a reluctance to report for fear of
prosecution themselves, that they will fall victim, if you will, to being
charged criminally and, therefore, there is a reticence to report.
Removing that possibility, we hope, will encourage reporting. We hope it
will empower those victims, those prostitutes, to come forward and cooperate
with police and social workers, those who are tasked to help them, with the
clear knowledge that they are not going to wind up with a criminal record.
That is, in part, an answer to your question.
With regard to young people, in particular, to use your example of the
14-year-old, there now will be elevated penalties. That's something I know,
Senator Plett, that you and I can very much agree on, that those who prey on
children, in particular, in whatever context, should be prosecuted to the
full extent of the law and should face serious penalties and incarceration.
So that is an underlying theme in this bill as well.
Children, in other legislative initiatives that we've taken, are very
much presented as our most vulnerable and our most valuable citizens, so
more can be done in the criminal justice context in that regard.
I come back to the basic premise of this bill, which is a shift away from
previous efforts — which were failing, quite frankly — and that is to focus
on the demand, as you said, to focus on how we discourage entry and
participation in prostitution itself, and to go after that demand, to go
after the exploiters, the perpetrators, those who are really behind what we
know are the numerous complex issues that drive prostitution.
I'm confident that, with this greater collaborative approach and focus,
we will start to have the desired effect of reducing prostitution and
reducing the other social ills and issues that are associated with
prostitution itself. It's certainly hopeful that it will lessen human
suffering, which is again so closely associated with this, and I go back to
Senator Jaffer's point about not criminalizing the safety measures.
Taken in balance, I think we have measured all of these calculations very
carefully, taken the advice of experts, taken the input of those who find
themselves in these circumstances and really tried to broaden safety and
societal concerns, along with criminal justice measures and along with
programming, to do a better job helping those who are out there every day
doing important work to help the many people affected by prostitution.
The Chair: Minister, we have two additional senators with brief
questions they'd like to pose, if you have time. We'll move on to Senator
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, minister, for your presentation. I
have two very brief questions for you.
First, why will the bill make it an offence for a third party to
advertise an offer to provide sexual services for consideration?
My second question is also about advertising: Will the provision making
it an offence to advertise sexual services also penalize editors, those who
publish newspaper ads, and will it also sanction website administrators who
post such ads?
Mr. MacKay: The answer to the second question is yes. But the
intent of this bill is not to focus on prostitutes. Its purpose is to attack
In essence, we see the advertising component of prostitution as clearly
one of those underlying enablers that fuels the demand, that invites greater
exploitation and that enables pimps, quite frankly, the exploiters. So it is
that highway to greater prostitution, the proliferation and expansion of
prostitution. That's why we're going after the advertisers.
But you're absolutely right in saying this isn't meant to go after the
sole individual, the prostitute themselves, who may choose, either through
the Internet or through other forms of advertising, to say, "This is what
I'm doing." Again, we offer that immunity because of the recognition and
acceptance that a prostitute is a victim in that regard, and all of those
underlying, back causes that have led the person to that point in their
life. We think, on balance, the focus needs to remain on the enablers and
the perpetrators, and that means pimps and johns.
Senator McInnis: Thank you, minister, and thank you for being
One of the positive things, perhaps, of this issue becoming high profile
is that the media and others are starting to pay attention to the severity
of this. I got up one Saturday morning — in fact, on August 30 — and it was
captioned on the front page of The Chronicle Herald. It was a
full-page story of "lost girl." They chronicled this young 13-year-old
girl who was from a broken home and how her troubled life lured her into
easy money and prostitution, drugs, brand- name clothing and that type of
thing. She would see as many as five clients a day, aged 18 to 70. Many of
her peers do the same thing. In fact, she estimates that she could name 50
in Halifax alone. Police estimate the same number. Goodness knows how many
others there are in the larger cities.
She states that one of their big fears is they will be taken away to
Toronto by pimps. Let me quote what she says here in one small paragraph:
I don't know how to convince people to stay away from it. It's dirty
and it's sad and I just shouldn't have been in that situation. I missed
out on my innocence. It's not like I can go back.
She is, as I say, under 16. She's been involved in prostitution and
drugs, a dangerous life, afraid of pimps, loss of teenage years, no
education, and now she's trying to get back into the educational system.
I guess the question is, and you've touched on some of it: What is this
going to do, and what programs do we have that will aid and abet these
individuals to get back to a normal life?
Mr. MacKay: Well, it will take a Herculean effort, to be sure. I'm
heartened by the fact that there are tremendous organizations in the country
today, individuals who have literally devoted their lives to this effort of
helping to liberate predominantly women from modern slavery.
This newspaper account that you've described underscores some of the
other insidious elements of prostitution. For young people — in particular,
young women — who are isolated from their peer group and parents, their
normal support mechanisms are gone, and so they're trapped; or they're moved
away from their home and community and again further captured by that
circumstance, and then forced into the acts of prostitution, in large part
with violence, intimidation and blackmail. There are elements of cybercrime
that touch on prostitution, that people are blackmailed into these acts of
prostitution by fear of disclosures of certain images or things that are
So, to answer your question more precisely, the focus of the bill is on
the perpetrators, the immunity provisions, the stricter penalties and the
support of the ongoing work that is being done. I mentioned specifically,
for example, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, or CEASE, in
Edmonton, whom we heard from; Streetlight Support Services in Toronto; the
prostitution education programs that exist in our province, in Nova Scotia.
I was in London, Ontario, several times during our consultation and the
London Abused Women's Centre and Sextrade101; people like Megan Walker and
many others who have devoted their lives to this. Joy Smith, our colleague
in the House of Commons and many others are continuing their very real,
tangible efforts to help bring people to a better place and bring them out
of this exploitation.
I just want to leave you with a quote, if I might, from one of the
witnesses who testified. She said:
Prostitution is not a career choice made by the vast majority of
women in the sex trade. Life gives them few options. Prostitution almost
always leads to these women becoming victims of violence.
It is that fear, that underlying violence, that we need to continue to
focus on. That's what this bill does in its underpinnings. That's what the
programming, funding and further support networks will do, but, make no
mistake about it, it is going to take time and extreme effort to help
prevent, pre-empt and pull people away from prostitution.
The Chair: Minister, thank you for coming early and staying
overtime and giving senators who wished to pose a question directly to you
the opportunity to do so. It is very much appreciated. Do you have a final
Mr. MacKay: If I might, Mr. Chair, only thank you for being here
and for pre-empting. I know this is being done in a preliminary way and your
work will continue.
But if I might, by your leave, table this technical document which
provides further background information. We tabled this with the House of
Commons committee. I would like your committee to also have the benefit of
The Chair: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. We will let the
minister depart and then we will continue with Justice officials.
Just as a reminder to members, we now have appearing before us Donald
Piragoff, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Sector; Nathalie Levman,
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section; and Carole Morency, Director General
and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section at Justice Canada.
We appreciate your appearance here today.
Senator Baker: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to the
witnesses. Congratulations on the excellent job you are doing in the
My question relates to the form of this bill. Given the fact that the
Supreme Court of Canada noted in its decision that times have changed, we
move on, there are different matters that affect legislation, it's an
ever-changing world when it comes to legislation. It's a fluid process.
I don't know if you can answer this question, but when I picked up the
bill of the department, I was struck by the repeated reference in the bill
to crime comics. In proposed subsection164(1), it says:
. . . is obscene or a crime comic, as defined in section 163;
Now, section 163 defines a crime comic as being any publication,
fictitious or otherwise, that shows violence. I'm paraphrasing. I turn the
page and there are three references to crime comics on page 4 of the bill.
I know that the only litigation that is recorded on crime comics involves
the Dick Tracy crime comics, Court of Appeal of Manitoba, and that has been
used by the courts. It's a confined area of law that does not deal with
prostitution or anything that is considered to be obscene, but simply deals
with comic books; yet we have it entrenched in this bill. I know you're not
changing the law, but you're repeating it.
Do you have a process in the Department of Justice to correct these
things that belong back in the 1940s? In today's world, violence in comic
books is a comical subject.
To me, it was an affront when I looked at it, and the continual
repetition of a crime comic in this legislation. Do you have an answer to
the question I'm proposing?
Nathalie Levman, Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of
Justice Canada: This bills deals with advertisements for sexual
services, and the point of these provisions is to add advertisements for
sexual services into the provisions that authorize takedowns, et cetera; it
wasn't to substantively change the provisions. What you see is the phrase
"advertisement for sexual services" inserted into the existing provision.
It wasn't intended to address crime comics; it's just what was there.
Senator Baker: The drafters of the legislation had the opportunity
to remove something from the law that is considered to be, in this day and
age, rather comical. Is there any provision that you have to correct these
things that are part of the Criminal Code that shouldn't be repeated, as it
is in this legislation?
Donald Piragoff, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Sector,
Department of Justice Canada: Senator, the cabinet gave authority to
amend the Criminal Code to deal with prostitution and prostitution issues.
Cabinet did not give officials the authority to change the law with respect
to comic books. That's the process.
We cannot simply say, as we open up a section, "Oh, I, as an official,
think this is ancient and should be taken out." That is something for
governments to give us direction on and for Parliament. Maybe this is an
example of a good private members' bill or a senator's private business
Senator Batters: Some Canadians have expressed confusion over the
fact that Bill C-36 criminalizes the purchase of sex for the first time in
Canada, yet the bill in most cases immunizes from prosecution the seller of
sex — the prostitute. Could you explain the reason for this asymmetrical
criminal law in this case and give us examples of asymmetrical criminal law
in Canada to help people understand?
Ms. Levman: Maybe I'll start with the best example that I know of,
which is existing subsection 212.4 of the Criminal Code which criminalizes
obtaining sexual services for consideration from minors.
New section 286.1 is modelled on existing 212.4. It's exactly the same
approach whereby you criminalize the person who purchases as the person who
creates the demand for the exploitative practice, but not the person who
sells because that person is considered to be a victim of that transaction,
and that is the logic behind criminalizing the purchasing but not the sale.
Senator Batters: From a technical point of view, can you tell us
how Bill C-36 addresses the concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada
in the Bedford decision about the safety of prostitutes?
Ms. Levman: Well, it addresses the safety concerns in a number of
different ways, and not just the safety concerns that were raised in the
Supreme Court of Canada's decision, but the broader safety and social
concerns that the minister mentioned this morning.
First of all, because prostitution is viewed as inherently exploitative,
obviously reducing the incidence of prostitution will create greater safety
because fewer people will be subjected to it.
Second, those who remain in it are not prevented from implementing
certain safety measures that were outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in
the Bedford case. The minister went over what some of those are. For
example, selling sexual services at a fixed, indoor location; hiring
protective services; and also negotiating safer conditions for the sale of
sex in places other than where those specific locations are designed for the
use of children.
Also, I would say that Bill C-36 targets the exploiters and that also
enhances safety — not just the pimps, the procurers, as existing criminal
law does, but also the person who purchases, the person who creates the
demand in the first place.
Senator Jaffer: When I read the Bedford case a number of
times, the mantra for me from that decision was the violence of a john does
not diminish the role of the state in making a prostitute more vulnerable to
that violence. The state also has a responsibility to protect sex workers.
With that in mind, tell me why you didn't think that the health and
safety of workers should be mentioned in the bill's preamble. The minister
mentioned a number of times the issue of young people. In other sections you
have added it, and in other parts of the code it exists, but you didn't make
it an indictable offence rather than a summary for a john that picks up a
child under the age of 18.
My third question is: I understand you asked for a peer-reviewed report
from the BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/ AIDS, and the Pivot Legal Society
produced a report on the impact of criminalization of clients. Can you tell
us the results of that study? I understand, as part of that study, they
looked at Sweden and Norway. Can you tell us what the report concluded as to
what is happening with the almost-Canada model that exists in Sweden and
Norway? Does it protect the sex workers?
Ms. Levman: There were several questions embedded in there. Let me
start from the last one.
Sweden's approach was evaluated by its government in 2010, and the
results were that it did succeed in reducing the incidence of prostitution.
Another study in Norway was just recently released. Unfortunately most of it
is in Norwegian, but there is a little bit in English. My understanding is
the Norwegian government has come to similar results.
This type of research is all referenced in that technical paper that the
minister tabled today for your review, so if you look at the international
Senator Jaffer: I think you misunderstood. You asked Pivot to do a
report on this, and I'm asking you what the results were.
Ms. Levman: Now, we didn't ask Pivot. I know that Pivot did a
Senator Jaffer: What did they say about the criminalization?
Ms. Levman: My understanding of their study is that it looked at
the impact of a policy that was implemented by the Vancouver Police
Department whereby they would only target johns under section 213, and it
was a qualitative study, and the people who responded who were sex workers,
about 30 of them as I understand, said that they didn't feel any more safe
as a result of the implementation of that policy. That's my understanding,
and that's one study of many, and so I would again direct you to the portion
of the technical paper that goes over all of the various studies and uses
larger samples as well on that point.
Now you mentioned something about purchasing sexual services for minors
being indictable. It is a strictly indictable offence. Section 286.1(1) is
the purchasing offence where sexual services are purchased from adults, and
286.1(2) is the purchasing offence where sexual services are purchased from
minors under age 18. That is a strictly indictable offence and it raises the
penalties. It is the same offence as in 212(4) but moved to Part VIII of the
code to be with the other prostitution offences, and it would raise the
maximum penalty to 10 years, strictly indictable, and has a mandatory
minimum penalty of six months for a first offence and one year for
Mr. Piragoff: I'll answer the first question, senator. With
respect to the quote you made from the Bedford decision about the
state's obligation not to make the situation more dangerous for sex workers
on the street, this bill goes out of its way to ensure that it doesn't put
more hindrances or facilitates the increase of danger. It does a number of
things, as the minister indicated.
I believe Senator Baker asked the question about studies in the past
where the result was people going to the back alleys because under the
existing law both the seller of sex and the purchaser of sex were guilty if
they tried to communicate a transaction. They wouldn't do it out in the
open. They would go into the back. The comment was, well, that forced people
into the back alleys and it's not safe.
They had to go in the back alleys where it's not safe because they
couldn't do it at home. She couldn't work out of her apartment because if
she worked out of her apartment twice it became a bawdy house. This law now
says, no, you don't have to work on the street. You can work out of the
safety of your apartment. You can hire a bodyguard. You can work with a
friend out of the safety of an apartment, two of you together. As long as
you don't exploit one another, you can work together and be safe. You don't
have to go on the street. But if you do go out on the street now, you can
still have a bodyguard, as long as it's a legitimate, non-exploitive
bodyguard working with you to protect you on the street. You can have a
spotter, a fellow prostitute or somebody else, taking down licence plate
The bill has removed a lot of the elements of the existing law which the
Supreme Court of Canada said tended to push prostitution to areas of
dangerousness. You can work inside. If you want to work on the street, you
can have bodyguards and you can have spotters. You also have the ability now
— this is the sex worker — unlike the current law, to screen your client
because it's no longer a crime for you to communicate for the purpose of
sale. You have the time. Your client may not have the time, but you as a sex
worker have the time to screen the client as much as you want. You don't
have to jump in the car quickly because you are afraid you will be arrested,
because you won't be arrested.
The Chair: I've given you additional time. Senator McIntyre.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you to the three of you for being here. I
simply wish to pick up where Senator Baker left off when he addressed the
issue of form.
Bill C-36 comprises a preamble and 49 clauses. Some clauses make
consequential amendments to other acts by replicating code offences in the
National Defence Act, technical amendments, linguistic amendments,
reformulations, the purpose of which is to clarify the intent of the
legislator. I also note that several sections of the legislation are amended
to include offences created by the bill, an existing list of offences with
respect to the dangerous offender registry and the DNA sampling.
As draftsmen of this bill, are you satisfied with it? I'm not asking you
if you agree or not with the bill, but are you satisfied with the overall
drafting of the bill? I ask that because certain terms are not defined in
the bill, such as the definition of "sexual services," "public place"
and so on. Could I have your comment on that?
Ms. Levman: Thank you for that question.
Yes, I'm satisfied that the terminology, the phrases used in the bill,
have meaning in Canadian law, and I would direct you again to the technical
paper, which actually goes over the jurisprudence interpreting some of those
phrases. For example, the phrase "sexual services" is in existing
subsection 212(4), and there is quite a body of law interpreting what that
means. It narrows it to the context of prostitution, but also gives a
certain amount of flexibility for courts to adjust to new ways of effecting
it. I feel that it does give a very clear standard for courts to apply.
Again, "public place," "open to public view," these types of phrases
already exist in the code. There is case law interpreting them. To define
them would be potentially to alter that case law, which hasn't been in
dispute and isn't difficult for courts to apply.
Drafting is always like that. When you use newer phrases, you might want
to define it if there is no jurisprudential context for it, but where there
is jurisprudential context, it's a decision to leave that jurisprudence in
place and allow it to continue to apply to assist judges in interpreting
Senator Joyal: Mr. Piragoff, if you can continue on the answer you
were giving earlier on to Senator Jaffer in relation to subsection 286.5. On
the basis of a legal activity performed by a prostitute in the context you
have just described, what kind of legal link can you make between the fact
that a person is performing a legal activity but the person who is part of
that activity becomes criminally responsible?
Mr. Piragoff: If you look at the language used in the section that
you referred, Senator Joyal, it says no person shall be prosecuted. It
doesn't say no person commits an offence or no person is criminally liable.
It says no person shall be prosecuted in the following circumstances. It's
an immunity from prosecution. That doesn't mean that the person is not
involved in illegal activity.
It's just like the situation of a trafficker of drugs. The trafficker of
drugs sells drugs; that's a crime. The purchaser does not commit a crime.
There's no offence of purchase of drugs, but that still is criminal
activity. The purchaser, however, could be aiding and abetting, or by
conspiracy if they buy a lot of drugs, be liable as a conspirator. That's
why the provision also says no person shall be prosecuted if they aid or
abet or conspire with someone else, such as one of the other people who
might be involved. It's a distinction between saying no liability.
There are many other examples of asymmetrical offences. No child under 12
can commit an offence, but if a person counsels an 11- or 10-year-old to
commit an offence, that person can be convicted of counselling, but the
child can't be. We have lots of examples of asymmetrical situations where
one person is immune while the other person is guilty.
Senator Joyal: But, indirectly, you deprive the person of a legal
living by criminalizing the purchasing of the services in that context. In
my opinion, there is a totally different context into which a pimp is
recruiting customers on the basis of getting sexual favours, because then
you could reason on the basis that there is a complicit link between the one
who is the intermediary and the person who accepts that context.
For a prostitute who exercises her capacity of providing sexual services
to a person who is willing to accept that and the legal status to buy them,
I don't see how in court you will be able to sustain the legality of the
criminal responsibility of the person who purchased the services in those
Mr. Piragoff: I believe the minister answered the question
already. The purchaser is being criminalized for the exploitative conduct of
purchasing. Purchasing sex is exploitative conduct for all the various
reasons that the minister gave and, therefore, that person is guilty for
their own conduct. They are not guilty for the conduct of the person selling
them sex. They are guilty for the fact that they are buying sex and that
they are keeping a person in a type of activity which the government feels
is harmful and, therefore, the government's view is that this is the victim.
It comes down to a policy decision in the end, so it's not purely a
question of logic of the law. It's also a question of policy. Do you want to
increase prostitution in Canada or deter and reduce prostitution? Once you
make that decision, you have certain legal options as to how to affect that
Senator Joyal: You are again coming back to the decision in
Bedford in section 7. My opinion in this very specific context of
section 286.4 is, as you rightly described, in my opinion, in a previous
answer, that there is no legal basis to get to criminality of someone who
purchased a service that is legally offered within the context of section
If I were to be charged, I would challenge it on the basis of the
constitutionality. The person who offers a legal service, one that is
totally recognized as being legal in specific circumstances, cannot be found
criminally responsible to have purchased those services that are legally
Mr. Piragoff: It's not a legal service that is being offered. It
is a service which the bill says we will not prosecute you for. There is a
Senator Joyal: Still, in my opinion, as I said, the person who of
her own will offers a service in the context you have just described, within
the confines of a private apartment, advertises it within the confines of a
direct offer, who sends her driver to pick up the customer, who has a
bodyguard in front — all those people who are part of the activity and are,
as you say, immune from prosecution, but they are part of the activities and
they are totally aware of the activities. The landlord is aware of the
activities; everyone is aware of the activities. However, the person who
will pay rightly for the service offered would be charged criminally. I
really don't see the link of legality of criminality between something that
is offered totally within the confines of the bill at present.
Ms. Levman: I believe that in law a criminal act is still being
committed because they are party to one of the prostitution offences. The
fact that section 286.5 immunizes them from prosecution is solely as a
result of Bill C-36's position that they are victims that need assistance,
but Bill C-36 isn't saying that their role is legal. It's not facilitating
Senator McInnis: Thank you very much.
I don't know how much you know about polls, but I want you to comment on
the consultative process that Justice went through. Senator Baker mentioned
earlier that there was a poll saying fifty-fifty; it might have been
Ispos-Reid, but I'm not sure. That's a poll taken randomly. They select 4
per cent or whatever across the country.
I understand you had a paper and series of questions you put up online.
You had a web page, used Twitter, did all of these things and posed the
questions. I think 31,000 individuals responded: Do you think the purchasing
sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Fifty-six per
cent said should be a criminal offence; 44 per cent not. Do you think
selling sexual services by an adult should be criminal offence? Sixty-six
per cent, or 17,801, felt it should not be, as opposed to 34 per cent. It
goes on with another question about whether it should be a criminal offence
to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult, and 62 per cent
to 38 per cent felt it should be a criminal offence to benefit economically
You obviously did that, and I think it was a worthy thing for you to do,
but I would like your comment. Often governments try to bring about
legislation that hits the majority of Canadians and, if they don't, it's to
their peril. Sometimes you have to bring legislation where the majority is
not there, but mostly you do.
Do you want to comment on that effort you made here? I just presumed you
were experts in polls when I asked that.
Ms. Levman: It was a month-long consultation process whereby
people got to send in their responses, and it was one of many different
factors that informed the development of the bill. It was not just the
public consultation. Obviously, the Bedford decision was extremely
important as well as jurisprudence, research, et cetera. The government
wanted to hear from Canadians as to what they thought the law should be and
the results, although 56 per cent isn't a huge majority, do support the
approach taken in Bill C-36.
Mr. Piragoff: There are differences between the public opinion
poll and the consultation. The public opinion poll is essentially on the
moment, on the telephone call. There is no background information, and it is
an uninformed opinion: "What do you think?" and it's whatever comes to the
top of your mind — yes or no; I support it; I don't support it. That's a
public opinion poll.
A consultation, as you indicated, is different. It's more informed. There
was a two- or three-page document about various options that exist
throughout the world. Decriminalization is one option; the Nordic model is
another as is straight prohibition. There was a stimulus so that the person
who responds has more information. The disadvantage is that people who
respond to consultation online will probably have an interest in picking up
the computer and answering. There is a certain bias in that you have people
who are actually interested in answering the question as opposed to the
public opinion poll, which is a more uninformed stimulus question, but, of
course, you have a broad base of the population without people maybe being
interested in the topic and they have to answer it.
But with the two different techniques, if you look at the numbers, they
are generally close. There are some areas where there is a difference, but
basically they are very close together. Both types of polling techniques,
one by consultation and one by public opinion polls, tend to come up with a
close answer. Are they statistically close? I don't know. I'm not a
statistician to say that, but if you look at the numbers, they are generally
Senator Plett: As a supplementary question, I didn't read the poll
or the questions. Was one of the questions posed, how many people agreed or
disagreed with the Bedford decision?
Ms. Levman: No. As Mr. Piragoff said, there was some background
information included in the paper before you reached the questions and there
was information on the Bedford decision there, as well as different
policy approaches to prostitution, but the focus was forward-looking on what
respondents felt the law should be, not seeking opinions on court cases.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
The Chair: We have a few minutes left and an opportunity for a
quick second round.
Senator Baker: I will leave the repeated reference to comic books
in this bill and I'll move on. Why it's there is just beyond me. Why
couldn't it have been taken out?
Mr. Piragoff, your example of the drug trafficker I don't think is a good
one because you said it's not illegal for somebody to receive the drug. Of
course, it is. They can be charged with possession under a different section
under the Criminal Code.
I think the point Senator Joyal is making is that it is difficult to
conceive of a situation where one can be charged with being party to a legal
offence, to a legal act. In other words, the act of prostitution, as you
have described it and the minister described it, as far as the prostitute is
concerned, is a legal act and is not an illegal act.
You say that the person will not be prosecuted; they are exempt from
prosecution. The decision to prosecute is made in the first instance by the
police; in the second, instance by the Crown. That's our system in Canada.
So could we see a situation here with the passage of this bill where a
search warrant were issued or warrants with listening devices on them into a
prostitute's apartment to investigate an offence, in that you're saying the
departmental opinion is this is an illegal activity for which one person
will not be prosecuted? The second part of my question is this: Canadians
look at this and say, "This is very bizarre." You make prostitution de
facto illegal, but it's legal for the prostitute; the act of prostitution
for her or him is still legal. It's rather bizarre. It's an indirect way,
the de facto illegality of it; you do everything on the outskirts of it.
Is there anywhere in Canadian history that explains why Canada has chosen
since 1869 in the Criminal Code not to criminalize the act of prostitution,
why we've gone down the various roads we have in the Criminal Code in
indirectly making it illegal but in actual legal terms it's a legal act?
Mr. Piragoff: That's where we beg to differ, senator. It is an
illegal act, but for the provision which grants immunity. Even if the law
only directly penalized the purchase of sex, the seller could be a party to
that purchase, but for the fact that Bill C-36 explicitly says you cannot be
prosecuted for that.
Without that immunity provision, a seller of sex could be a party to a
purchaser, just as a purchaser of drugs can be a party to the selling, and
that's how purchasers get caught up because they get caught up in a
conspiracy to buy a large quantity. In addition to the fact that they may be
possessors, they can also be charged with the actual trafficking.
It's the same with this. There's a difference between saying "no one
commits an offence if," as opposed to "no one shall be prosecuted if." "No one shall be prosecuted if," which is the language, presupposes that
there may be a crime there but we're not going to prosecute these people
because they are victims. They do not need to be prosecuted. The policy
decision is that they should be treated as victims. They need to find ways
to get exited out of the system. They need to find ways to get into programs
to help them exit, and you're not going to treat that by prosecuting them.
The Chair: We have three or four minutes.
Senator Joyal: Could you give additional explanation on section
286.2(4), which is another exception to the bill? It's the one that applies
to persons who receive the benefit in the context of a legitimate living
arrangement, or the result of legal or moral obligation of the person for
whom sexual services benefit is derived in consideration for a service or
good they offer, and so on.
Could you explain the objective of this exemption in the context of the
discussion we just had?
Ms. Levman: What you're describing is the provision that outlines
the legislated exceptions to the material benefit offence. The first three
of those four exceptions are based on case law interpreting the existing
living on the avails offence. The Grilo case found that people who
are in legitimate living arrangements with others who sell sexual services
are not covered by the living on the avails offence unless they are
exploitative. That is Grilo, Ontario Court of Appeal. It's also
referenced in the technical paper which explains these legislative
The legal and moral obligation legislative exception is also from the
Grilo case: supporting a dependent person who doesn't live with you, for
example giving a gift, et cetera. Again, it's carving out an area in which
sellers of sexual services can interact with others just like you or me
without foisting criminal liability upon those with whom they are
The third exception comes from a line of cases starting with a House of
Lords case, 1962, the Shaw case, that finds that, for example, if
you're an accountant and one of your clients you know sells sexual services,
you're still allowed to get paid for your services as long as they are
offered on the same terms and conditions as they would be offered to anyone
The fourth exception responds to the Bedford case directly. It
carves out an area in which people who sell sexual services, should they
fear for their safety, et cetera, can hire a friend, an acquaintance,
somebody who offers these types of services more informally, not Pinkerton
or Brinks because they would be covered by the third exception, and provided
that they are paying a proportionate amount for the service they receive and
that person is not involving themselves in the selling of sexual services in
any way — not encouraging or inciting them to do it — then there would be an
exception there for protective-type services or other services, in the same
way as if I feared for my safety and I wanted to hire someone to come and
Senator Jaffer: I wanted you to answer why health and safety of
sex workers was not mentioned in the bill's preamble.
Ms. Levman: The preamble talks about the inherent exploitation in
prostitution and the importance of protecting human dignity and equality,
recognizing the social harm caused by the objectification and the
commodification. I think that concepts like health and safety are
incorporated in these types of concepts.
The Chair: Thank you, witnesses, for your time and testimony. It's
very much appreciated.
For our next group of witnesses, please welcome, from the Canadian
Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Kim Pate, Executive Director; from
the Native Women's Association of Canada, Michèle Audette, President, and
Teresa Edwards, Director of International Affairs and Human Rights; and from
Walk With Me Canada, Robert Hooper, Chairperson, Board of Directors, and
Timea E. Nagy, Founder and Front-Line Victim Care Worker.
Ms. Audette, apparently you're going to begin. We're going to have five
minutes from each organization. Is that the intent or are you all planning
to speak five minutes as individuals? I'm not sure how you're going to
approach this. Five minutes by organization. We're fine with that? I'm not
seeing any reaction here.
Senator Baker: Or more.
Robert Hooper, Chairperson, Board of Directors, Walk With Me Canada:
From our perspective, we thought it was five minutes each, but it can be
five minutes in total if that's appropriate.
The Chair: That is the general rule of thumb. I can show a little
flexibility on that, but we want to give senators as many opportunities as
possible to direct questions to you and to give you the opportunity to
respond. We'll begin with Ms. Audette.
[Ms. Audette spoke in her native language.]
Michèle Audette, President, Native Women's Association of Canada
(NWAC): I thank the persons gathered here, and our colleagues, who are
going to debate with an open mind, I hope, a topic that weighs very heavily
on Aboriginal women. First of all, I do a great deal of work for the Native
Women's Association of Canada. It is a passion, but I am also the mother of
five children and I am extremely concerned about the present and future of
my sons, and especially of my young twin girls.
Thank you also for this invitation. We are going to reiterate our
concerns on this very timely matter and share with you our solutions, in the
hope that Aboriginal women will not be the forgotten ones in this bill.
The women of Canada deserve justice, protection, safety and dignity. The
Native Women's Association of Canada has worked since 1974 with the
provinces and territories in which we have sister organizations, which are
also networks directly linked to the communities.
As an Innu woman, I live in my community on a daily basis. I can tell you
that every day we hear and see this violence we are facing, we touch it, we
taste it. Unfortunately our senses have been alerted to these unacceptable
You know that there is also extreme poverty in Aboriginal communities and
that women are the ones most affected by that. The placement of our children
is still far too prevalent. In fact, at the first ministers' meeting in
Prince Edward Island two weeks ago, this issue was made a priority.
Why I am talking about the fact that children are put in care?
Unfortunately, you will have heard about Tina Fontaine, a young girl of 15
who was placed in a foster family and was subsequently found dead in a
garbage bag near a river. This sort of thing has to come to an end in
We also know that in that same region, each week, we hear about a new
case of a girl who has disappeared or has been found dead. I am talking
about Aboriginal girls. You surely saw on the CBC News, The National,
former street gang members, boys or men, state that Aboriginal women and
runaway girls or girls who were in foster homes were easy targets for human
trafficking, prostitution and the sex trade. This makes Aboriginal women and
girls extremely vulnerable.
We have also done research, listened to, mobilized, and met with women
who are unfortunately still in that environment, or have managed to get out
of it. The vast majority of them if not all of them have stated that this
was not a free choice that they made, not a decision they gave consent to,
but that they did not have a voice and were forced into this, under threat
of death if they tried to get out of it.
Human trafficking can involve girls as young as 7 to 12 in our Aboriginal
communities. These communities are part of Canada. We are all responsible
here. Most of the young women we met who are now women and grandmothers told
us that they were extremely affected by the violence in their communities,
but also within the broader Canadian community. Women who have worked in the
sex industry or prostitution were victims of their pimp, their john, or the
man who was selling them, and they were impacted by that.
Let me reiterate, in the few minutes we have left, that it is important
to specify that these women did not have a choice. We asked them again: "If
you had a choice, for the same amount of money, would you do this over
again?" Their answer was categorical: "No!" It is important to remember
that you have the legislative power to protect Aboriginal women, the power
to choose zero tolerance for sexual violence, zero tolerance for the sexual
exploitation of young Aboriginal girls and women, and to not criminalize
them for that. Most Aboriginal women wind up in jail for the unfortunate
reason that they live in extreme poverty and are trying to feed themselves
and feed their families. Sometimes prostitution was a choice imposed by the
need to feed their families.
Let us together find solutions that will allow them to get out of
poverty, have decent housing, and the funds that are allocated to doing that
should take into account the culture of the Aboriginal women of Canada.
I thank you most sincerely for these five minutes.
The Chair: Ms. Pate, I believe you are next. Please proceed.
Kim Pate, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry
Societies: Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members. I want to start
by acknowledging the traditional territory in which we have the privilege of
meeting, Algonquin territory. I think it's vitally important, particularly
when talking about this issue as with many other issues we discuss at this
table, to recognize the ongoing impact of colonization on our indigenous
peoples. It is certainly brought home to me every day in the last 30 years
where I've had the privilege, opportunity and, most importantly,
responsibility of walking in and being able to walk out of prisons for
women, particularly young women and children and even for men.
Our work with marginalized, victimized, criminalized and
institutionalized young people, particularly with young girls and women, has
meant that although this was not an issue that we ever chose to work on, it
is an issue that touches us every day of the 30 years we have been doing
this work. I never intended to focus on prostitution. I never intended to be
arguing in this area. And yet every individual I have met, particularly
since working with women in the prison system, has been touched directly
and/or indirectly by this issue.
Prostitution, I would suggest to you, needs to be looked at as it is. It
raises fundamental issues of equality and violence against women.
I want to say a word about some of what has been in the media about this,
particularly social media. The discussions and media reports on this issue
have been incredibly divisive, dismissive, disrespectful and harmful,
particularly to those women with lived experience in the prostitution
industry who do not support complete decriminalization. I think that is
regrettable, reprehensible and quite unconscionable.
The fact that we have conversations and debate that cannot be respectful
and have been reduced to abuse I think is something that underscores some of
the difficulty in addressing this very issue. I encourage all people who are
working on this issue to recognize the common ground we have and to pursue
that common ground.
In regard to the comments that we're not having adequate discussion, I
also want to say that in my experience there has been more discussion on
this bill than any other crime bill, save perhaps the gun registry, ever put
before — not ever, but certainly within the last decade. So the fact that
we're being told there has been no discussion is mischievous, at best.
I want to talk about who we are talking about. When we are talking about
prostitution, for the most part we are talking about the most disadvantaged
and marginalized women of all. They are not women who come from a class who
think they are making specific choices, but women who are forced into the
prostitution industry because they have no other choice. To survive in this
industry, they also have to survive increasingly inhospitable environments,
both within prostitution and within the community, if they are not engaged
Presumably, we all agree — I hope this is a starting point — that we want
to stop violence against women and that it's fundamental to our belief that
our starting point will be to ensure that violence against women needs to be
eradicated and that we should all support equality for all women and girls,
and support all measures that seek to make women and girls equal.
I would suggest to you that if the case that has generated this bill had
been brought by three men rather than three women, if they had brought the
issue of prostitution to court, I respectfully submit that we would not be
having these discussions right now. Women's groups and equality advocates
would not be so divided if three men had sought to assert their rights to
engage in free market capitalism of buying and selling the rights of access
to the bodies of women and their sexual services.
As you know, throughout the country, we — our organization, our sister
organizations and others, including ones who will present from a different
perspective on this bill — are engaged in working on early intervention
programs with young people, programs in the community, working with
individuals in mental health settings, working with homeless, addicted
individuals and those with significant mental health issues.
We see the move to decriminalize women as fundamental to women's
equality. We also see it as fundamental to women's equality that violence
against women — we see this legislation as part of the move to eliminate
violence against women. It challenges the violation and commodification of
women and girls as a means of helping to achieve that equality. This is not
a case about sexual morality or sexual orientation, and those who suggest it
is a continuation of those discussions, I suggest to you again, are trying
to lead us down a different path.
So what is our history? Well, women and girls haven't always enjoyed
equality. In law we are supposed to enjoy equality now. First we were told
that we were the property of the men who married us or who fathered us. We
now see that as rather ludicrous. We don't accept that anymore. In fact, now
women have been declared persons in this country, and we're permitted to
vote, and we're supposed to be equal, according to section 15 of our
In 1983, men were given the clear message that just because you marry
someone, no longer were you allowed to rape them either. So we had the
continuation of the notion of women's equality that men could be convicted
of raping their wives if they force themselves upon their wives sexually.
Some of you will remember. I certainly remember. It was during my working
lifetime that that debate occurred, and it was seen as outrageous that a
woman would expect to not be made sexually available to her husband if she
married him. That would be seen as equally outrageous now as a position, I
would suggest, for anyone taking the opposite view.
Now we have an opportunity to clearly articulate that women's equality
requires that we no longer accept the commodification or sale of women for
sex in ways that further enhance women's sexual inequality.
How do we get there? Some say more legal sanctions; some say no legal
sanctions. The reality is that we already have laws in countries around the
world that address violence against women and girls, including in this
country. I don't hear anyone suggesting that just because we have not
eradicated violence against women, we think it's okay and so we should not
have any provisions prohibiting violence against women. That is essentially
what we are talking about when we talk about decriminalizing women but not
decriminalizing the act of buying and selling women for sex. We don't argue,
debate or lobby at all that we will, in fact, revisit the notion that
violence against women should not be criminalized. I haven't heard anybody
raise that. I would suggest we would all think it unthinkable.
We don't want to see free market capitalism as an excuse. We want to see
the end to violence against women. We are concerned that there are
provisions in this legislation that would continue to potentially
criminalize women — some of the advertising provisions, like the provisions
around having individuals in areas where children will be, particularly when
the majority of women we're talking about are poor single moms. We do not
support the inadequate provision of resources for social services. We do
support the need for things like a guaranteed livable income, adequate
social services, health care. And we do support a provision that is not
there currently and that we think should be, and that would be to ensure
that, in fact, all those who have been criminalized for prostitution should
have their records expunged in the way that was done when the —
The Chair: I'll stop you there.
Ms. Pate: Thank you. I look forward to questions.
The Chair: I'm trying to be as generous as possible here to get
your points before the committee.
Mr. Hooper, please proceed.
Robert Hooper, Chairperson, Board of Directors, Walk With Me Canada:
I'm going to defer to Ms. Nagy.
Timea E. Nagy, Founder and Front-Line Victim Care Worker, Walk With Me
Canada: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before all of you today.
I'm going to read my testimony, just to make sure we are on time.
My personal experience in the sex industry started when I was forced into
it by traffickers at the age of 20, here in Canada. I escaped and started my
life all over again. Years later, my boyfriend committed suicide and I found
myself on a street on a cold winter day without shoes and money. I wasn't
eligible for any social assistance from the government. Without any family
support, my choice was either to become homeless or to go back to the sex
industry for a few months until I got back on my feet. I decided to go back
for three months. Neither time was it a real choice for me, and both times I
experienced the same thing, which was violence by johns.
I'm a survivor of sex trafficking, a former prostitute and a founder of
an agency that works with victims of sex trafficking here in Canada. Yes,
they actually do exist. Our latest victim was 15 years old. Well over 90 per
cent of the victims we deal with here in Canada are Canadian girls, and they
are forced into sex trafficking and prostitution.
Yes, I know that we already have laws for human trafficking, but the law
does not address the root cause of sex trafficking — that is the demand,
which is the john, if you like to call it that way. It's very simple,
actually. If the demand is decreased and there would be fewer buyers, there
would definitely be fewer victims because the traffickers would go out of
business. It's as simple as that. If you go to the store and you don't find
your item, you will not keep going back to that store again.
If buying becomes difficult, demand will decrease, and there is evidence
for that. In Sweden, the prostitution unit was taping a European trafficking
ring conversation on the phone. The traffickers were trying to decide where
to take the latest shipment of women to work in Europe. They quickly decided
not to take them to Swedish land because business is so horrible there
because there are no buyers. According to the prostitution unit, they only
had three human trafficking charges in 2013 in the capital city. We had over
145 in Canada just last year.
The Canadian government is taking a huge step forward with this
legislation. This legislation is finally targeting the real criminals — the
johns and the pimps. I hear the pro groups loud and clear when they say,
"Well, what about us? What about the women who are in it because they want
to be in it? It's our choice, and there is no pimping, and we have the right
for our safety as well." I say, "Yes, you do. But according to you, you
made a conscious decision to enter into a very dangerous world." The
trafficking victims didn't make that decision for themselves. You have the
luxury of working four hours or ten hours a day if you like. You have the
luxury of choosing your client or declining your client or the service you
want to provide or don't want to provide. Trafficked victims don't have that
luxury. You could call the police if a john hurts you. A trafficked victim
The truth is that the real danger happens behind closed doors when you
are alone with the john. Knowing his phone number or name or having a copy
of his driver's licence will not keep you safe. It did not keep me safe in
The other thing I would say is I'm very happy for you to make $2,000 to
$3,000 a month, feed your family and pay for your education and lifestyle.
Most of all, I'm extremely happy for you to have the luxury and, most
importantly, your freedom to be able to sit at this table and have this
debate. Our victims don't have that.
What about girls who are trafficked and kept in horrible conditions
across Canada as we speak? What about their safety? What about their
freedom? What about their rights to safety? They can't be here today to tell
you the truth about johns and the pimps. They are not in the industry to buy
a thousand dollars' worth of shoes. They are not in the industry to pay for
college. They have been lured, manipulated and being kept against their will
while serving 10 to 15 clients a day, like I did once, just so they can eat
once a day. They're not doing this for money, to save up. They are doing
this so they don't get beaten.
They work for months, they serve thousands of clients, they make hundreds
of thousands of dollars for pimps and they will never see a dime from it. We
believe there are a lot more victims in the sex trade than independent
workers. But, yet again, you can't hear their voices, not because they don't
exist, but because they are still unsafe and can't be here today.
That's why we have other agencies, front-line workers and experts to come
here and testify on their behalf and tell you that they are not just part of
our imagination. They are real. They are our daughters, our sisters and
Both sides do agree on one thing: This is a very dangerous business
because of the johns. Otherwise, the pros wouldn't have asked for laws to
protect their safety.
I know from working on the front lines that sex trafficking is a huge
issue. Most of us in the country don't realize how bad it is. I see this
every single day. Canadian women and girls are trafficked, held, tortured
and manipulated by pimps, and girls' lives are ruined forever by johns. My
question to you is: Do we create a law for luxury, convenience, to be able
to support a habit? Or do we create laws to save lives, to create a healthy
and safe future for our society?
I am supporting this bill because I believe we should create laws to
protect our most vulnerable, and this bill will do just that.
Thank you very much for listening.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
We will begin the questions. We have a long list of questioners. We will
begin with the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Baker.
Senator Baker: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and a special thank you to
the presenters here today and the witnesses.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to dedicate the rest of my time to Kim Pate to
finish what she had started in her presentation. I have great respect for
this witness. She is in case law, as we all know, and has given
presentations to the Supreme Court of Canada, down to the superior courts in
I wonder, Ms. Pate, if you could turn your mind back to your thought when
the five minutes came up as to what you were going to say and continue on to
Ms. Pate: Thank you very much.
Our organization had a position of decriminalization across the board
until 2008. Part of the reason we changed our position was because we were
seeing cuts to social programs, health care, as well as challenges to
women's equality. Some of the most disadvantaged and desperate women were
facing even more brutalizing and dangerous conditions on the street.
Some of you will remember the case of an individual who was picked up
after he had attached booster cables to a woman and was electrocuting her.
This was in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. I went to the prison and
started talking about that example because the woman had not reported to the
police and that man had never been reported to the police, even though he
had a trunkful of evidence that he routinely was buying women to abuse them.
This was at a time also that we were looking for women whose remains, we
later realized, had been found on the Pickton farm.
When I spoke to the women in prison, one of the things they talked about
was the fact that if they were the poorest, if they had mental health
issues, if they were addicted and had criminal records, the likelihood of
them ever doing anything but prostitution was increasingly becoming more
remote. They believed they could be bought and sold to be brutalized, not
just for sex, not just for brutal sex, but to be beaten, electrocuted, to
be, in some cases — I don't think anybody ever consented to being killed,
but that was seen as part of the reality of prostitution.
That led us to change our position and to argue that instead we should be
clearly articulating, especially with NAFTA and others, the fact that we
know there are people referred to as "bunny ranchers," the fact that we
know in the State of Victoria in Australia, when it was legalized and
brothels were opened, they became the fastest trading commodities on the
stock market, that we needed to re-examine this position.
We re-examined it and decided we had to pair it. It's not just the
decriminalization of women. It continues to be the decriminalization of
women in recognition that their position of equality is fundamental to this
equation. It also talked about denouncing the commodification of women and
girls as part of a longer term strategy around equality and the provision of
guaranteed livable incomes, adequate social services, health care, all of
which had been alluded to but aren't fundamental to this legislation. We
would argue it should be in the preamble and should be clear. Twenty million
dollars is not sufficient, and that's what we're paying to have Preston
Street fixed up. If that's all we'll put into this, it does not show a clear
indication of equality.
No mandatory minimums: When we saw the focus of the law change to
communicating for the purposes of solicitation, we argued — I wish we were
wrong but we were not — that women would still be jailed and men would still
avoid criminalization. That's exactly what's happened.
I have said across this country — since before this bill, since before
Bedford — find me a man who has been criminalized and jailed for pimping
or for buying sex. Unless they have done other things, such as beaten people
up, they have not been criminalized.
You know my position. I don't want to see more people in jail. I don't
think there is any illusion that attitudes will change, just as they have
not fundamentally in some areas on violence against women, but we have had a
change in attitude around what is acceptable in terms of how you treat
women. I suggest this legislation continues in that vein, but there are
things that need to be changed. We need to ensure there are adequate
resources. We need to ensure there are no mandatory minimums. We need to
take out the provisions that say women advertising can ever be criminalized,
regardless, and we need to take out the provision that says a woman who may
have to prostitute in her own home when her child is in the next bedroom may
be criminalized. Until we have all the other options available so women can
actually make choices — our position would not interfere with the very few
who actually have a choice at all, yet it will interfere with the creation
of increasingly dangerous situations.
I received a call from a woman an hour ago who was in that position, who
knew many of the victims of Pickton, many of whom he was never convicted for
but they were clearly there on the farm. She said, "Even if I would never
call the police, if a guy knew I could call the police I would be much safer
no matter where I started out, on the street or in my own home."
We are not talking about making it more dangerous. It already is
incredibly dangerous for women engaged in prostitution.
Senator Dagenais: I thank our witnesses. My question is for Ms.
Let us take it as a given that the media, be that the newspapers or
websites, publish full pages of advertisements for sexual services. These
ads are often the main tool for pimps and individuals who exploit women. I
am a former police officer with the Sûreté du Québec, and I can understand
easily that there is a single number for the young women, which often leads
to a central call centre.
What should we do to avoid that type of situation?
Ms. Pate: We need to be looking at much broader issues such as
pornography. I had some of these discussions with my 15-year-old daughter as
I was getting ready to come here. We are in Saskatoon now. She couldn't see
more clearly who is being commodified in that community. She asked how come
for all the Aboriginal girls the expectation is they will go out on the
street, and they expect will go get jobs in retail. The fact that we have
allowed women and girls in particular to be increasingly commodified is part
of the problem.
Criminalizing them after the fact is not going to solve it. I would
suggest in that situation, if we have opportunities, if you can contact
individuals who are engaged in prostitution and provide meaningful options,
real options for them to exit, I don't know, to a woman or to a young man —
some of you know I had young men and women living with me years ago who were
coming off the street in that situation. I don't know to a young person that
they would not choose another option, as the Native Women's Association of
Canada has just reinforced in terms of the research they have been doing.
What is not provided usually is an option for them to exit. The option is
either be criminalized or remain silent and be beaten or continue in the
situation you're in, and I don't think those are viable options.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you very much for all of your very powerful
presentations. You are very moving.
I'll speak for myself and nobody else. No one here wants people to be
pushed into prostitution or trafficking, and we've never heard of anyone
saying they want to grow up to be a sex worker. The problem I have with this
bill is they talk about prostitution not being a good thing, but there is
nothing at the end to show that we are going to deal with helping people
exit. What choices do we give people who are in this and how do we help them
get out? The only way to do that is to have proper resources.
One of the main aims that has been outlined in this bill is to reduce
prostitution or ideally eliminate it. How do you think this bill will
achieve the goal? The goal is laudable; I'm all for it. I'm tired of passing
bills that raise expectations with no resources.
Teresa Edwards, Director of International Affairs and Human Rights,
Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC): I would like to respond
from the Native Women's Association of Canada. We are at a crossroads today
in society, and the government has an opportunity to send the message to
society that it is no longer acceptable to commodify women, as has been
presented by everyone before me.
I was struck this morning when I woke up and read the headlines when I
was signing into my email account and saw that the NFL had banned Ray Rice
in the wake of this latest domestic violence. As Kim Pate laid out to you,
years ago that was a completely acceptable practice, both legally and
socially. As it moved from "legally," it slowly over time moved "socially." It was certainly never acceptable for society, per se, but it
was not something that the NFL or a professional sports league would ever
speak out about. But here we are, because you have had government leading
the way with a statement, a change in philosophy, a change demonstrating new
policy, if you will, or a vision for Canadians, and for women in particular,
to say, "No, this is no longer acceptable; we are going to criminalize pimps
and traffickers and find a better way for women."
There are plenty of opportunities. Aboriginal women are the fastest
growing youth population. Over 80 per cent are single women. If this
government or any government afterward were to invest in economic
development a quarter of what they are investing in family violence, you
will see a huge improvement in the social economic conditions of Aboriginal
We need to invest in Aboriginal women, in education and in income.
Although Aboriginal women have higher education than Aboriginal men, it is
not translating into income. We need a guaranteed livable income for all
women, especially for those most marginalized, like Aboriginal women and
immigrant refugee women. For them to have real options, we need the social
programs, exit services, counselling and services for women who have exited.
Not to speak for Timea, but as she spoke of her own situation of being a
trafficked woman escaping and then returning, was it a choice or a forced
decision because she had no other social services available to her?
I see it as a crossroads right now. Is this an ideal bill? No, not by a
long shot, but it is a step along the right path. We have to send that
message to Canadians.
Ms. Pate alluded to it earlier, and I don't want to confuse the
conversation, but it needs to be at the forefront of your mind, and that
issue is pornography. It's not a moral issue. Children, particularly boys,
have unlimited access to gonzo porn, violent porn, when they enter the
slightest words on a computer. Penthouse is seen as the good old
When a boy who is 6, 7 years old, there are no measures in place to stop
these children from having access on the Internet. Why is that relevant to
this issue? Because at a time that their brain is forming, in their
formative years, they are seeing images of extreme violence and sexuality
against women. This is tainting their brains and their appetite and it is
forming their sexual appetite, and these men are becoming police, judges,
parliamentarians and politicians; and if this is their view of women, and
this is creating their sexual appetite for women, it will only further
support the use of prostitution, trafficking and the use and abuse of women
as a commodity. That's something you need to keep in your mind when looking
at this issue because it's hugely relevant.
With women selling services online or pimps using services online to sell
women, it's a breeding ground for disaster for boys growing up, having
access to Internet porn, and in particular gonzo porn, but that's something
we will lobby you to change at a later date, having safeguards in place for
children. I don't think anyone would dispute having safeguards in place for
children having access to porn.
Ms. Pate: With respect, Senator Jaffer, your point is well taken;
however, it's not a position necessarily taken by senators when other bills
have passed which required the same sort of interventions. I would suggest a
very strong message could be sent to ensure some of these other provisions
are put into the bill so it can at least have an aspirational hope of
achieving some of those equality provisions. I would urge they be there, all
of the mandatory minimum sentences be removed, and that we instead look at
clearly articulating that it is about creating a more equal situation for
women and yet addressing violence against women.
Mr. Hooper: Timea and I have discussed this at length, and from
our position we think three main things: One, $20 million is a start. It is
more money than the U.S. government has put toward exit plans; however, we
agree with our colleagues that it is wholly inadequate.
We have plans about social service exits and guarantees that should be
made to echo Ms. Pate with respect to criminal records being expunged, et
cetera. We have a very good plan that would take time to explain, and we do
think there should be rehabilitation or recovery centres.
We can tell you anecdotally, from our experience, of the 300-plus victims
that we have dealt with to attempt to move them to recovery and to
survivorship, what is presently missing is once Timea and her team does
front-line work, what next? This isn't a one- or two-week fix; this is a
journey, if I could call it that, and there is not a place for housing,
social services, or dental to get your teeth fixed because they have been
knocked out. I could go on and on. That would be a dreamboat for us, that
the next stages would come, which just echoes my colleagues' comments.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you for your presentations.
Ms. Pate, I have a question for you regarding the Supreme Court of Canada
decision of R. v. Gladue, of which I am sure you are familiar with.
As you know, the court has enunciated several principles in the case of
Gladue. As I understand it, Gladue has sentencing principles that
apply irrespective of whether there is a mandatory minimum or not. I also
understand that Gladue compels a judge to explore options other than
incarceration when sentencing an Aboriginal offender.
Now Bill C-36 calls for mandatory minimum sentences. Are you satisfied
that Bill C-36 is consistent with the Gladue principles and that
mandatory minimum sentences do not run afoul of Gladue?
Ms. Pate: I would say I'm not satisfied, and I would also defer to
Teresa who is here from the Native Women's Association on this. If there is
a mandatory minimum sentence, then the judge has very few options, except
for increasing beyond that mandatory minimum sentence, unless he or she
chooses to argue that they will not impose the mandatory minimum sentence.
In fact, the provisions in section 718.2(e), what are often
referred to as the Gladue principles, would not necessarily apply in
those sentencing decisions, so I think it is a problem. That's part of the
reason we would support not having mandatory minimum sentences.
Senator McIntyre: But as I understand, Gladue applies
irrespective whether there is a minimum sentence or not.
Ms. Pate: No, there may be some confusion.
Senator McIntyre: I know there are different interpretations to
Gladue. That's why I'm asking you.
Ms. Pate: I don't profess to be the ultimate voice, but the
Supreme Court of Canada has said that the provisions that were looked at in
the Gladue case and in section 718.2(e) apply in other
circumstances, like release decisions from prison, like decisions around
dangerous offender and long-term offender provisions, but they have not
said, to my knowledge, unless it's something very recent that I've missed —
Senator McIntyre: So irrespective of Gladue, you are
concerned with the mandatory minimum sentences?
Ms. Pate: That's correct.
Senator Joyal: I want to emphasize the answer given by Ms. Pate
because this question was raised in this committee on an earlier bill. When
there is a mandatory minimum, the Gladue decision doesn't apply. The
judge is compelled to impose the minimum sentence, even though he is facing
circumstances whereby an Aboriginal person can show that because of past
experience, family trouble, exploitation on the street, whatever other
circumstances might be explaining the case —
Senator McIntyre: Even in the case of Aboriginal offenders?
Senator Joyal: Absolutely. When the minimum is provided in the
bill, it is imposed. We have asked that question previously to officials of
the Justice Department. I'm sure the Library of Parliament can go back into
the minutes of this committee and confirm that interpretation.
Senator McIntyre: I don't want to cut you off, but I was reading
the transcript from the House of Commons committee, and it appears to me
that the witnesses for the Department of Justice had another answer. They
were saying that mandatory minimums do not run afoul of Gladue.
That's what I understand.
Senator Joyal: That's not what we heard on this case around the
We will have an opportunity, Mr. Chair, to check the record of previous
witnesses in relation to that.
Ms. Pate and Ms. Audette, my concern is the logic of the bill. According
to what the minister said to us this morning, the bill is based on
prostitution equating exploitation. If it is exploitation and victimization,
why would the victim be found guilty? Because if the person is compelled, as
you all described, to survive, as Ms. Nagy mentioned, to eat one time a day,
to feed her children, like the Aboriginal person might have described
earlier on, why does the bill continue to criminalize a person who is forced
into prostitution to eat once a day? There is something illogical, in my
opinion, of the philosophical basis that prostitution is equating to the
victimization of women. If it is so, then the bill would have to reflect
that, and the judge, facing a situation whereby that proof or evidence would
be brought to him or her, would have to lift the sentence of criminal
responsibility, no criminal record and the possibility for that person to be
admitted to social services.
It seems to me it is illogical in this bill on the basis of premise of
the "Whereas" of the bill where it talks about exploitation, paragraph 1,
and commodification in paragraph 2, to encourage prostitutes to report
incidents. How will I report incidents if I will be found guilty? This, to
me, is illogical. The bill pursues two sets of objectives which are
contradicted by some sections of the bill. That's where I feel that
listening to you there is an element of redefinition of some of the offences
in relation to persons who have been proven to be the object of exploitation
and pushed to prostitution to survive. That's why it seems to me there is
something in this bill that doesn't stand the rationale of what the
proponent says is supporting it.
Ms. Audette: Senators, in my brief presentation, I mentioned that
we did not want to see Aboriginal women criminalized when they are in this
situation; so something is illogical somewhere. The Native Women's
Association of Canada knows full well that a lot of women were forced into
the sex trade very young — not by choice — or as soon as they turned 18, and
so on. We feel that they should not even be considered criminals. As you
said quite rightly, why call if you know you will be called a criminal? This
was said right from the outset. The Native Women's Association of Canada is
concerned about Aboriginal women who are in extreme poverty and
Ms. Pate: I hope I was clear that we do not support provisions
that would result in the criminalization of any women. I haven't been that
clear, but let me try and articulate it a bit more clearly.
In the preamble there should be a clear provision not just that women
experience exploitation commodification but that this is a position of
inequality fundamentally that women start from, and children, including
young men. Young men tend to age out in our experience, that we are less
likely to see adult men in the industry for as long. There are some, but
again, we would stand by our position that if people truly have choices, our
position should not interfere with that.
If we inject the notion of equality, then we can see provisions that
would say that we will not see the criminalization of those "engaged in,"
for whatever reason, and that those who choose to exploit, who choose to buy
and sell, who choose to participate in the commodification, they can be
Our position would be no mandatory minimums. We don't think throwing
anybody in jail for this will solve it. We need to see other options, but
that's our position, as you would know from other appearances, that we
continue to have.
Our position around sentencing would be to continue to look at productive
options to try and address these issues. Look at public education, but also
we cannot separate these provisions from the need for some of the other
social, economic and health provisions that need to be in place as well,
similar to other bills that have been before you.
Senator Joyal: You have mentioned also the sections dealing with
Ms. Pate: That's right.
Senator Joyal: And the one dealing with exercising prostitution
within the schools.
Ms. Pate: We would suggest those be removed.
Senator Joyal: Perimeters of distance.
Ms. Pate: We don't support those.
Senator Joyal: Are there other sections of the bill you don't
Ms. Pate: Those would be the primary ones, but also all of the
provisions that impose mandatory minimums, including some mandatory minimum
sentences already on the books. We think those should be repealed.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for your very sincere and
Ms. Audette, it is always a pleasure to see you again. I want to take
this opportunity to congratulate you for your commitment and for the mission
you are accomplishing for your community. I am very concerned as well, and I
was in fact involved in the past in looking into certain cases where girls
disappeared; I am thinking, for instance, about those two young girls who
disappeared from Maniwaki and were probably forced into prostitution.
Prostitution is a scourge that affects your communities enormously, but
it also affects non-aboriginal communities. I attended a meeting a few
months ago in Longueuil where I met some youth centre workers. In Longueuil,
they are following up on some 200 young women of 12 and 13 who are involved
in the sex industry to pay off drug debts.
This is a vicious circle. They start using drugs very young and in order
to pay off their drug debts, prostitution too often becomes the solution.
It is an easy solution that leads to dropping out of school and to
suicide. The scourge is terrible and the long-term impacts are often
With this bill our government has committed to investing $20 million. As
we saw earlier, that is twice what the Americans are investing. We have to
find other means of preventing prostitution, in addition to criminalizing
the clients. In any case, it is often too late; women who have been involved
in prostitution for a decade, or sometimes two, are completely destroyed on
the human, economic and social levels, and rehabilitating them is
I would like your opinion on a preventative approach for the people of
your community particularly, regarding these funds that could be invested
not only in recovery, but also in prevention.
Ms. Audette: Thank you very much for the comments you made at the
beginning of your statement. I have a great deal of respect for the work you
have done, especially on a personal level.
We agree on this side to say that $20 million is not enough in the case
of a major problem. However, as Mr. Hooper said, it is a start.
As you know the Native Women's Association of Canada has for a long time
been asking for a national public inquiry to look into the cases of
disappearance and murder that are unfortunately linked to the fact that
women have been led into human trafficking, prostitution and so on, and then
find themselves on these lists of women who have disappeared or been
murdered. That is one solution among many, but it will take time.
We obtained the support of the 13 premiers to create a round table with
the federal government around which the ministers responsible for Aboriginal
files, initiatives and programs will be able to sit down with the Native
Women's Association of Canada to find urgent and concrete solutions. We are
also talking about prevention in the context of those solutions, involving
both men and women, and so of different approaches. There is also the global
approach. We hope that we will be able to sit down with various ministers,
and thanks to this bill that aims to counter prostitution in Canada, ask
them to help us to develop tools, training, and awareness-raising means to
reach Canadian men and women as well as our communities.
I think this is extremely important. Criminalization is all well and
good, but we must not forget that it fills up the prisons and is very
expensive for taxpayers.
I advocate an adapted prevention approach for Canadian society, but also
for Aboriginal environments.
Senator Boisvenu: I greatly admire the work of Canadian police
officers throughout Canada. I will ask you a question you may find a bit
awkward, but I am going to put it to you anyway.
In police and legal intervention — I am referring to the work police
officers do to solve problems of all kinds in your community as well as to
the legal process — are Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals treated the same way?
I have had the opportunity to look at many files regarding the disappearance
of Aboriginals, and I got the impression that they were not treated with the
same level of energy as other cases. Should police officers not be made
aware of that reality?
Ms. Audette: If I look at the report of the British Columbia
commission on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside with regard to the relationship
between police and the victims, the victims were for the vast majority
Aboriginal women — as pointed out in the Human Rights Watch Report — and in
looking at this one gets a very dark, nefarious picture of the relationship
between police officers and Aboriginal women. Files regarding justice or
public security are handled differently, and not in a good way.
However, I think we need to be positive, and rather than quarreling, we
could focus on prevention. We have reached out to the RCMP, and soon we will
also contact the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the First
Nations Chiefs of Police Association to point out that there is no law that
makes the sharing of information among police corps mandatory; however as an
organization we would like to develop training, information and tools for
The best example I can give you is this one: the Quebec Aboriginal
Women's Association began in 1998 to approach the First Nations Chiefs of
Police Association to teach them how to intervene in cases of family
violence and sexual violence in the communities. At that time we provided
two hours per year to the young police officers; today, this training is
mandatory and lasts two days. In this way, we are dealing with the problem
So I think that we could blame one another, but that, if we were to work
together over the next 5, 10, 15 years, police forces and women's groups
could manage to do good work.
Senator Plett: Thank you to all the witnesses for coming here
today. I'm certainly happy to hear that all of you support this particular
piece of legislation that will serve to protect our most vulnerable, and I
also appreciate your support for the abolition of prostitution. I support
that as well.
I have two questions that I will pose to Ms. Nagy and I would like her to
respond. I think in her presentation she made it clear that she, probably
out of everybody in the room, has the most direct experience in much of what
we are talking about. I appreciated your sharing your story with us and
commend you for the work you are doing. I would also like the Native Women's
Association of Canada to respond.
We have critics of this bill, and many of them say that prostitution can
be a legitimate profession when proper safeguards are in place. Further,
many of the same critics would say that prostitution is a free choice
between consenting adults many times. We have talked much about children,
and you got into the profession very young.
How do you respond to the critics that say we are taking too large of a
step because, if there are safeguards in place, it would be okay, and we are
also interfering with consenting adults engaging in prostitution?
Ms. Nagy: Thank you very much for those questions. I hear them all
I do believe there are women out there today who believe that this is
their choice, and I will not go any further into that, but I know that they
believe that this was their choice. I believed that it was my choice when I
went back because I needed the money. Ten years later, when I had gone
through a lot of counselling, I looked back and realized that I was sexually
molested when I was a child. Then I was trafficked and then it was my
normal, so of course I believed that it was totally fine to turn a few
tricks to make money for food. Ten years later, right now, if someone wanted
to have sex with me for money, I would feel like I have been raped because
now I feel clean and I have been through a healing journey.
But to respect where they are in their life, that's why I say I believe
that she believes, right now, that this is her choice. Again, I want to say
because this is one of our ways of working with victims as well, that this
is her journey. This is her choice, and if she believes that is her choice
right now, I don't have the right to judge that. That's not my life; that's
her life. But I do have the right to help her along that journey to make it
as safe as possible.
When we talk about women who want to do this and it's between two
consensual adults, I would also like to put the spotlight on the client.
The woman says, "He comes in my room; he pays for sex; it's between him
and me." Well, what about his wife who's at home with five kids? We had
cases where we were in a parking lot with the police officers and we knew
where the husband had just come out of. The husband went home and there were
the five children with the wife. Doesn't the wife have the right to know
where her husband has been? I highly doubt that that wife actually knew
where he was. Don't the children have the right to know where he was?
If this is consensual, this john goes to the wife before he goes and pays
for sex and says, "Sweetheart, I'm going to go for an hour. I'm going to
pay $350 and I'm going to have unprotected sex because that's how I like it
and you don't like it that way anymore, and let's have this conversation
with the children, too. Are you guys okay with that?" That is consent for
me. When it's just between this one man and one woman behind closed doors, I
don't take that as consent.
In the event that the buyer or the man is single and there are all kinds
of reasons why he's doing this — again, it's his choice — I'm not going to
argue that there are cases when it is consensual. But my answer to all of
that is that, yes, there are women who are in this business because they
choose to and I believe that they believe that they are doing this because
they want to. They have their freedom and they have been able to keep doing
this business somewhat safely, but they are the ones who brought this
argument forward, saying that it is not safe and we need new laws. So why
are you choosing a job that is so dangerous and why are you looking at the
government to keep you safe?
What did we do for miners and fishers? I can't remember what we did back
in the day in Nova Scotia where eventually the government said, "This is a
very dangerous business; we are closing it down, and you are no longer
allowed to do that. If you want to do this, you need to do this on your
The last comment on this is that we both agree that this is a very
dangerous business. This is not like working at McDonald's, as I heard my
pro-activists on television saying. This is nothing like working at
McDonald's. You are going to a job where it is guaranteed you will be
abused, raped or violated by a john or a pimp. I have a different job now,
and I can't say that I have that fear going to work every single day. I'm
sure you don't have that fear, either. I'm sure the person at McDonald's
doesn't have that fear either. I don't think we can call it sex work. Just
because it's been around for so long doesn't mean it's okay. We have been
murdering people for so long. Is that okay? Should we just drop the laws?
Senator Plett: So your choice was either to have sex, eat or be
beaten? So you had a choice.
Ms. Nagy: Oh, yes, I had a choice.
Senator Plett: Maybe you would like to comment.
Ms. Audette: Shortly, and I guess my colleague will, too.
For 20 years now I've been with Quebec Native Women and Native Women's
Association of Canada, and between that, deputy minister for status of women
in Quebec, and I never met an Aboriginal woman, a young woman or a mother,
who told me, "I did it by choice." It never happened, but I don't say I've
met every woman across Canada.
What I'm saying today is with the research, the knowledge, the expertise
and the passion we put into it, we don't judge those women that I haven't
met or heard, because probably they are there, who made it by choice. But
one day if they decide to go out in this place, then the government has an
important role, provincial as well as municipal, to support the
organizations that help women come off that industry.
Ms. Edwards: I want to bring it back to the comment I made earlier
about the crossroads and the decision of the government. We need to keep our
focus not on preventing women from going into prostitution but preventing
men from buying prostitution. We need to look at the role men play in this.
As I mentioned, with the saturation of prostitution and gonzo porn, where
violence is a huge role in prostitution, forming young boys' minds, we need
to have a clear message from government, from society, from leaders, from
senators, from organizations and from sports agencies that it's no longer
tolerated that we buy, use and abuse women.
This isn't a question of consenting. We're not going to fight for the
rights of a few who might argue that this is between two consenting adults
when we know the high rates, 97 per cent, are subject to violence by johns
or pimps. Or they can't leave; even if they so-called "chose" to go into
prostitution, they have a debt incurred and he says to them, "You have to
pay me off $100,000 before you can leave." None of us have that kind of
When we go to our work, we give our two weeks' notice or we leave without
notice and suffer the consequence of not getting paid. That's not the case
with women involved in this.
I want our attention to stay where it needs to be, also on the huge role
that men play in this. We see that classic example, Bob beat Mary. What
happens out of that classic example? It becomes Mary is a beaten woman and
Bob is gone; Bob is out of the equation entirely. Suddenly government
officials and civil society are working to deal with Mary, the beaten woman,
and what we're going to do for Mary.
Hold it. What are we going to do for Bob, the fact that he beat Mary in
the first place? It's the same with missing and murdered women. It's not
about what we're going to do to keep these women buddied up or not
hitchhiking or being safe. It's what are we going to do to stop men from
killing them? That's a huge problem. What are we going to do to stop men
from killing our women, beating our women, raping our women and buying
women? We've got to move past this. We need a new vision for Canada. I have
to believe you all want a newer vision for Canada than simply buying and
The Chair: Thank you.
I have a quick question for Ms. Pate. Senator Baker referenced your
extensive background in law in the preliminary to his question. I could be
wrong; I've heard that you are now also, as well as your responsibilities
that have you appearing here today, serving as a law professor at the
University of Saskatchewan.
Ms. Pate: I'm currently in the Sallows Chair in Human Rights at
the University of Saskatchewan Law School.
The Chair: I'm not sure if you're comfortable with this, but I
know, reading the clips that came out of our meeting this morning with the
minister, the bulk of it that I have noticed so far has been referencing the
issue of constitutionality. Given your background in law, I wonder if you
have a view with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation.
Ms. Pate: Certainly, our view would be in light of the fact that
section 15 allows for proactive measures to encourage equality provisions to
be implemented, I think the provisions that would call for women to be
decriminalized and for those supports to be put in place should survive
Charter scrutiny. Certainly, there were discussions about asymmetrical
application of the law in other areas. For the most part, I would support
I do think, as I've already said, there are parts of the law that I would
encourage you to change and adapt, but I think there is certainly an
opportunity for this to be implemented in a way that meets the
constitutional requirements, and adding into the preamble the fact that we
need to ensure there are equality provisions there that would help with
Senator McInnis: This has been very enlightening. In fact, as you
can appreciate, over the last few weeks we have been inundated with
information with respect to prostitution in Canada. This is not the question
I intended to ask, but sitting here listening, it's perhaps appropriate I'm
the last one.
First, this issue now has been given a high profile. This is a glorious
opportunity. But as I sat here, I heard commodification of women by men,
inequality under the Charter, which of course I knew, percentage of native
women involved, survival sex, drugs, buying food and clothing for children,
trafficking of humans, children involved in the sex trade. I was provided
with bibliographies of something like 199 articles, books and papers that
were written on this issue. You've all said that you think that this bill
will be helpful in bringing down the number involved in prostitution. You
also talked about the fact that the $20 million perhaps will not be enough.
I'm not sure what amount would be enough if there's not infrastructure in
place to deal with the socio-economic problems.
It seems that there are all kinds of organizations like yours from coast
to coast to coast. Is there a need for some way of channeling this so that
we do actually target the issues and actually try to come up with anything
but a quick fix? I don't think the quick fix is there. This bill is probably
going to pass and become law. Then what? Where's your high profile then? I'm
hearing from you that this is an ongoing socio-economic problem. What's your
suggestion to government as to how we're actually going to bring a
resolution to this at some point?
Ms. Nagy: I'm going to start, and then Mr. Hooper has a couple of
We have already talked about this. The first things are prevention and
education, and not just educating society and men but educating law
enforcement and police. Everybody says, "Well, what is that going to do?"
According to studies, the majority of the johns are between the ages of
25 to 45, college and university students. It all starts in school. "Where
do you want to go for your stag party?" "To a strip joint." Let's have
education about that. When you start at an early age, you educate the men
who provide the demand, so you slowly decrease that, which means they're not
going to buy the girls and then the demand is not going to be as strong.
There is no quick fix for this. We have messed up society for the last 40
years, and we're not going to fix that in the next two years. We need to do
it in baby steps. You eat the elephant one bite at a time. This is the first
bite. We need to do that.
You educate men and educate girls: It is not okay to be a prostitute; it
is not okay to sell your body, and so on and so forth. Make it not
acceptable in society. He will tell you that he did this as a research
study, and it will take six seconds for a man to buy a girl online in
Canada. What kind of a society do we live in if we allow that?
It's all about prevention and education. You start with that to make sure
no more become a victim. Then you have to take care of the victims that are
currently involved. For that, yes, there are organizations across Canada
trying to help, but there isn't enough funding for those organizations. We
do have to become one, and I mean all of us, not just us and then the
"pro" groups. We would love to have education from them so they can
educate the ones that are currently in it because it's not right to force
them out of it. We have to come together as a country, all of us, and put
our differences aside and talk about how we can do this together.
Funds should probably come from the government, but the corporate world
needs to step up big time. There is a lot of money in Canada from all kinds
of corporations, and they are doing nothing against it and they are doing
nothing for it, for example, hotel companies. I think we can look for extra
money and funds from corporations in Canada. It's not just the government's
problem. This is society's problem, and everybody has to come together for
Ms. Pate: I want to be clear that this bill alone, even with the
amendments that we've suggested, would not solve this issue. Having been in
the last year in Amsterdam and in Germany and in Thailand, we know what
happens when you allow free market capitalism in this area. We've seen the
demand driven up. We've seen the incredible influx of women being trafficked
in. Trafficking is already happening in Canada, not just as Ms. Nagy has
talked about but also between communities, whether it's women from the East
Coast to Central Canada or all around. When I was working with young people
20 some years ago, it was the triangle between Vancouver, Edmonton and
Calgary that young Aboriginal women in particular were trafficked.
What we really need to be focusing on, like many of the crime bills, is
fundamentally looking at a much broader approach. Putting that in the
preamble would be helpful, but to pretend this bill alone would solve this
issue would be silly, quite frankly.
Mr. Hooper: Back to the question of choice, generally speaking, we
echo that we have not had anybody come to our service saying they chose to
be trafficked or prostituted.
We have seen two things. Two studies came out about what the Canadian
population thinks about prostitution. Quite honestly, the numbers were
surprising to me that many people thought legalization was an option. What
that said to me and to our organization is that Canadian society needs to be
educated because they think that's okay. However, if you drill down and ask
more than the question of whether it should be legalized or not legalized,
if you said, "If that was your 14-year-old daughter or son, what are you
going to think about that?" I think the answer will be vastly different to
our society and to the business leaders in this community.
The last point that we see, and we've probably said it a number of times,
is about the socio-economic situation that we're in and particular groups
are in within this country. There has to be something that eradicates that.
Theresa and Michèle may have said 40 years and I think you may have said 200
years that we've been trying to solve this issue. That's the root of the
problem, not only awareness of society but fixing that problem so people
aren't making that fake choice at 14, 15 or 16. We need to get to the
elementary schools and high schools from that perspective and educate both
sides. We often talk about we're going to fix this problem because we're
going to tell girls not to be at Tim Hortons at 10:35 in Kapuskasing,
Ontario, because that's when the pimp is going to show up and take you to
Toronto. We also need to tell the 14-year-old boy in a Toronto school that
he shouldn't pay $150 to have sexual services from that girl from
Kapuskasing. We need to educate the entire society.
Senator Baker: Just to verify what our witnesses have said here
today, Theresa Edwards and Kim Pate specifically, about the application of
mandatory minimum sentences to Aboriginal offenders, Senator McIntyre was
absolutely correct. We did a fast check and found out that yes, the
Department of Justice did give evidence before the house committee, and the
word was that mandatory minimums do not run afoul of Gladue.
Gladue is a principle that would be applied in light of the mandatory
However, Senator Joyal and Ms. Edwards and Ms. Pate are absolutely
correct, because we just checked and found that just three months ago, in
June, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Anderson, said appeal
allowed by the Crown and sentence varied to mandatory minimum sentence;
"Crown prosecutors are under no constitutional duty to consider the
accused's Aboriginal status."
You are absolutely correct. There may have been some discussion in the
courts as to the truthfulness of that, and Senator McIntyre was correct in
quoting the Department of Justice in the House of Commons, but it's obvious
that you're correct; they were wrong. Our witnesses here, Ms. Pate and Ms.
Edwards, were absolutely correct that that is the standing law.
Senator McIntyre: That clears the air.
Senator Dagenais: My question is for Ms. Audette. Of course, I
have heard all the presentations and I feel that all the arguments are
well-constructed and should be able to steer young women away from
Some of you have access to forums and media. Can you explain to us why
the message is not directed more toward young women? We have heard from all
of you, and I do not understand why your message is not more directly
intended for young women. Can you tell us more about that?
Ms. Audette: Let us be honest. I think the message is getting
across. I just came from the Native Women's Resource Center of Toronto, an
organization that did not know what I looked like. They did not know about
my strength, my passion for murdered and missing women, or my desire to help
build a better Canada.
The simple reason behind that is the fact that we are not on the ground.
The Native Women's Association of Canada is here with you right now instead
of being in the field. However, our provincial and territorial organizations
are doing their best.
My dream, should this round table become a reality, is for us to be able
to sit down with the RCMP, Sûreté du Québec — Quebec provincial police — the
OPP and other police associations in order to discuss how to provide direct
intervention. That intervention should be a joint effort, so that those
young women would know that organizations such as the Native Women's
Association of Canada and Femmes autochtones du Manitoba, a provincial
organization, exist and that municipal authorities can provide them with
Although we are trying to use the Internet to increase our presence, we
cannot be everywhere at once. As I said, when we are here, we are not on the
ground, and we have only a small team of 13 people covering a very large
Senator Dagenais: You look familiar. I have often seen you on
television lately. In any case, we hope that Radio- Canada's mandate is
Ms. Audette: A woman on the street dealing with homelessness or
extreme violence is not likely to watch the news. That is not sarcasm. I do
think that our artists, musicians and people on the ground also have an
extremely important role to play in educating the public on these issues.
Ms. Nagy: There are reasons some of our youth still don't hear our
voice, because we are up against the mainstream media — musicians, rappers —
and it is embedded in our culture that it is cool to wear short skirts; it's
cool to have high-heel shoes. That whole message is in our society right
now. Our job, as a society with the prevention programs, is to bring that
voice back down and say it's not cool to be pimped.
Ms. Pate: The other thing is, we've had the hyper sexualization of
young women in particular, but add to that the hyper responsibility, this
notion of choice. When I go out and speak at a public event, I'll ask, "How
many of you here are planning to have a buddy or have someone walk home with
you?" Almost invariably it will be the young women who have received that
message loud and clear that it's their responsibility to make sure they're
safe. If we had a headline, after someone has been attacked, that stated "No man is allowed out after dark unless he's accompanied by a woman who
will vouch for his credentials as a safe man" — yes, of course, people
laugh. Yet we don't laugh when we say that a woman should not be walking
alone at night by herself because it may be unsafe. We need to fundamentally
change those ideas about whose responsibility it is to keep us all safe.
It's not just the individual woman.
Senator Joyal: Have any one of you reflected on this bill and the
impact it will have on the improvement or not of the health condition of the
women involved in prostitution?
Ms. Pate: One of the issues we've looked at for some time as part
of the reconsideration of our position leading up to 2008 was would it be
healthier to have what many have advocated as red light districts or
brothels? The reality is that in areas like in Amsterdam, Thailand and other
jurisdictions, including New Zealand, where they have those options, the
women that we walk with and are part of our organization and we work with
generally would not be able to access those because of their records,
addictions or mental health issues. The reality is that those women are not
likely to benefit from any kind of option that would regulate or legalize.
In fact, in those countries where we've seen that kind of regulation and
legalization, admittedly New Zealand is going to be one of the last to go
largely because it's an island and it's next to another country that has
legalized prostitution as well. In most other jurisdictions we've seen the
demand go up, the influx of others into the country and the rate of violence
against women also.
Senator Jaffer: As you all know, because I've talked to you
privately, there are many things in this bill that bother me. One of them is
putting women and girls together. They are such different issues. I'd like
to hear your point of view about whether there should there be two different
bills. The challenges that young girls face are very different from women.
What is your opinion?
The Chair: I'm sorry, but not lengthy questions or responses. We
only have two or three minutes. If you can condense it, it would be
Ms. Edwards: Although I think we need to have separate services
for women and girls, the distinction is that girls are trafficked. They come
of age and they're told it's their choice and they are adults. While I think
we need to move with this legislation and continue to work on the nuances
and the improvements we want, the additional things, we need to have this
foundation and we need to have it now. I don't think we need to separate it
to have something specific for girls and something for women.
The Chair: Thank you all for the helpful and informative
deliberations and contributions to our hearings. We have a lengthy list of
witnesses and we want to give them all an opportunity to contribute to our
Our next panel appearing before the committee, from the Asian Women
Coalition Ending Prostitution, Suzanne Jay and Alice Lee, who are members of
the organization; appearing as an individual, K. Brian McConaghy, Director,
Ratanak International; from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Julia
Beazley, Policy Analyst; and from Pivot Legal Society, Katrina Pacey,
Litigation Director, and Kerry Porth, Chair of the Board of Directors.
Suzanne Jay will lead off. Please proceed.
Suzanne Jay, Member, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution:
Thank you very much for the opportunity. The Asian Women Coalition Ending
Prostitution works to advance equality for Asian women and to promote our
meaningful participation and leadership in civil society. We believe that
prostitution is male violence, and we work toward the abolition of
We applaud the intention of the bill to protect women's dignity and
equality rights. It's consistent with the principle that all Canadian law is
to be understood and interpreted in the context of the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. The preamble of the bill demonstrates an understanding of the
systemic nature of prostitution and the consequence of undermining women's
equality on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour and sex.
We appreciate that the bill acknowledges the danger that's inherent in
prostitution and the profound exploitation that's done by pimps, brothel
keepers, procurers, advertisers and customers of prostitution, especially as
it affects Asian and other racialized women.
We recommend strengthening the preamble by including an acknowledgement
of the disproportionate impact of prostitution on racialized women and to
reference the international agreements that Canada has signed committing to
eradicate discrimination against women and to protect trafficked persons.
We support the section of the bill that criminalizes advertising of
sexual services because of the role that advertising plays in normalizing
and entrenching ideas in people's minds. In Metro Vancouver, Asian women are
dramatically overrepresented in the advertising for prostitution. Asian
massage parlours are embedded in neighbourhoods across Canada, and the
advertising for sex with Asian women is so regularized that it's virtually
invisible. Stereotypes that we have to deal with, such as Japanese
schoolgirl, China doll, subservient and eager to please, they dehumanize us
and sexualize Asian women. The normalization of these stereotypes blocks our
access to our Charter rights, regardless of whether or not we are
Pimps, procurers, brothel keepers and advertisers, and the others who are
involved in the sales and marketing of prostituted women, they cater to
these very deeply racist demands, and it's in their commercial interest to
normalize these stereotypes in order to grow the market for their product.
The practice of prostitution overlaps with the violence of wife
battering, rape and incest. These are all acts of sexist violence that are
usually committed by men in private venues, where privacy is used to confine
women, reinforce the attacker's authority and hide the violence from public
Being indoors with a man does not increase safety for wives, incested
children or prostituted women. However, we do recognize that indoor venues,
including Asian massage parlours, do enhance safety for men. They shield
pimps, brothel keepers, procurers and johns from scrutiny, and they hide the
violence that is intrinsic to prostitution. We are worried that there is now
a loophole in the legislation for pimps to disguise themselves as
We support the bill's tailored approach to target the source of the harm
to prostituted women. We support that the bill makes a differentiation
between those who depend on a woman's income without caring about how it's
earned, such as children and hairdressers, and those who are parasitically
invested in recruiting and trapping women into prostitution, such as pimps,
brothel keepers, procurers and johns.
The parliamentary committee has already indicated they understand there
is a problem with criminalizing communication in public areas. The amendment
to target women only around schools, daycare and playgrounds still weakens
the legislation because criminalizing women for their own exploitation
undermines the objective of equality.
Human trafficking is intrinsic to Asian women's experience of
prostitution, regardless of what country we come from. Trafficking is an
area that my colleague Alice Lee can speak to in more detail.
We appreciate that the bill prevents the transformation of members of
organized crime into regular businessmen. Currently, the human trafficking
law we have only applies to the traffickers and does not apply to the
buyers. Bill C-36 makes it illegal for a man to buy a trafficked woman.
However, the bill does not change the balance of power that organized crime
and human trafficking operations rely on because current immigration law
supports the exploiter. We recommend granting women in exploitative
situations landed status upon arrival to Canada in order to reduce women's
vulnerability to recruitment and to contribute to successful exit from
In conclusion, a made-in-Canada approach to prostitution has to be a lot
more robust in order to be effective in a racially diverse country. Criminal
law is limited in that it can only address violence and exploitation after
it happens. The Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution calls on our
federal government to provide comprehensive social supports to interfere
with recruitment and to facilitate women's access to our Charter rights.
K. Brian McConaghy, Director, Ratanak International, as an individual:
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to
My name is Brian McConaghy, I have 22 years of experience in the RCMP and
24 years of directing a charity that assists youth recover from the abuse of
the sex trade.
I would like to commend the government for its efforts in Bill C-36 to
identify those prostituted as victims rather than criminals. I also support
criminalizing those who purchase and benefit from the sale of Canadian
women. I do not support legalized prostitution.
The harm-reduction principles presented in support of legalized
prostitution are, I believe, misguided. I remain unconvinced that women in
prostitution will be safer if regulated. It is, in my opinion, foolish to
presume that the introduction of regulations would transform prostitution
into an industry of compliance.
I do not believe that the legalization would have protected women Willie
Pickton picked up, who ended up dismembered and in my RCMP freezers for
forensic analysis. What we do learn from the Pickton file and the analysis
of their body parts indicates that Pickton was only the last in a long line
of predators who had, over years, subjected these women to traumatic abuse
Let us be under no illusion as to the brutality of this industry.
Canadian citizens are routinely subjected to great harm in prostitution, and
their vulnerabilities are exploited to the full. Legalized prostitution
would seek to address only peripheral violence — the threats, beatings,
stabbings, et cetera. However, it is my belief that the central activity
that is prostitution represents violence against women. Harm reduction
practices will not protect women from violence if the job itself represents
violence. The purchasing of women's consent and subjecting them to thousands
of paid rapes does violence to their bodies and is profoundly destructive to
Young women exiting prostitution frequently attempt suicide. I have never
encountered a young woman in a transition program who has attempted suicide
because of her memories of beatings or being held at gun point. Invariably,
the source of distress is a profound sense of worthlessness resulting from
repeated sexual assaults central to the job, along with the associated
verbal abuse that undermines their self-esteem and shakes their identity to
the core. This is the central violence of prostitution.
If, then, violence is central to the life of prostitution, the only clear
way to reduce that violence is to reduce the size of the trade.
Experimentation in other nations teaches us that legalization will not
reduce the harm but, by growing the trade, will increase it.
In addition, I believe we are naive if we assume the creation of a
legalized Canadian industry of sex abuse would go unnoticed by a very large
source of demand south of the border. Simple economics dictates that the
demand will be filled with increasingly vulnerable product found within
Canadian society. Providing such a market is potentiality catastrophic.
The issue of choice: I view prostitution as a seamless continuum of abuse
that runs from the prostituted child who, by virtue of age, is deemed
incompetent to consent, and progresses into the abused adult who, by virtue
of conditioning, addiction and trauma, is frequently rendered equally
incapable of informed consent. Tragically, in this context, we see victims
consenting to bodily harm and physical injury, driven by their desperation
for the next drug fix. Call it what you will, this is not informed consent,
free of duress.
It is my belief that the law needs to target those who clearly have
choice regarding such harm. Those women, the majority of whom have
experienced abuse as children, who are frequently drug addicted, manipulated
and extremely vulnerable, do not have that choice. However, those with
money, careers and a reputation to maintain, those who kiss their kids
goodnight, say goodbye to their wives, drive downtown and choose to abuse a
vulnerable woman or girl, these are the ones our laws clearly need to focus
As one who has spent far too much time picking through the dismembered
body parts of prostituted women, analyzing the circumstances of their brutal
deaths, as one who knows how many years it takes to rehabilitate an abused
youth, as one who has devoted his life to the recovery of such victims,
allow me to assure you that this is not an industry of choice for the vast
majority of those prostituted. It is neither lucrative nor empowering for
them. It is destructive and it is deadly.
One of the key indicators of a mature democracy is its ability to look
past the superficial and create legislation that protects the most
vulnerable, irrespective of their circumstances or standing in society. In
creating this legislation, Canada has moved to protect such victimized
While I have reservations regarding section 213, communication, I am in
support of this bill and would ask for its speedy passage.
Julia Beazley, Policy Analyst, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada:
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
evangelical Christians gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness.
Over the last two decades, the EFC has presented a number of papers and
submissions to Parliament on the subjects of prostitution and human
trafficking. We also acted as intervenors in the Bedford case before
the Supreme Court of Canada. We're grateful for the opportunity to speak to
this important bill.
In July we made a submission to the Justice Committee offering our firm,
if qualified, support for Bill C-36. Because the time is short I'd ask that
you refer to our written brief for our fuller comments and recommendations.
In crafting this bill the government has taken a big-picture view of
prostitution and courageously challenged the long-held assumption that men
are entitled to paid sexual access to women's bodies. They've also boldly
refuted the notion that buying sex is inevitable in our society. In this
regard, the bill represents a paradigm shift in law and policy about
prostitution and eventually, we hope, in public attitude.
The preamble recognizes that prostitution is inherently exploitative and
dangerous, that objectification of the human body and commodification of
sexual activity causes social harm, and that prostitution violates both
human dignity and gender equality. It also recognizes that issues like
poverty, addiction, mental illness and racialization are key contributing
factors to individuals entering prostitution. It notes the importance of
denouncing and prohibiting the purchase of sex because that's what creates
the demand for prostitution. This positioning effectively turns the historic
treatment of prostitution on its head. Legal and political treatment of the
issue has long focused almost exclusively on those who are prostituted and
how we might deal with them: as a public nuisance, as a threat to public
health or a source of community disruption.
Sex buyers who drive the demand that funnels individuals into
prostitution and holds them there have been largely invisible. Bill C-36
correctly identifies and targets demand as the driving force behind
prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill proposes a new offence
prohibiting the purchase or attempted purchase of sexual services. If
passed, buying sex would be illegal in Canada for the first time and a
buyer's conduct illegal wherever it occurs.
The sex trade operates according to market principles of supply and
demand. Without male demand for access to primarily women and children, the
prostitution industry would not flourish or expand. The new offence takes
aim at the root of exploitation and it is supported by significant fines and
potential jail time. Surveys of men who buy sex indicate these, along with
the risk of public exposure, are the things that would most effectively
deter them from persisting in their sex buying.
The bill also initiates a critical shift in how those who are prostituted
are viewed in law. Research and anecdotal evidence tells us that between 88
and 96 per cent of women in prostitution are not there by choice and would
get out if they felt they had a viable alternative. This bill recognizes and
reflects that reality.
The government has made it clear that in the spirit and intent of the law
those who are prostituted are no longer seen as nuisance but as vulnerable
victims of exploitation and are afforded immunity from criminal charges,
except under specific circumstances. This is an important shift that we
Before the Justice Committee, we expressed concern that the wording of
sections 213(1) and (1.1) left a fairly big loophole that could undermine
the intent of the legislation to criminalize mainly the activities of johns
and pimps. We want to minimize the scope of this section for continued
criminalization of prostituted individuals.
The committee did hear this concern. It was raised by almost all witness
who appeared, and they amended section 213(1.1) to specify that the public
locations referred to include areas near schools, playgrounds or daycare
centres, and we welcome this amendment. Still, by our interpretation, the
only ones who risk potential criminalization under this section are in fact
the most vulnerable: individuals engaging in street level prostitution who
are among the most desperate and most addicted.
Criminalization of vulnerable individuals creates barriers to their exit
from prostitution and serves mainly to further entrench the inequality and
marginalization that got them there.
Criminal records are a significant barrier to many potential educational
and employment opportunities for those who successfully exit.
We recommend again that the punishment for offences under section 213(1)
and (1.1) be set at a very low threshold, with no potential for
imprisonment, and defined in the legislation to ensure that the most
vulnerable do not continue to face undue punishment or hardship.
Since much of the success of the laws will depend on how they are
enforced, we recommend standardized training be developed for law
enforcement, provincial attorneys general and Crown attorneys about the new
treatment of prostitution under Bill C-36 to support enforcement that is
consistent with the intent of the legislation.
Finally, the proposed laws are to be part of what is a two-pronged
approach taken by the government. We welcome the initial commitment of $20
million to support programs assisting individuals with exit and hope this
will translate to increased long-term, sustained federal funding.
Bill C-36 is not perfect, but what it accomplishes, by reframing the
issue as it does and directly targeting the demand for paid sex, is
significant, and for these reasons we support it.
Some have argued that Bill C-36 will endanger women, but it's not the
laws that are the cause of the violence and stigma experienced in
prostitution; rather, it is the belief that men are entitled to paid sexual
access to women's bodies on their terms at all times, and the common
perception among sex buyers that those they buy are "other" — somehow a
class separate from mother, wife or daughter. Unless we challenge those
beliefs, as this bill does, the misogynistic attitudes and behaviours that
are the cause of the violence and the stigma will persist.
Kerry Porth, Chair, Board of Directors, Pivot Legal Society: My
name is Kerry Porth, and I am a former sex worker and current chair of the
board of Pivot Legal Society.
Bill C-36 will create an environment where more exploitation, more
violence and more desperation will occur. It didn't have to be this way.
The Bedford decision represented an historic opportunity to open a
balanced national discussion about sex work. This was our chance to
prioritize the voices of sex workers who have extraordinary expertise about
what policies and regulations would protect their human and labour rights.
Instead we have a bill that improperly characterizes all sex workers as
victims and then fails to provide meaningful protections to them.
I want to make an important point today that I feel gets lost in these
discussions. The experiences of sex workers fall along a spectrum. At one
extreme you find people who have been coerced into sex work or who face
extremely challenging circumstances in their lives, leaving them few options
to make ends meet.
At the other end of the spectrum, you find people who identify sex work
as their calling and who derive fulfilment from their work. The vast
majority of adult sex workers fall somewhere in between those two extremes.
Because sex work occurs along this spectrum, laws and programs need to
respond to a diversity of needs, and I submit that three principles should
guide Canada's laws and policies in this regard.
One, we must ensure that people who are in the sex industry, irrespective
of the circumstances that led them there, have access to the safest possible
working conditions. Ensuring safety requires that sex work be
Two, we must ensure that people who experience abuse, coercion or
victimization in the context of sex work have access to the protections they
need. This does not require the enactment of new laws. It requires that we
ensure that sex workers have access to the range of criminal laws that are
intended to protect them and do address all of the harms that may occur in
the sex industry.
Three, we must ensure that those who do not want to be doing sex work
have the support and options they need to make that change in their lives.
Criminalization does not help in this regard. In fact, it limits options for
The way to ensure that no one is doing sex work out of desperation or
lack of options is to ensure an effective range of social supports and
professional training options. That is how you really support choice.
Katrina Pacey, Litigation Director, Pivot Legal Society: I will
spend my two and half minutes to respond to what I see as a number of
fictions that are being relied on in order to rationalize the approach
proposed in Bill C-36.
First, it is false to say that the criminal laws that prohibit the
purchase of sexual services or other aspects of adult sex work will have a
considerable impact on rates of prostitution in Canada. I dispute what
Justice officials said this morning. I dispute what has been reported to you
insofar as the results from Sweden and Norway.
Criminalization in many different forms has been tried all over the world
in many different ways, and in no jurisdiction is there any solid empirical
evidence to show that there is a meaningful or significant decline. In fact,
even where there has been a decline, there are many other explanations, such
as sex workers moving from the visible street sex trade to indoors.
Second, it is wrong to represent C-36 as a legal framework that immunizes
sex workers from prosecution. Street- based sex workers will continue to be
criminalized on the street, and any sex worker could be criminalized if she
or he is involved in running a business, a partnership, a cooperative
enterprise or anything that could be deemed a commercial enterprise or where
she or he is seen as deriving some benefit from the work of her or his
colleagues. This should not be supported by any Canadian who has a true
commitment to sex worker safety and rights.
Third, the government says that Bill C-36 conforms with the section 7
rights of sex workers and with the Bedford decision. They say that
Bill C-36 does not limit sex workers' access to safety-enhancing measures
such as screening clients, working indoors and working with others. Again,
this is simply false.
Just like the bawdy house law, the ban on purchasing sex and the ban on
advertising will make it practically impossible to work indoors. Sex workers
will be deprived of that meaningful opportunity to work safely.
Just like the communication law, the prohibition on communication by
clients, as well as communication by sex workers, will continue to displace
marginalized street-based sex workers to dangerous locations, will give them
little time to negotiate or screen clients and will place them at odds with
police. These are the exact circumstances that we have experienced in the
Downtown Eastside and are the exact circumstances that Commissioner Wally
Oppal found led to the tragedy of the missing and murdered women.
Like the living on the avails provision, the prohibition on procuring and
the prohibition on materially contributing or benefiting will continue to
isolate sex workers and deprive them of engaging in safety-enhancing
relationships. C-36 will reproduce the conditions we saw under the laws
struck down in Bedford. It will decrease sex workers' control over
the circumstances of their work and does not conform with section 7 of the
My final point is that there's a statement being made that the Bedford
decision, if allowed to stand, if the laws are struck down, will create a
void, that there will be a lack of protections in place for sex workers who
experience abuse or exploitation or forms of violence in the context of
their sex work, and that is simply not true. The anti-trafficking laws
remain on the books. The laws that prevent sexual exploitation of children
and youth remain on the books. The range of provisions that protect all of
us from abuse, extortion, assault, confinement, threatening and harassment
all remain on the books, and those are the provisions sex workers are asking
for access to. They're asking for equal and full access to the protections
that exist for all of us, and sex workers should have that access as well.
The Chair: Thank you, all.
Senator Baker: Thank you to all the witnesses for their very
Ms. Pacey and Ms. Porth, you say that the new law that is being
considered before this committee you believe will be struck down, just as
the Bedford matter was struck down, those three provisions, by the
Supreme Court of Canada. Could you elaborate on that?
The three provisions that the government has put in place here, that is,
that if it concerns one's own sexual services, that there is immunity from
prosecution for advertising, for deriving a benefit from sexual services and
from counselling or aiding and abetting, and there's a provision that says
you would be allowed to hire receptionists or drivers or bodyguards, you say
that this does not really accomplish anything for the sex worker. Could you
elaborate on that for us?
Ms. Pacey: Certainly. Perhaps I will begin by saying Bill C-36 is
an extensive bill and there are many aspects of it. What I'd like to focus
on in my comments regarding constitutionality are those provisions that I've
discussed today, so specifically focusing on the provisions that ban
purchasing sex, the materially benefiting provisions and the provisions that
I've spoken to today.
Senator Baker: That is very much appreciated because the bill is
entitled An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court
of Canada's decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford. That's
what the bill is supposed to be about.
Ms. Pacey: That's correct.
Senator Baker: But that's only a minority of what's in this bill.
Ms. Pacey: There are many, many aspects to this bill. There are
mandatory minimums. There are many pieces.
Senator Baker: Yes, so you're going to deal with the measures that
we want to hear about, so you go ahead.
Ms. Pacey: I hope so, and if I don't, please ask me.
We have to start with the starting point, which is the Bedford
decision. We have to realize that what the Bedford decision says is
that laws that impede sex workers from taking steps to ensure their safety,
irrespective of why they're doing sex work, if they're meaningful steps they
can take and the laws prevent them from doing so, then that is not
justifiable pursuant to section 7 of the Charter.
We take that analysis and then we look at the provisions, and the place I
believe we need to begin is the effect. We need to ask ourselves: The
provisions that are found in Bill C-36 that specifically target adult sex
work itself, whether it's buying sex, communicating in public, engaging in
business relationships, we need to look at whether or not it's going to
reproduce the same impact or effects that sex workers experienced under the
laws that were at issue in Bedford.
In my submission, I think both based on the evidence and a full and
comprehensive review of the evidence from Canada and from around the world,
as well as just plain common sense, frankly, it is very clear that the same
effects will be reproduced. Street-based sex workers will continue to work
in the most dangerous parts of our cities. Indoor sex workers will continue
to be deprived of their ability to set up the safest possible indoor spaces
for themselves. I think it's quite logical to imagine that a sex worker who
says, "I'd like to establish an indoor space," if she or he is unable to
advertise and tell anybody they're carrying on their business — a police
officer merely has to park out front and tell their clients they're under
arrest the minute they attend there — if that person has to continue to work
alone because the minute he or she engages with others it's considered a
commercial enterprise, I think you can see how this is an indirect attack on
the capacity of sex workers to work indoors.
If we look at those effects, then we move on to ask ourselves what will
happen with a section 7 analysis. The minister this morning was very careful
to say that they have constructed the preamble and the objectives of this
legislation in order to deal with what they see as the balancing exercise
that they lost on at the Supreme Court of Canada, which was laws that are
particularly about nuisance cannot be justified if the outcome is harm and
violence. So they've reconstructed the preamble and the objectives.
In my view, even with the preamble and objectives as stated in Bill C-36,
even if it is stated for the record that this is about protection, when the
court looks at the evidence, when the court understands the real direct
impact and engages in that balancing exercise, in my view the laws will
Senator Baker: The preamble, of course, is not determinative of
constitutionality by itself. The provision, what's in this law, is
determinative together with the preamble. So you're absolutely right. It's
not just enough to say it's the preamble. You've made an important point,
that in this matter we're talking about consent between adults, aren't we?
We're not talking about child prostitution or anything else, not the
Bedford decision. Those matters still remain in the law.
So your point is that even if these matters were not addressed by the
Government of Canada, we would still have adequate laws in place in Canada
governing this subject?
Ms. Pacey: Absolutely, and I bring that position to you as a
lawyer who has worked in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for the last 12
years with an absolute commitment to sex worker safety. That is exactly why
I do this work, because of my concern of the harms and the violence I've
seen experienced by the women that I'm so close to in our neighbourhood. It
is from that place that we have sat down with the Criminal Code, that we
have sat down with constitutional experts and criminal lawyers, and we have
analyzed this and said, from a place with a clear interest in protection,
does the Criminal Code in Canada with these laws gone, and those laws
meaning the ones at issue in Bedford, if they are gone, is this
enough for you? This is from sex workers themselves, and the answer was yes.
They don't want to see people forced into sex work. They certainly would
never want to see someone trafficked, and they certainly want children
protected. They said, "You know what, with these laws gone that are perhaps
unintentionally harming us, those being living on the avails, communicating
and bawdy house, there still remain a full breadth of provisions that
provide us with the protection we want and that we have been denied access
to because we are treated as criminals."
Senator Batters: Thank you all of you for coming here today.
Mr. McConaghy, I'd like to start with you. First of all, I very much
appreciate your comment. I thought you boiled this issue down when you said
that the people who should be targeted are the ones who have the true choice
here, and those are the ones who buy sex, and that is part of what this bill
tries to do.
I also very much appreciated your comments in your opening statement, and
you made a similar comment to the House of Commons Justice Committee where
you talked about women exiting prostitution frequently attempting suicide.
As someone who that's a very personal issue to, I've done a lot of work over
several years to try to help people have better awareness about mental
health and suicide. That struck a real chord when I heard that. You talked
about that profound sense of worthlessness, and that's the central violence
that is prostitution. I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit more
about that particular aspect.
Mr. McConaghy: I think a lot of the issues, and colleagues around
this table would totally disagree with me, but we are all, I think, united
in the desire to protect women. I think the difference of opinion comes in
an understanding of what is the violent component. The peripheral violence,
as I choose to describe it, is the beatings, the stabbings, the threats, all
of that kind of stuff that is not central to the job.
However, my opinion is that the actual job description of a prostitute is
in and of itself destructive. If we can produce regulations through
legalizing where we have an industry that is regulated and health care is
provided and bodyguards and everything is sweetness and light in terms of
the structure, I firmly believe that the actual job description is
destructive to the psyche. This is what we see with women who have
transitioned out and girls who have transitioned out; it is this
understanding of worthlessness from the repeated sexual assaults that
creates the absolute despair.
That fundamentally is a career choice I don't think any of us would want
our daughters to make, and I don't think it's a career we should be
institutionalizing as a Canadian society, saying that young women are a
product to be sold. I am very leery of the implications of this in terms of
south of the forty-ninth parallel.
If we create a legalized industry here, we are naive if we think there
are not going to be truckloads of guys coming north of the border. We've
seen this in Germany in terms of the amount of trafficking of women coming
in to service people coming from all over Europe. Thailand is a great
example where you have a legalized trade. They've pretty well stripped the
northern hill tribes of girls and have moved on to taking as many of the
girls as they can get illegally trafficked across the borders from Cambodia,
Laos and Vietnam.
It becomes a much bigger issue. Here we are as a fairly small population
contemplating what could be a legalized sex trade just north of Detroit, et
cetera. What is the Detroit-Windsor border crossing going to look like when
this kicks in? We're playing with fire here, and if we think the primary
duties of a career in prostitution are not damaging, I think we're naive.
Senator Batters: Ms. Jay, at the House of Commons Justice
Committee, you said "We," meaning Asian women, ". . . experience negative
consequences when our characteristics, whether they are real or imagined,
are sexualized and commodified to promote sexual services. These stereotypes
dehumanize and sexualize Asian women and they block our access to our
Charter of Rights regardless of whether or not we are prostituted." I
thought that was a very interesting point. I'm wondering if you could speak
a bit about that when you hear arguments about prostitutes' Charter rights,
and then you had your own response.
Ms. Jay: I think it's important to not create a subgroup of women
for whom it's acceptable to contravene their human rights or commit violence
on them without consequence. I think that's what happens when we address the
whole issue of prostitution by separating women into sex workers or non-sex
For Asian women as a group, we rarely get to escape any of the
stereotypes around the sexualization of our characteristics. Whether or not
I work in a massage parlour, when I walk down the street, there's a very
real possibility that someone would assume I'm sexually available in the
same way they would expect any woman walking down the street in Thailand, or
any of those other sex tourism places, to be sexually available to them.
It's an assumption that men are trained into now through sex tourism,
through pornography, through the normalization of the advertising in online
venues and newspapers for Asian massage parlours. Asian massage parlours
have become a running joke. They're kind of background to much of the
popular hipster culture we're dealing with right now. Having men accept
those ideas about us without question means that those are the men we work
with. Those are the men we go to school with and that are also in positions
of authority over us. If their presumptions and adoptions of those
stereotypes are unchallenged, they apply those stereotypes to us as well.
That has an impact on whether or not we will be dealt with as equals in the
workplace or in school, and it will have an impact on what kinds of duties
we're expected to perform in those venues.
Senator Jaffer: I have a list of questions for you, Ms. Jay or Ms.
Lee. You talked about getting landed status, but I didn't quite understand.
It's something I've been working on for years for exploited women outside
Canada. Can you explain? Did you mean when a person arrives here they
immediately get landed status, or when they're found in the massage parlour
by the police? The practice now in Vancouver is often they are driven to the
airport. What do you mean? Can you expand on that?
I'll ask Ms. Pacey and Ms. Porth my questions as well. Can you expand on
the report that Pivot did on the issue? I don't quite agree, with all due
respect, with what Justice said about the situation in Sweden and Norway.
You have some experience, so can you expand on that?
As chair of Pivot Legal Society, can you further explain what this bill
will exactly do to sex workers?
Ms. Jay: The short answer to the question is we are recommending
that Canada grant landed status to any woman who arrives here in Canada
under exploitative circumstances. We would include mail order brides under
the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and under the live-in caregivers
program. Those are people coming to Canada almost always because of poverty
in their own countries. They're coming here for better opportunities, but
somebody here is sponsoring them in order to take advantage of their
disadvantage in their country of origin.
We're saying that there are recent examples of how the balance of power
remains in the hands of the employer. In the Temporary Foreign Workers
Program, there are several cases recently showing how those people are very
subject to exploitation. If they have regularized status, there's a greater
possibility that they can escape those circumstances.
Also, I'd like to say that the procurers, pimps and organized crime that
operate the Asian massage parlours and micro brothels rely on women having
irregular immigration status. If women don't have irregular immigration
status when they arrive, they encourage it. They confiscate papers, and they
encourage women to overstay visas. They also threaten women with reporting
them to immigration because women don't always have enough information about
what their rights are when they're here in Canada.
Ms. Porth: Pivot recently released a report entitled My Work
Should Not Cost Me My Life, and it was a collaboration with the BC
Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. It was looking at a shift in enforcement
by the Vancouver Police Department towards not pursuing sex workers on the
street and towards actively pursuing their clients. While it has only been
an official policy of the Vancouver Police Department since January of 2013,
it has been in effect for the last five years.
Sex workers in the report were reporting to us that they had to work much
longer hours. A sex worker who has stood on the street for six hours and
hasn't made any money that day can't say, "Oh, well, I'll just go home for
the day." She relies on that income to meet her survival needs, so she has
to stay out far longer.
For street-based sex workers who are working in active addiction, the
longer they are out, the more likely they are entering into withdrawal. That
makes them much more vulnerable to accepting a riskier client out of
The other thing that's happening is a shift in the behaviour of clients.
They're much more nervous because they know they're being "enforced" for
communication in a public place, so they want to meet sex workers in darkly
lit industrial isolated areas. They're asking sex workers either to get into
the car before they negotiate the terms of the transaction or to follow them
into a dark alley and do the transaction there. That leaves the sex worker
with little to no time to assess a client for signs of intoxication, to
check his car, to see if there's a door handle on the passenger side, to see
if there are weapons in the car and just to get a sense of the client, but
also to negotiate the terms of the transaction, including what she is or is
not willing to do, where she's comfortable to be taken and how much she's
willing to be paid. These sorts of rush transactions can lead to
misunderstandings. Those misunderstandings can lead to violence. So the
focus on enforcement against clients really puts sex workers at risk.
The Vancouver Police Department supports the criminalization of the
purchase of sexual services. They believe they need it as an extra tool to
help them find predators. They like to talk about a single case that
occurred in 1988 or 1989 where they did a check of the vehicle in the
Downtown Eastside and discovered there were weapons in the cars and
restraint devices, and they hold that up as "We stopped a predator." But
what I'd like to remind the Vancouver Police Department is that according to
their own report to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, they stopped
Canada's worst serial killer on dozens and dozens of occasions in the
Downtown Eastside, and it didn't stop him from killing a single sex worker.
So casting a giant net over every client in the hopes that you'll catch a
single predator isn't going to work, and while we continue with that
experiment, sex workers' lives are going to be at risk.
Senator Plett: I have one or two comments before I ask a question.
The overall intent of this legislation is to abolish prostitution, not to
make it a safe occupation. Both of you have talked a number of times about
how this is making it more dangerous for prostitutes. Of course, we don't
want to make life safe for prostitutes; we want to do away with
prostitution. That's the intent of the bill.
We had just before you a witness, Timea Nagy, founder of Walk With Me
Canada and a front-line victim care worker. I asked her a question about
choices and she agreed that she had choices. She had a choice to go and turn
tricks; she had a choice to get beaten up; or she had a choice not to eat.
These were the choices given to her. She started as a young prostitute,
left, and went back into the business because of not being able to eat.
You have not said this directly but you have at least intimated, in my
opinion, that this is in some degree a reasonable occupation. Ms. Porth,
maybe you can be more direct in this; you have said you were a past sex
worker. How young were you when you went into the trade? I don't think many
people wake up on their eighteenth birthday and say, "I think I'm going to
become a prostitute." I think they have somehow gotten into that occupation
at a young age, been coerced, manipulated and forced into it.
Do you have evidence that would show that that is not true, that the
majority of sex workers are adults when they go into it and they really
enjoy their type of work and that this is not a very violent sort of an
Ms. Porth: To be clear, I started doing sex work when I was 34
years old. I started doing sex work in the context of extreme addiction and
profound poverty. It was, nevertheless, a choice. I have a university
education; I could have found other work. I could have gone to detox and
treatment, and that's not what I chose to do.
I didn't particularly like doing sex work, but not for the reasons most
people think. I just didn't like playing dumb and that's actually part of
the job. I never experienced any violence on the job. I was able, for the
most part, to work in my own home. I had somebody else there if I needed any
help. In the four years I did sex work and in thousands of sex work
transactions, I only needed help once and that was simply because the client
had overstayed his welcome. It didn't need any violence to encourage the
client to leave.
I'm not suggesting that my story is in any way typical or atypical.
The myth of the average age of entry is based on a number of studies.
There's a recent newspaper article coming out of the United States. There
have been a number of articles and research that debunk that myth. It's
based on a couple of different studies, but in both cases the studies were
of underage sex workers, so the chances are pretty good that the average age
was going to be under 18.
John Lowman, when he testified before the Justice Committee, had done a
review of several Canadian studies, which indicated the average age of entry
in Canada is between 18 and 23 years of age.
As I said in my opening statement, sex workers' experiences go along a
spectrum. For six years I was the Executive Director of the PACE Society,
which is a Downtown Eastside non-profit that works with street-based sex
workers. I worked with well over 250 of them. Some of them really hated the
work and really wanted out, so we would support them to do that. Some of
them were content with where they were at that time and some of them were
quite comfortable with their work and do feel that they chose it.
I think what's really important is we need to start where people are at.
We need to listen to what currently working sex workers have to say about
their experience and start from there. You need to believe what they tell
you about their experience. Because some of us find the idea of sex work to
be disgusting and distasteful doesn't mean that sex workers find it that
Ms. Pacey: If I could add to my colleague's comments, I think it's
very important to remember that pursuant to the Bedford decision and
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have an obligation, this
government has an obligation to ensure that its laws do not increase danger
for people in the sex industry.
The overarching objective you mentioned about abolishing prostitution in
Canada may be a legitimate objective from the government's perspective, but
I'm here to tell you that it is not legitimate if those laws put actively
working sex workers in harm's way. That is not consistent with the Charter
of Rights that they have and it's not consistent with the constitutional
principles that protect all of us.
The other thing I want to make absolutely clear is that it will not work.
Very extreme forms of criminalization have been tried, as I mentioned, all
over the world and it has not worked in a single country. There's nowhere we
can look to say that they have stamped out prostitution or even considerably
decreased prostitution. There are many jurisdictions — and I'm speaking
about New Zealand in particular — where we can look at decriminalization and
that model as one that worked very effectively because it increased the
health and safety for those involved in sex work but also did not increase
the number of people involved in sex work. That is because people do sex
work for a range of reasons, and those are the reasons we need to be talking
about today and taking an evidence-based approach.
Senator Plett: We are.
Ms. Pacey: We are.
I would like to remind us, if we're talking about people doing sex work
as a result of lack of choice or options, we really need to look at why that
lack of choice or options exists. For the women that we work with in the
Downtown Eastside, that is about a true, significant and meaningful
investment in the services dealing with the socio-economic conditions that
led them to sex work.
Senator Joyal: I would like to come back to the impact of what Ms.
Beazley mentioned in relation to criminalizing prostitution close to
schools. I was surprised, as a matter of fact, to read your comment in
relation to that, especially when you mention that those who would be
involved in those areas will probably be the most vulnerable people. We
heard the Aboriginal people testifying previously. I don't know if you were
in the room at the time.
Can you expand more on which basis of knowledge you used to come to that
conclusion? You are requesting us to amend section 213(1), if I understand
what you have proposed to us.
Ms. Beazley: Sure. If I'm reading the legislation correctly,
213(1) is still there as it was before. The one section was struck but
impeding vehicular pedestrian traffic, approaching a vehicle, those remain.
They are not qualified by the new section (1.1), which was amended to
specify areas near daycares, playgrounds or schoolyards. The only
individuals that are going to be affected by any of those are street-level
prostitutes. So there's a whole wide swath of prostitution that exists
outside of street-level prostitution. Primarily, the ones we find on the
streets, as I said, are individuals who are most marginalized. That's where
you find most of our Aboriginal women who are being prostituted. I'm saying
that, in effect, by my understanding, the only ones risking criminal charges
under this reframing are those who are most vulnerable.
Senator Joyal: Do you have any comments to add to that, Ms. Pacey
or Ms. Porth?
Ms. Pacey: I have many comments I'd like to add but I'll try to be
There are two problems with the reformulation of 213. One is that under
no circumstance should street-based sex workers be arrested. I think that
that seems to be an agreement from many of the panelists you've heard from
today, especially this afternoon.
My second point is to ask you to contemplate whether the criminal law is
the necessary or useful tool to have a conversation with the sex work
community about where sex work is happening, in our various jurisdictions,
whether it be cities or rural communities. Sex work is happening on the
streets for various reasons. In the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police
Department recognized that the effect of police pushing sex workers around
was meaningless. It meant that sex workers were not coming to the police
when they needed help. It was placing them in an adversarial relationship.
The Vancouver police put out a policy that said we are going to use criminal
law as the absolute last resort. We recognize the harms and implications of
What I'd like us to do is wonder and question why that belongs in the
Criminal Code and why instead we might not be having conversations at the
local level with our sex work community and sex work outreach organizations
to say to them, sex workers working around a playground — although I have to
admit it doesn't happen very often in our city because sex workers don't
want to be near playgrounds for the most part — just having conversations at
the local level and saying let's talk about where it's happening and where
it's both safe for sex workers as well as good for our communities.
Senator Joyal: I raised the issue of health of prostitutes with
the previous witness. Do any of you have comments you wish to add on that?
Will this bill improve the safety and security of the prostitute? In my
opinion, the health risk happens to exist in the security of the prostitute.
That is very important in today's context and what could be a deadly
disease. Have you read this bill in the context of the impact it will have
on the health condition of prostitutes?
Ms. Porth: The World Health Organization has condemned the
criminalization of sex work as pushing sex workers further away from health
supports and increasing their risk of vulnerability to HIV and other STIs.
Criminalization in some countries has led to human rights abuses, such as
mandatory testing, which the UN also recognizes as a human right abuse.
The Lancet published a series of articles about the relationship between
criminalization and an increased risk of HIV transmission to coincide with
this year's AIDS conference in Melbourne.
Sex workers already have poor health access. They face a lot of stigma.
If I was a sex worker, if I went to see my doctor for an upper respiratory
infection, my doctor was constantly wanting to send me to get tested for
STIs, despite the fact that, in Canada, sex workers actually practice safer
sex at much higher rates than the general population, so you don't want to
go to the doctor.
There was also a red border on my file folder, which indicated that I was
in a high-risk group. So sex workers face a lot of stigma. Continuing to
criminalize their occupation basically views them as criminals or as
helpless victims and reinforces stigma and means that they will not get the
same health care as every other Canadian citizen.
Senator McInnis: I had a question for Mr. McConaghy and Ms.
Beazley, but I first wanted to ask a question of Ms. Porth and Ms. Pacey. I
didn't hear it, but you will tell me if I am wrong. Do you believe that
prostitutes are victims and are being exploited?
Ms. Porth: I think to be a victim, there needs to be somebody
exploiting you. I never viewed my clients as exploiters. I set my rates. I
chose what sex acts I would be engaged in. If clients were not going to obey
that, then it ended. I was fortunate in that none of them because violent,
but the reason they didn't become violent is that they were in my own home
and they knew that there was somebody else there. Sex workers on the street
are far more vulnerable to that kind of exploitation and violence.
What I was vulnerable to in terms of clients was them threatening to
report me to the Ministry of Children and Family Development because I had a
child, or threatening to out me to my landlord who could evict me if they
came to find out that I was doing sex work in my own home. Again, it's
criminalization that makes the sex worker more vulnerable.
Ms. Pacey: My starting point has been listening to sex workers,
which is what I have done for the last 11 years. I have met with sex workers
who describe their experience as one of victimization. It is something they
never chose to do and something they never wanted to do again, and they were
seeking assistance in terms of changing their lives and changing the line of
work they were in. I have met sex workers who said, "This is a choice I am
making, and it's not for you or any other Canadian to judge me for it. I'm
an adult making consenting decisions about who I have a sexual relationship
With both of those communities, irrespective of the experience that led
people into sex work, the conversation that followed was always, "How did
criminalization assist you, or did it?" That was how Pivot entered into the
discussion. There was no position on what to do; it was, "Let's talk to sex
workers about the impact that criminalization has had on their lives,
whether that be positive or negative." That is the conversation we continue
Whether I'm sitting with a sex worker who really, truly feels victimized
in the context of sex work, and I absolutely believe her that that was her
experience, or someone who describes their experience as one of choice, and
I absolutely believe her too, criminalization has failed both of those
groups, and it is time, in my view, for us to recognize that and move on.
Senator McInnis: Would you agree that most prostitutes do not want
to be in that business?
Ms. Pacey: I actually do not agree with that. That is not my
experience. I work in the Downtown Eastside with street-based sex workers
who face incredible challenges and barriers in their lives, and most of the
women I work with in the Downtown Eastside tell me that they are looking to
change their lives or telling me that they are looking to transition out of
sex work. I also know that they are a small population and a small
percentage of the industry. When I step out of that community and start
talking to indoor workers and independent workers and students at the
university who are doing sex work to pay their way through or moms in my
community who are making a living on the side through this kind of work,
they tell me that it's a choice and that it's the best choice for them where
they are at, and they wish for the government to both respect them for that
choice as well as encourage their safety.
Senator McInnis: It's not my style to argue with witnesses, but I
respectfully disagree, particularly on the evidence we've heard so far and
the multiplicity of papers we have read leading into this. You are entitled
to your opinion, though.
As a final question, I have read that, in Sweden, over a five-year
period, prostitution was reduced by 40 per cent. You said that that is not
so. What is your evidence?
Ms. Pacey: My evidence is based on reading the three major
evaluations that came out of Sweden, and the most recent evaluation in 2010.
There are methodological issues, in my view, with how that research was
conducted. It claims that for prostitution overall, there was a decrease. If
you push deeper and look more deeply at that research, what you see is that
the visible aspect of sex work was declining already because of the
emergence of the Internet. They were already seeing a decline in terms of
the number of street-based sex workers. They didn't know what to attribute
that to, but they think it was probably the emergence of the Internet.
Then the law comes into force, and they continued to see a decline, and
they also acknowledged that there was very rigorous enforcement at that
time. There was a new law, police were excited about it, and they were out
on the streets cruising around and deterring clients. That was certainly
recorded. Then we saw, to my understanding, a decrease in interest because
chasing clients around the streets, which strikes me as what the police have
represented their policy as, became less interesting. You saw street-based
sex work increase again. Meanwhile, you saw an emergence of sex work
indoors. You saw more Swedish sex workers advertising on line.
You have to ask yourselves, are those numbers accurate? Is there a trend,
which is in fact that the visible trade moved indoors? When you start to
look more deeply, the challenge we have is that the numbers actually are not
Senator Rivest: Like many others, I share the scepticism expressed
over the effectiveness of new criminal law measures in dealing with a social
issue of such importance and complexity as prostitution.
I do not believe that making amendments to the Criminal Code would have a
significant impact on reducing prostitution or ensuring sex workers' safety.
Have there been any cases in Canada — be it on a federal, provincial of
municipal level — where police forces, community organizations involved in
this field and health care organizations were brought together and had
success in significantly reducing prostitution or, at the very least, in
ensuring that prostitution took place in "appropriate conditions," if I
may use that expression?
Is there a place in Canada where experience has shown that, instead of
making amendments to the Criminal Code, it may be more effective to focus on
a social problem on the ground and to view this as a societal issue rather
than a criminal law issue?
Ms. Porth: I'd like to talk about two things. One is a group I
have been involved with for some time, and it has been around for about 11
years in Vancouver, called Living in Community. It brought together
neighbourhood associations, the police, Vancouver Coastal Health, sex work
support organizations, sex workers, all kinds of people, to discuss the
issues of sex work and the impact of sex work on communities. It started
with a series of community round tables where people could come together to
talk about the issue of sex work.
A few years ago we conducted a demonstration project in a neighbourhood
called Renfrew-Collingwood in Vancouver which had a very active stroll
called "the Kingsway Stroll." In those two years we did a lot of public
education for people in the neighbourhood, weekly outreach to the sex
workers and a number of different other events. We worked closely with the
community policing office, and prostitution-related calls to the community
policing office dropped from 98 in the first year to 2 in the last year.
I find that most people don't think about sex work; they simply react to
it and their reactions are often based on misunderstandings and
misconceptions. If you can talk to community members about things — for
example, if there is a sex worker that is too close to your home and you
could go and talk to her, and often residents are terrified of sex workers
for no apparent reason — it can make a huge difference.
In the Downtown Eastside there are two social housing providers, The
Vivian and Serena's House, that permit sex workers who live there to bring
clients into their home, into a safe indoor space rather than doing sex work
on the street. Both housing models were evaluated by the BC Centre for
Excellence in HIV/AIDS and had very positive outcomes.
Senator Dagenais: My question is for Ms. Pacey. Like many bills,
Bill C-36 is not perfect. All pieces of legislation have their shortcomings,
but I think this is still a good bill whose ultimate goal is to reduce
Would you not agree that this is still the best way to reduce the number
of victims, who are inevitably women and children? I would like to hear your
thoughts on that.
Ms. Pacey: With respect, I do not think it's the best way to
ensure that people who do not want to be doing sex work are given other
options. There are a range of protections and supports that sex workers need
that are not provided for in Bill C-36 and in fact it detracts from their
ability to access those things.
My colleague Ms. Porth made an important point that I'd like to make
again, which is that if sex workers are asking for and are needing supports
to transition out of sex work, that will be through the provision of
supports, options and professional opportunities to them. The imposition of
a criminal law framework over them that makes it more dangerous for them
while they are there creates the possibility of a criminal record for them.
Although I understand it's lessened as a result of Bill C-36, that
possibility still remains and does not make for a meaningful investment in
terms of professional opportunities, educational opportunities, access to
better housing and to treatment and detox so that, for someone in Kerry
Porth's situation, it may have facilitated her situation and her safety.
It is that meaningful investment in the socio-economic factors that lead
some people to do sex work that we need to be focusing on as opposed to
focusing on a criminal law that, in my view, will make it less safe for them
and is a dangerous distraction from more effective and useful tools.
The second piece is the importance of ensuring that sex workers in the
social community have full access to police protection. Continuing to
criminalize the industry will continue to place sex workers in a distrustful
relationship with police and make it more difficult for them to access
police. The Vancouver experience is one that speaks absolutely clearly to
the importance of ensuring that sex workers face no barriers when it comes
to accessing police services and protections.
Senator Dagenais: If you had an opportunity to listen to the
minister's comments this morning, you heard that $20 million would be
invested. That is the result of the bill; that is a start. You will say that
the investment could have been larger, but the fact remains that $20 million
will be invested to help people find their way out of prostitution.
I assume you agree. Do you?
Ms. Pacey: I would suggest to the minister that they scrap Bill
C-36 and invest $20 million as a starting point to try to make a meaningful
investment in sex workers' lives.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you all for your presentations. Bill C-36
contains 49 clauses. In July of this year, the House of Commons Justice
Committee heard from witnesses in the same fashion we are today and proposed
some amendments to the bill, one of which is an amendment to clause 45. The
proposal in the amended clause, 45.1, is to review Bill C-36 amendments to
the Code after five years. In other words, the legislation is to be reviewed
with within a five-year period. Can I have your thoughts regarding this
Ms. Porth: If the government was convinced that this bill was the
way to go, and if believes that it will protect the rights and the safety of
sex workers, then the review should occur earlier than that because if the
bill is increasing harm to sex workers, we don't want to wait for five years
to find that out. I would think that one or two years would be more
Ms. Beazley: We had recommended to the Justice Committee that a
two-year review be written in. Five was better than nothing, but we had
asked for a two-year review as well.
Mr. McConaghy: I think it's prudent to have such checks. I also
think that this is a cultural change. It is a massive shift to be
criminalizing the purchasers of sex. It's going to take a long while. With
the large, slow-moving legal animal we know we have in Canada — I think it
would be nice if we could get all the answers in two years, but it's
impractical. I think it's going to take a while to work through the system
to know whether or not it is functioning and performing the way we want.
While we would all want answers next year, I don't think it's practical. It
will take working through the courts, police services and social services to
see what the impact is and if it is having the desired effect. I think five
years is reasonable.
Ms. Jay: We would agree that a review of the bill would be useful.
One of the things that other countries that have instituted Nordic-style
models of law have found is that over the five years there is an actual
impact on the population of men and their attitude toward prostitution.
There is a tremendous impact on young men and their attitudes toward
prostitution. I would like to see a review and for that review to examine
social attitudes toward prostitution at that point.
One of the things I am noticing is that in our discussion we are still
focusing on women and on women as victims. One of the things we like about
Bill C-36 is that there is a refocus on the demand side of prostitution. I'd
like to see more focus on the impacts that we expect Bill C-36 to have on
men's attitudes and behaviour.
For example, when we talk about the health of women in prostitution,
particularly in Asian massage parlours or other restricted circumstances, we
need to be clear that it is men who are the vectors of disease transmission.
They are the ones who should be tested and should face those health checks
if there is going to be any kind of health check at all. They are the ones
bringing the disease into the brothels and the massage parlours, and they
are the ones demanding the unprotected sex.
Senator Baker: Ms. Pacey, you might be wondering why a lot of the
questions are directed toward you. You represented the Downtown Eastside Sex
Workers United Against Violence Society in the Supreme Court of Canada
decision in 2012. It took you five years to be granted public interest
standing to argue against the present laws that we have in Canada. You won
your case before the Supreme Court of Canada and you now have standing to
argue — though not exactly the same parameters of the case we are dealing
with in Bedford because your case was a little bit different. Your
grounds were different.
So if I were a betting person, which I'm not, I would bet that the first
person who's going to challenge this constitutionally is somebody who has
been granted public interest standing by the Supreme Court of Canada, which
you have been, in challenging this new law.
My question to you is this: You challenged the law under the civil rules
of procedure of British Columbia. This Bedford decision was
challenged under the civil rules of procedure of Ontario. In both cases, you
run the risk that if you don't win your originating applications, you might
end up with a gigantic bill from the Department of Justice for costs.
Let me ask you, on behalf of members of the committee, why would you not
bring these constitutional matters before a criminal court and get somebody
who has been charged with an offence? Then you are not bound by costs under
the criminal rules of procedure. Why do you persist in going through the
civil rules of procedure of the B.C. court?
Ms. Pacey: That's an excellent question, and it leads to an
important point that I'm glad you're opening the door for me to make, which
is that my clients, Sex Workers United Against Violence and Sheryl
Kiselbach, were very intentional in how they brought the proceedings forward
in British Columbia, and Bedford, Leibovitch and Scott were very intentional
in how they brought their proceedings forward, because they wanted to be
able to challenge the laws as a scheme. They operate as a scheme. The
individual prostitution laws are harmful in and of themselves, and they're
especially harmful if you look at the framework of laws and the way that
those construct and constrain sex workers' ability to be safe.
In a criminal context, you are usually charged with one, maybe two, of
the provisions at a time, and you are limited in your capacity to bring a
challenge forward, except with the provisions that you are charged with.
Similarly, it is very easy for the Crown to decide at any point, including
the day before trial, to stay the proceedings. We have seen that happen in
many contexts, where charged individuals file constitutional notices, go a
very long way to trial, and then the Crown says, "We decided we've changed
our mind and we're going to drop them against you." So it was an
intentional and strategic decision to go forward, most importantly because,
similar with Bill C-36, you must look at this as a framework and you must
look at the way in which the provisions work together to limit sex workers'
safety and options.
Senator Batters: I wanted to address my question to Ms. Jay and
Ms. Lee. I thought you made an excellent point in your opening statement,
and you made it in your brief as well, when you said:
In the absence of Bill C-36, Canadian human trafficking laws apply
only to traffickers but not the buyers of trafficked women. Bill C-36
makes it illegal for a man to buy a trafficked woman.
I'm wondering if you can tell us about any research you have seen to
indicate the effect of legalization or decriminalization of prostitution on
Alice Lee, Member, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution: I've
been a front-line worker for at least 17 years, and I was a chosen
representative, one of four representatives of Canada to the international
leadership program, which is an exchange program focusing on human
trafficking with the United States department. In my work, I can tell you
that in countries where there was legalized prostitution, human trafficking
increased, as Minister Peter MacKay indicated. I personally have visited
Cambodia, Thailand and those places that had rampant legalized prostitution
such that women are trafficked into those countries for those purposes. You
can't supply enough women when prostitution is legalized, and men are using
more and more prostitution.
Just like in battery and sexual assault, Bill C-36 is an important bill
because it provides social sanctioning against the exploitation of women and
it sends a clear message to men — and the men who are parasitically invested
in women's exploitation — that it is not okay as a society to be supporting
their behaviours. For that purpose, we are in support of Bill C-36.
Ms. Jay: Amsterdam is considered a failed experiment. Prostitution
in the Netherlands is being rolled back by the government because they've
realized that by legalizing prostitution, they invited entrenched organized
crime in that activity. There was an explosion in the unregulated areas of
prostitution, including underage prostitution. There was an explosion in the
trafficking of women into those countries to service the growing demand —
the demand that they deliberately grew for prostitution.
What those countries have had to do, and what they are doing very
publicly, is they're closing down the red light districts in their cities.
They are now debating ways to roll back that decision in order to defend
themselves against the growth of human trafficking and the entrenchment of
organized crime syndicates.
Senator Joyal: Ms. Pacey, I would like to come back to the issue
of the constitutionality of some sections of the bill, of course the one
that deals with the objectives of the Bedford decision, which is
essentially to increase the security of prostitutes.
We heard this morning the government arguing that the bill creates a
different context because the preamble of the bill recognizes that woman are
victims of prostitution, that prostitution is essentially a phenomenon of
victimization. If you read the preamble, it speaks of exploitation,
commodification and a disproportionate impact on women and children.
Would you not be challenged on the basis that it might be a breach to
section 7, which is the security of the person, but it is saved by section 1
of the Charter, which is that limits are reasonable in a free and democratic
society, the objective being to fight for non-exploitation and
non-commodification of women and so forth? How will you rebut that argument
from the government in court, if you find yourself in that position,
challenging the section of this bill that deals with the Charter of Rights
Ms. Pacey: It's a big question. My simple answer is this: I
believe the evidence is going to speak for itself. I believe that the impact
on the ground, especially as it relates to the clients we work with, the
community of sex workers that Pivot is part of, working in the Downtown
Eastside of Vancouver — and of course that's our focus and that's who we
will likely represent on a going-forward basis — the reality for them, as it
was with the Bedford case and in the SWAUV decision, was so
egregious, the conditions created by the laws were so appalling and so
unjustifiable, that in the context of Bedford and SWAUV, where
we were dealing with different legislative objectives, in my view, the
outcome was clear.
In this case, we're dealing with different objectives and that balancing
exercise, and we're talking about principles of fundamental justice. We will
be having a different conversation at the court. But my simple answer for
you today is that the harms will be so tragic because the conditions will
remain as they are under the existing laws. What is awful to imagine is that
sex workers will be placed in the circumstance of again having to withstand
those conditions and circumstances and again having to go back to court
demanding their rights.
Senator Jaffer: I had earlier asked you about the report that you
had prepared, and we ran out of time. Can you talk about why you prepared
that report, and what were the findings of the report that you prepared with
the HIV/AIDS organization?
Ms. Pacey: We are in an ongoing dialogue with the Vancouver Police
Department and with the Province of British Columbia and the City of
Vancouver at all times about safety in our community. That conversation was
prompted by the tragedy that we have seen in Vancouver and the experience of
the past 15 years with Canada's largest serial killer. That conversation is
ongoing, and I'm happy to say that partners are coming to the table,
including police, municipalities and members of the province. They are
coming forward with a vested interest, really wanting to know the best way
That report was created and that research took place to genuinely ask the
question: If the police shift their enforcement practices, if they lift the
pressures of enforcement away from sex workers, if they redirect that
towards their clients, what does that mean for sex workers on the street?
Sex workers were very interested in having their voices heard.
The British Columbia Centre for Excellence, because they're research
experts, carried out the qualitative work of going out, talking to sex
workers, and asking them about the circumstances of their work and how it is
for them ever since this policy shift took place. They then conducted the
data analysis, because that's what they do so well. We then conducted the
legal analysis to follow. The results show very clearly that the conditions
remain the same, with enforcement having shifted, as they were under the
A story that I will share with you briefly is that sex workers explained
that they may be standing in more well-lit locations now because they feel
like the police won't arrest them, but their clients drive up, they barely
slow down and they start to point to the dark alley around the corner. That
is where the client is willing to stop. She then follows the client into
that alley. That is where he suggests she gets into the car as quickly as
possible, before they're detected by police. She's in the car then, and
that's where the negotiation takes place, where she has major loss of
control over the conditions.
Those are the exact conditions we are trying to confront, while being
invested in supporting the sex workers in that community to have all the
options and choices. We're fighting for housing, welfare and health
services. We're fighting for all of those things. We want the women we work
with to be alive to enjoy those benefits if they arrive one day.
The Chair: Thank you, witnesses. We have reached the conclusion of
the time allotted. We thank you all for being here today and contributing to
the committee's deliberations on this important piece of legislation.
On our next panel, as individuals, Ed Smith and Linda Smith; from Mothers
Against Trafficking Humans, Glendene Grant, who is the founder of the
organization; from Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Stéphanie
Claivaz-Loranger, who is Senior Policy Analyst, and Kara Gillies, a member
of the organization.
Ms. Smith, I understand you will begin with an opening statement. I think
you all understand the time limitations we are operating under. Thank you.
Linda Smith, as an individual: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you
also for the opportunity to speak to this committee today. We feel honoured
to be here. I will share with you a bit of our story and Ed will do a
At the age of 17 our daughter, Cheri Lynn Smith, was procured into
prostitution by a young man who was just 18 years old. Somehow he convinced
her that she was in love with him and, against all our pleading and tears,
Cheri left home to be with him.
For the next 10 months, her boyfriend, who was really her pimp,
trafficked her to many cities in Western Canada until she was brutally
murdered in Victoria, B.C. Cheri was 18 years old and six months pregnant
when she was beaten to death, and her body lay undiscovered in some bushes
for three months. This happened in 1990, and no one has ever been charged
with her murder.
We had a lot of interaction with Cheri during the time she was working as
a prostitute. We, of course, were always trying to persuade her to come
home. She was seen by social workers, counsellors, physicians and youth
workers. None of them could convince her to leave her pimp, and no one had
the resources to help her leave. The police considered her to be a nuisance.
She was apprehended by them on three separate occasions in three different
cities, and all they did was send her home.
There were hundreds of men who sexually used and abused our daughter. She
was raped and beaten, robbed and thrown out of a moving vehicle. We never
heard of any of those men being charged. Even though Cheri was controlled
and mistreated by her pimp, she would not testify against him. Therefore, he
was never charged.
However, we are encouraged as we see society's attitudes changing. Bill
C-36 will be a leap forward in bringing care and compassion to the
vulnerable and victimized in our country. Law enforcement and communities
will begin to recognize the abuse these women and children endure. The
prostitute will be treated as a victim, not as a criminal, and the buyers of
sex will be seen as the abusers they are. The pimps who buy, sell and trade
these females will be prosecuted as traffickers.
Ed Smith, as an individual: Since Cheri's death, we have tried to
do all we can to put a stop to the sexual exploitation of women and
children. We have tried to educate young people about the dangers of
traffickers who are looking for the vulnerable.
We have tried to educate men to the harm they do to those who are being
sexually exploited and the harm they do to themselves and their families
when they pay money for sex.
Linda has told Cheri's story over 1,000 times in schools to Grade 6, 7
and 8 students to teach them about sexual predators. She has also informed
parents, churches and community groups of the signs and symptoms of
vulnerable and sexually abused children.
I have spoken over 130 times at john schools in Regina and Saskatoon to
men who have been arrested for soliciting a prostitute. They hear stories
from former prostitutes whose lives have been so severely damaged that they
feel they will never be able to recover. They hear from former johns about
how their addiction to sex and the use of prostitutes has destroyed their
family and the relationships of those close to them. Prostitution destroys
the lives of both the buyer and the seller of sex.
I would like to see Bill C-36 strengthened in the area of education —
education to help young people understand the destruction that awaits them
in a life of prostitution. There needs to be more information for men to
help them see the harm they are doing when they pay money for sex, harm to
themselves and to the prostitute. As men, we need to be the protector of
women and children, not the abuser.
I think Bill C-36 is a positive step forward, as it will help to protect
vulnerable women and children. Bill C-36 will send a clear message to the
buyers of sex and traffickers that we will no longer tolerate the abuse of
some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity today to speak in support of Bill
The Chair: Thank you.
Glendene Grant, Founder, Mothers Against Trafficking Humans (M.A.T.H):
Thank you for allowing me to appear before you, Mr. Chair and senators. It's
a privilege to be here and speak. My story is similar to the Smith story. My
daughter Jessie Foster was taken to the United States in 2006 and forced
into prostitution. We had no idea this was happening until she went missing
10 months later.
When she went missing, we hired a private investigator who found out the
disturbing facts. He found out that Jessie had been beaten, hospitalized
with a broken jaw, forced into prostitution and arrested, not just once, a
month after she was taken there, but four more times in September. She was
planning on coming back to B.C. for a stepsister's wedding reception, and
she disappeared from one night to the next. We have never had any answers,
information or anything on Jessie's disappearance, and as of March she has
been missing for nine years.
I believe in Bill C-36 because it will help young women like my daughter
against the person who was an Albertan, a trafficker who took her to the
States and left her there with a known pimp, a violent pimp known to the Las
Vegas vice and pandering squad. As far as I'm concerned, a law such as this
will help women by keeping men like that away from them.
It's hard for me to keep telling Jessie's story over and over because
it's the same. There's no change, no answers, nothing new. The thing that
has come out of Jessie's disappearance is a lot of awareness. She is
probably Canada's most well-known victim of human trafficking. We've been
fortunate to have her story told on many documentaries and in several books.
As far as I'm concerned, Jessie's story has made a difference to other women
and other parents.
I have had many parents and young women alike call me and tell me, after
hearing Jessie's story, about the changes that were made in their lives and
their daughters' lives. They made different choices and are here today to
tell you stories. Not here personally, but today they could tell you stories
of how they survived and did not end up as victims. I started this
initiative many years ago, before we in Canada started striving to target
financiers of human trafficking, so far ago that people used to think, "I
was just a mom looking for an answer," because of course human trafficking
did not happen in Canada.
Since then, I've been grateful and fortunate enough to tell Jessie's
story to people like you, and hopefully I have made a difference.
Jessie is one of four daughters. She has nieces and a nephew that she has
never had a chance to meet, but they are all fully aware of Auntie Jessie. I
have a little picture of an angel that I found in my pocket when I got on
the airplane yesterday morning that my granddaughter had drawn and hid it in
my pocket so I would find it when I was away. She has drawn a missing poster
for her auntie of a beautiful blonde girl in a sparkly dress, and she says,
"Have you seen me?"
As far as I'm concerned, Bill C-36 may not help anybody this year, it may
not ever help Jessie, but it will help my granddaughter 10 years from now
when she's 16, and it will help Canadians in the future.
We don't expect answers to appear come January. We don't expect changes
to be made instantly. We do expect that changes will be made. I don't feel
$20 million is something to laugh at. I think that's a substantial amount,
added with the other money that is available from the john schools and other
places that these funds come from. $20 million is more than we had before
this. That's a lot of money, and as far as I'm concerned, it will be going
to good use.
Helping women to leave the street when they want to is so important. Many
women don't realize at the time they are forced into this life that they are
being forced. Some of them think it's partly their choice. In Jessie's case,
she thought this man was her boyfriend and fiancé. She loved him and yet he
beat her, broke her jaw and forced her to work as a prostitute on the Las
It's hard to wrap your brain around how somebody can be a high school
graduate, she had been on the honour roll, involved with the same friends
since kindergarten, into sports and dance, never gave me a lick of trouble
her whole life. I never got calls from the teachers, other parents, or the
police as Jessie was growing up. She was a beautiful young woman who had
high expectations for her life. She had never done drugs, and yet she still
became a victim of human trafficking. She was still taken out of our country
under all of our noses and nobody realized what was happening until it was
I want everyone to understand my take on Bill C-36 is that it must pass
and become a law. When that law passes, I and many others will be calling it
"The Jessie Law."
Stéphanie Claivaz-Loranger, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian HIV/AIDS
Legal Network: My name is Stéphanie Claivaz-Loranger. I'm a lawyer at
the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a human rights organization that works
to promote the rights of people living with and affected by HIV in Canada
The legal network intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in
Bedford and has worked on issues relating to human rights and sex work
for over a decade.
I'm accompanied by Kara Gillies, a member of the Legal Network with 25
years of experience in sex work and two decades of experience in support and
advocacy on sex trade issues.
We thank the committee for this opportunity to present. Our written brief
provides a detailed explanation of the different provisions of Bill C-36,
including the amendment regarding communication. It explains how these
provisions will have harmful impacts similar to those of the provisions
struck down by the Supreme Court.
Our brief also explains how globally available scientific data
demonstrates that decriminalization is necessary to uphold sex workers'
rights to health and to empower sex workers to protect their health,
including protecting themselves against HIV. We would be happy to answer any
questions the committee may have on these topics.
There are four points we would like to draw to the attention of the
committee concerning the impacts of Bill C-36 if enacted. First,
communication: The proposed communication prohibition as amended by the
house may appear narrower than the one existing before Bedford.
However, because of its ambiguity, and because of the impact this
ambiguity will have on its enforcement, street- based sex workers will
continue to fear arrest and be prevented from properly screening clients.
Second, criminalizing purchase: Experience in Sweden and municipalities
in Canada demonstrate that criminalizing clients replicates many of the
harms that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in Bedford.
Whether it's the sex workers themselves who fear arrest, or their clients,
the impact that this has on the safety dynamics are the same. Also, there is
no data that indicates that criminalizing clients reduces demands. What
criminalizing a client does, however, further penalizes the sex workers.
Third, benefiting from sex work and procuring: The provisions of Bill
C-36 which intend to protect sex workers from exploitation are so broad that
they will continue to target third parties sex workers work with. These
provisions will have the same impact as the one the Supreme Court found
unconstitutional for preventing sex workers to work with people who could
enhance their safety and with other third parties providing them legitimate
Finally, working indoors: The Supreme Court found the prohibition of
bawdy houses to be unconstitutional because of its negative impact on sex
workers' security. Bill C-36 will not reinstate this prohibition, but the
impact of its different provisions will mean that operating indoor venues
cannot be done legally. In essence, it reintroduces the same prohibition
with the same harmful consequences via different means.
For all these reasons, the main provisions of Bill C-36 would not
withhold constitutional scrutiny, but most importantly, we can't wait for
this bill to be passed and make its way to the Supreme Court because the
bill will put the lives of sex workers at risk in the immediate future.
Kara Gillies, Member, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network: Thank you
for the opportunity to address you today. At the outset, I wish to express
my concern that under this bill the dangers imposed on sex workers by the
old legal regime will remain the same for some and will worsen for many.
Back when I worked the street, the communicating law prevented me from
effectively screening clients or negotiating the terms of the exchange. The
opportunity to take these most basic of measures would have gone a long way
to enhancing my safety. If the law had been slightly different and had
allowed me to hold my half of the conversation but had silenced my clients
and made them fearful of arrest, the impact would have been the same with my
safety equally jeopardized, and that is what we have seen with recent
client-focused law enforcement in various municipalities and what we will
see with this bill's proposed sanctions against purchasing sex.
When I moved off-street and was no longer a key target of the
communicating law, I was immediately struck by how much easier and safer it
was to be able to openly talk with clients and to manage their expectations
in keeping with my own preferences and boundaries. I have to say I find it
deplorable that this bill's blanket prohibition on any client communication
in any context totally jettisons this safety measure. Off-street workers
will face the same legally imposed dangers that those on the street have
been subjected to for years.
I'm also worried about the safety impact of the material benefits
provision. While I appreciate the exemptions may allow a worker to hire a
bodyguard or receptionist, I'm mindful that only a tiny number of highly
privileged workers will have the resources to do so. In essence, the law
will require folks to set up their own small businesses, which is often out
of reach for the majority of working people, regardless of industry.
Instead, many sex workers seek out parlours and escort agencies because they
offer beneficial services such as screening, secure venues and advertising.
Sadly, the proposed sanction against commercial enterprises criminalizes
I ask you to truly consider the consequences of this. If I have $50 to my
name and my rent is due and my fridge is bare, I can't afford to spend money
on advertising or security or a hotel room, and if I don't have the option
of taking a shift at a place like an agency, I am then susceptible to
turning instead to a potentially unscrupulous or even abusive individual of
the sort we've heard about today.
Certainly abuses can be perpetrated by commercial enterprises and
individuals alike. Fortunately we have criminal laws to address behaviours
such as assault and forcible confinement, as well as laws against
trafficking and living on the avails of or purchasing the sexual services of
somebody under the age of 18. I understand the argument that having an
economic interest in somebody else's sex work can indeed facilitate
exploitation in the pursuit of profit. The sad reality, as we all know, is
that this dynamic holds true in any industry, and that is precisely why we
have labour and employment laws and it's why we need to bring commercial sex
businesses out of the criminal shadows and into the same regulatory
frameworks that uphold the rights and safety of working people at large.
For these reasons, and the ones detailed in our brief, we urge this
committee to reject Bill C-36 in its entirety. Thank you.
Senator Baker: Thank you to the witnesses for your excellent
presentations. They were very, very informative.
My question is to the last two presenters, and basically what you were
saying is that this bill will not benefit persons who are providing sexual
services if it is their own sexual service that they are providing. However,
I'm sure you will agree that it has always been illegal to pay for sex. It
has always been illegal. People have been charged over the years; we know
that. But now for the first time, wouldn't you agree, under this bill, if I
read clause 286.5:
286.5 (1) No person shall be prosecuted for
(a) an offence under section 286.2 if the benefit is
derived from the provision of their own sexual services; or. . .
For the first time in Canadian history, we have now a provision in which
a prostitute is immune from prosecution for receiving a material benefit.
Then it goes on to say:
(b) an offence under section 286.4 in relation to the
advertisement of their own sexual services.
For the first time you have a law in Canada that says that a person can
advertise their own sexual services. And then it goes on and says that:
(2) No person shall be prosecuted for aiding, abetting, conspiring .
. . if the offence relates to the offering or provision of their own
In other words, operating with somebody else and collectively conducting
that. For the first time we have that.
If we go back a page, for the first time we now have protection in which
a prostitute will be able to have a bodyguard or driver or a receptionist if
it is for the provision of a service that is a legitimate service. That's
never been in the Criminal Code before.
If you go back another page, it talks about the provision of somebody
living off the avails of prostitution in which if it is a legitimate living
arrangement you can't be prosecuted.
What do you say to the people who put the argument like I have just put
it to you, that there are provisions in this bill that will protect
prostitutes that we've never had in Canadian law before? And how would the
benefits of all of those provisions in this law be negated by the other
factors that you think will come into play to negate them?
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: At first glance it might look like some of
the provisions will enhance the security of the sex workers. There is one
dynamic that will change under the bill. Until now, paying for legal
services was not a crime. It will become a crime now, and we've seen from
other experiences, whether in other jurisdictions in Sweden or from studies
that Pivot has done from Vancouver, that when the client is criminalized, it
creates the same dynamics that we used to see when both the client and the
sex workers were criminalized for communication.
With respect to sex work taking place in the streets, we are very much
concerned about negotiations still having to be done very quickly and still
taking place in more remote areas. Yes, the street worker might not be
worried that she will be arrested, but if her client is going to get
arrested, she will not be able to work either. So she will have to abide by
the safety concerns of the client, who will be more stressed. It's going to
be still very difficult for her to assess the situation.
Now an option could be, well, great, but they can work indoors so there
will be increased safety. The truth is that the different provisions of the
bill will not make it accessible to work indoors. First of all, because it's
only if you sell your own services that you are immune from prosecution, one
could work by herself indoors if she has the resources, which I think my
colleague can speak to is not the case for many of the street-based sex
workers who do not have the possibility to work indoors. But as soon as you
hire people, it's unclear whether security staff or a receptionist could
fall under criminal law and be prosecuted because of this exception to the
exemption about commercial context.
What the minister made clear earlier is that they consider any commercial
setting to be exploitative. Even if the sex worker works by herself and then
she hires people, the minister said we will have to see in such a situation
if it would be considered exploitative. It doesn't take away the risk of
prosecution of people who would potentially work with the sex worker.
What are the chances that somebody offering receptionist or security,
which are legitimate services, will accept working in situations where they
know that this can be taken to court, they could be prosecuted, and then
afterwards we would study whether or not there was exploitation?
For all these reasons and because of the prohibition on advertising, how
could a sex worker advertise if no editor or website can carry her
advertisement? Working indoors would likely not be a possibility.
Senator Baker: That's excellent. Let's go to the purchasing or to
communicating for the purpose of obtaining a prostitute, and let's talk
about all those people who have been charged with buying sex.
Mr. Smith, you referenced that you speak to john schools. Could you tell
the committee, first of all, the types of people you would find in those
john schools? Do they serve a legitimate purpose? Should the government be
paying more attention to the john schools? What was your reaction to those
people who had been charged with a criminal offence of purchasing sex?
Mr. Smith: By the huge majority, and I've spoken at 130 schools
that average about 10 men, so it's probably about 1,300 men I've spoken to,
at the end of school, the men have to talk to the presenters, and some of
the presenters are former sex workers, and I tell Cheri's story, and I have
not had a single man say, "This has made no difference to me. I can't see
why I shouldn't be able to go out and buy a prostitute." Every man says
"I'm sorry," often in tears, asks for forgiveness from the girls. I have
trouble believing this, but they say, "I had no idea I was causing this
much harm." They say, "I won't be doing this again." Some of the former
johns that speak also try to encourage the men to change, they ask how many
are married, and I'm surprised at the number of men who put up their hands.
They ask them, "Do you have daughters, granddaughters," and many of them
do. So they ask the next question, "What would you think if your daughter
or your granddaughter was out there? Would you sell your daughter to this
guy?" Then it just changes the way they look at it and realize the harm
that's being done.
The john schools have made a huge difference. Several of my very close
friends now are former johns. I have coffee with one fellow almost every
week, and he's working through the things that have happened to him, but it
resulted in the breakup of his family. He's since been remarried and they
are doing well. I just see so much damage being done, not just to the sex
worker but to the men who are willing to pay money for sex. I tell them
honestly: "You know, guys, I'm not here to lay a guilt trip on you, but if
you had not been willing to pay for sex, my daughter would still be here
Senator Batters: Thank you very much all of you for being here
First, to Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith, from Regina, welcome. It's such a
beautiful city and my home city. I am happy that you're here to join us
today and tell your daughter Cheri's story. I watched your story when you
testified before the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee and
found it very powerful, particularly when I reread the testimony preparing
for this meeting. Your daughter Cheri died in 1990 at 18, and she was a
Regina girl just like me and only two years younger than me. Reading that,
it strikes home how this situation can devastate a family.
I want to thank you for all the work you've done in Cheri's memory to try
to prevent similar tragedies from happening to other Saskatchewan families,
both through your work, Mrs. Smith, in speaking to all these school kids
about how these situations can quickly escalate and get out of control, and
for your work, Mr. Smith, dealing with the johns in john schools. It sounds
you are making a difference, and thank you for doing that.
I go back to what you indicated, Mrs. Smith, in your opening statement
today "There were hundreds of men who sexually used and abused our daughter.
She was raped and beaten, robbed and thrown out of a moving vehicle. We
never heard of any of those men being charged."
Now you're saying that the buyers of sex will be seen as the abusers they
are. I would like you to comment further on that aspect of Bill C-36 and why
you support the criminalizing of the purchase of sex.
Ms. Smith: Someone earlier today said we're just talking about
women, not about men, and that it's men that drive the sex for sale, and I
agree with that. I don't know how I would feel if someone came up to me and
said, "I knew your daughter; I was one of her clients." That would be
really hard. Yet there were many men, and we know that from some of Cheri's
personal effects after her body was found.
But I also believe in restoration and healing. As Ed has mentioned, at
the john schools we see the men finding out about the impact they are
having, and I believe that would be a better way of getting men to stop
buying sex, if they could see and hear from the victims and get a chance to
make different choices.
So I'm really hopeful that this legislation will bring that about.
Somebody mentioned the $20 million, and we need to have more john schools.
In Saskatchewan, we have three cities that have john schools, but it's
dependent on how frequently the police go out to make arrests, so we know
that we're just hitting the tip of iceberg. There are many other men out
there, many of them fathers and grandfathers, who are buying sex from —
well, I consider them victims. My daughter was a victim. So I'm glad that we
have Bill C-36.
Senator Batters: Ms. Grant, thank you also for your work in the
name of Jessie, and thank you very much also for bringing that personal but
very moving item that you did on the picture of the angel, and I liked
thinking about your daughter in a sparkly dress; that was a nice image to
You also testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee, and you
Now this is why I believe in Bill C-36. The biggest reason is that we
can't have the alternative. . . . We can't risk more and more people
being forced into the sex trade, if this was to be a legal job, as there
would never be enough people to fill the potential job openings. . . .
we need to stop this demand, because that's the only thing that's
keeping it going.
Could you please elaborate on that?
Ms. Grant: I said that because it's true. If there was no demand,
there would be no need for supply. Like Mr. Smith said, some of those johns
don't know the harm they are doing because to them it's all about
self-pleasure. So I believe there's a lot of men out there who like to hire
prostitutes, and if this becomes a legal job and brothels open up and there
are job openings for women, those jobs are not going to be filled. There
will never be enough women to fill a brothel in, say, Kamloops, where I
live, with 95,000 people.
I think about things that could come from that, like having to apply
there. I'd lose my job. I'd need to go on Employment Insurance. I have to
apply for all the available jobs around. I look at those types of things. If
we didn't have to have women to supply the demand or men to supply the
demand, then I believe it would reduce what we're going through. I believe
that it was the demand for sex that had her daughter killed and my daughter
missing for eight and a half years.
My youngest daughter was born in 1990 and I think about the 24 years of
my Jenny and her three children and in those years that's how long you've
been grieving. I believe it's such an important thing to stop the demand.
There are never going to be just average joes. There are always going to be
violent ones. When you get into a car or have a violent john come into your
home or room, you don't know that. You can talk to him till you're blue in
the face before the actual act but you're not going to know if he is
violent. There are so many different risks.
I just want this bill to pass.
Senator Batters: You indicated earlier in your opening statement
that when your daughter went missing it initially wasn't considered
trafficking because people weren't trafficked in Canada. I just point out
that there will be a lot of talk about New Zealand as we deal with this
subject in the next couple of days. A report from New Zealand's government
dealing with their prostitution review commission in 2003 expressly stated
that in New Zealand trafficking is not considered trafficking unless it's
across international boundaries, so that's a point to consider.
Ms. Grant: For me, trafficking doesn't have to be international
because you can be trafficked out of your father and mother's home as a
teenager and go home every night at the end of that night. It has nothing to
do with it. I believe that Canada's eyes have greatly opened up to the crime
of human trafficking since 2006. There is not a day that goes by that I
don't hear another story of arrests and rescues of victims. It's really
making a difference.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you to all the witnesses for your testimony.
Ms. Grant, I want to thank you for sharing your story. It is very
difficult, but there is also the positive way in which you have turned
something painful in your life to come and help us. Thank you very much.
All three of you have talked about education. If you were going to craft
education or raise awareness, what would that look like? The chair will only
give me a few minutes so you can send it in later to the clerk if you want
to think about it.
Ms. Grant: I go into high schools all over B.C. and Alberta and I
give education speeches to the students. Looking into the audience while I'm
talking, I can tell which ones of those teenagers — and you might know what
I'm talking about — are listening and the ones that are whispering, writing
or texting while I'm talking. I know which ones I've captured, and at the
end of my talks young men and women will come up and thank me and hug me. I
don't have anything that I could suggest to draft because that's out of my
realm of any kind of education that I have, but I know that I've seen
I went to Ashcroft, a small town in B.C. with not very many people, with
Crime Stoppers. We gave our talk. The principal was away that week. She
called me the next week and said that so many of her students came up to her
and told her how amazing that presentation was and how much they appreciated
it. She called me to thank me because it made such a difference in her
school. It also happened in Boston Bar, which might have 300 people, where a
girl went missing, and I was asked to speak. Their school is K through 12;
it's such a small place. I got a lot of positive results. It's the small
towns. They are sort of left in the dust when it comes to thinking this is
not going to happen to them because this is a big city issue, but it's not.
It's an issue for everyone.
Mr. Smith: I think men need to be educated about the dangers of
pornography. A presenter earlier in the day talked about children. I have a
nine-year-old grandson. Thankfully, my son and his wife are very vehement
about monitoring his Internet use. Almost all the men I talk to after the
john schools, I ask them, "How did you get started?" Over and over again,
it started with pornography. We need to educate men about the dangers of
Senator Jaffer: I will ask three questions and then you can answer
them. I didn't quite understand your bawdy house explanation because I
understood from the minister this morning that women could now work from
home, if you can explain that. The other thing is that I was always confused
about the advertising. All day people have talked about women can advertise,
but where would they advertise if the person who prints it will get
Third, more for Ms. Gillies, I've talked to a lot of people this summer
about this bill, and the big issue that comes up is how is the woman going
to assess the client when the client is so nervous, and the biggest issue
when I've spoken with people who work with sex workers, they have said
that's the issue: How are they going to assess clients?
Ms. Gillies: In terms of further explanation around the bawdy
house provision, certainly it is my understanding that under this bill the
bawdy house for the purposes of prostitution section of the Criminal Code
will be repealed. However, because of the prohibition against commercial
enterprises, it's only the most privileged workers, people who have their
own space, can rent their own space and don't have a roommate or children
living with them who will be able to, in real life practical terms, take
advantage of this new part of the law.
It's also the case that while there certainly is, as was found in
Bedford, a security benefit to working out of a fixed indoor location
where, for example, you can have security cameras; you know where the
entrances and exits are; you know who is and isn't on the premises; those
benefits are going to be totally offset by the fact that now, as a sex
worker, you will not be able to screen clients or negotiate with them even
in a private place, and that's one area where the law has changed.
In the past, it wasn't ever criminal to purchase or to sell sex. It was
criminal to communicate for the purposes of prostitution in a place that was
public or open to public view. So if I met a fellow in his hotel, prior to
that I would have called him up on the phone, or we would have had an email
exchange, and I would have been able to assess by his tone, his demeanor,
what he was asking or not asking, what the safety risk might be and also
what he was actually looking for. Knowing in advance what somebody's
expectations are really sets the tone for the transaction and can go a long
way to avoiding misunderstandings and hence dangerous situations.
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: To finish up on the bawdy house prohibition,
it was struck down by the Supreme Court and it's not reinstated by the bill.
However, what the bill does is that whenever transactions are seen as taking
place in the context of commercial enterprise, any immunity that would be
given to people working with sex workers is automatically removed
irrespective of whether or not there is exploitation. It means that as soon
as somebody is making money or getting paid by a sex worker, if you are not
the person selling your own services you can fall into the ambit of criminal
What Kara was referring to is a place where there is structure, where
safety measures can be put in place. It's very unlikely that such a place
could operate legally. It's not all sex workers who will have the capacities
and financial ability to work from their house.
For the advertisement, basically Bill C-36 prohibits advertisement.
Everyone who knowingly advertises sexual services will be considered guilty
of an offence. There is an immunity for the person who is advertising her
own sexual services, but, as you said, you cannot advertise if you have no
means of advertising. The Internet host could be prosecuted; the newspaper
also. Other than somebody in the street distributing flyers of their own
sexual services, I don't see how any advertising could be taking place.
How do you operate from the safety of an indoor location if you can't
reach out to clients?
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for your comments and
testimony. Ms. Grant, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I also lost a daughter at the
hands of a rapist. I understand your grief and the courage it took to talk
about your experience this afternoon. I also understand that you expect the
government to do something about the evils of prostitution, especially when
it comes to young women.
There is no doubt that your daughter was a victim of prostitution. I
sometimes feel that groups advocating the liberalization of prostitution
fail to understand that the young prostitute — who may be killed or
assaulted — is not the only victim. Her whole family are victims.
As for your support of Bill C-36, how do you think that piece of
legislation could effectively protect not only the young female or male
prostitutes, but also their family, their parents and grandparents?
Ms. Smith: That is a very good question. I always wanted to be a
mother of a bride. I only had one daughter and one son. I looked forward to
that day when she would be dressed in white and I'd be able to attend her
wedding. I looked forward to the high school graduation that never took
place. There were so many things that were robbed from us. When a child
dies, you lose your future. You lose the future that you were going to have
with that child or with that daughter or son. It's a very hard thing. All
the family members go through grieving. It's very hard to grieve.
I think for both Ed and me, it's been advantageous to tell Cheri's story
and to believe that it's making a difference in young people's lives, and in
the men's lives who are buying sexual services. Again, we feel that the
education part is important.
I'm sorry about the loss of your child. I certainly understand the pain
that goes along with that.
Mr. Smith: As far as the family is concerned, one of the things
that Linda and I experienced when Cheri was on the street was we felt
helpless to be able to intervene. We contacted police, and they would say,
"Well, unless she's willing to testify against him, there's nothing we can
do." As Linda said, because she was a juvenile, she was like a nuisance.
The police say, "Well, it's easier. We'll just put her on a bus and send
her home, and then we don't have to deal with her through the legal
system." We felt helpless. I really would hope that maybe Bill C-36 somehow
could give parents more authority. It was obvious what was happening to her,
but legally there seemed to be no way we could intervene. I know there have
been some laws since Cheri's death. I know Joy Smith introduced a law that
increased the age where we would have been able to intervene, so I'm very
thankful for that. It's such a helpless feeling for a parent when you see
your child involved in this and you can't do anything.
Ms. Grant: We didn't know what was happening to Jessie, so we
didn't have any advance warning. Ours hit us in the gut like a ton of bricks
when we found out.
I think Bill C-36 is going to make a lot of difference in many ways
simply because the authority is going to come down to the people who are
responsible. The person responsible for a prostitute having to have sex with
a man is the man who is wanting it. If a pimp is forcing the woman or the
girl or the man to go with this man and have sex and then get beaten if she
doesn't go, all the choices have been taken away.
You were talking about the john school. I want to see john schools all
over. We don't have anything like that. Bill C- 36 will increase other
communities to open up things like john schools and the education process.
I kind of lost track of your question while I was listening, so I hope
I've answered what you were wondering.
Senator Boisvenu: Yes.
Ms. Grant: Thank you.
Senator Joyal: I've listened carefully to what you have said this
afternoon, and I have two questions. The first is for the HIV network. If I
understand your reasoning in support of your conclusion, in each case when
the prostitute is not in a position to maintain her health condition because
she is caught in an environment where she cannot negotiate or express the
conditions under which she will accept having sex for remuneration, or if he
or she practices sex in an environment where there's no control on the
health of the person, or where the control and health cannot happen because
of all kinds of prohibitions, in that context, you come to the conclusion
that the provisions of the bill that maintain that imbalance would be struck
by the court as being against Bedford — in other words, against the
security of the person. Am I right in interpreting your position in that
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: Yes. I think you might have summarized it
better than I did. That is exactly what we're saying. The only thing I want
to add is that if it's not possible to negotiate how and where the
transaction is going to take place, that definitely has an impact on the
health and security of the sex worker.
The second point both Kara and I made is control over security measures,
not control over health measures. I want to make it clear that we're not in
any way suggesting what sometimes takes place under legalization regimes
where specific measures are put in place, such as mandatory HIV testing.
That in itself is actually a violation of human rights, which does not help
in the fight against AIDS. It tends to push people away from services. I
wanted to make that point clear.
Ms. Gillies: If I could add, the proposed prohibition against
commercial enterprises serves as a barrier to effective HIV education and
outreach because these establishments will operate under the pretense that
sex isn't taking place. That makes it hard for outreach workers or peer
educators such as myself to make contact with other workers. Indeed, it is
well established that sex workers doing safer sex education with each other
is extremely effective and puts us as leaders in the battle against HIV/AIDS
here and internationally.
Senator Joyal: In a previous decision, the Supreme Court
established the responsibility of a person with HIV to inform the partner
with whom they may have sexual intercourse of their condition. In my
opinion, there's a corollary to that decision. That decision means that a
person cannot be put in a position whereby they would not perform sex in the
safest context possible. If you have a responsibility to inform the person,
we also have the responsibility to make sure that the person is aware of the
risks if the act took place. That previous decision of the Supreme Court, in
my opinion, has an impact on the way the court will be called to interpret
those sections of the bill.
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: It's also part of the law now and as such
could be subject to interpretation by the courts.
Senator Joyal: I think it's a Manitoba case.
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: Yes, and there is also a case in Quebec.
What protects people the most is wearing condoms. With respect to HIV,
many people living with HIV don't know they have it. Clearly, you can't let
someone know you have HIV if you don't know yourself. As a matter of public
health principles, it has been recognized that the most important thing is
to wear condoms. It has been shown in different studies that criminalization
of sex work has been correlated with a lower use of condoms. For sex
workers, having condoms on them may be used as evidence of sex work in
contexts where the client is criminalized. For example, in Sweden police
have gone through the personal belongings of sex workers to find condoms to
show that there was sex work even if the sex worker wasn't the one being
prosecuted but to aid in the prosecution of the client. We're most concerned
Wearing a condom is the safest measure. Safe sex is the most important
thing to protect sex workers' health. Anything that would make it harder for
them to do that, whether it's at the time of negotiation, to make sure the
client knows it's going to be protected; or whether it's not carrying
condoms, those are the sorts of things we're concerned about. All of these
points were made in a recent publication of The Lancet, a leading
medical journal, which came out after the hearing in the house, so we now
have the benefit of this information. The Lancet dedicated a whole
issue on HIV and sex work and they made the link to how criminalizing sex
work is making it harder in the fight against AIDS.
Lastly, one of the studies made a specific model with what is happening
in sex work in Vancouver. According to their estimates, nearly 39 per cent
of infections could be diverted among sex workers and their clients in the
next decade if only decriminalization were to take place. That's in a model
for the area of Vancouver. It really has an impact.
Senator Joyal: On the second round, I have a question for Ms.
Grant and Ms. Smith.
Senator Dagenais: My first question is for Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Could you tell us why some girls, like your daughter, despite the media
awareness raising, have been taken in by people we could refer to as
"smooth talkers"? Do you think this is just a matter of money or could it
have to do with something else?
Mr. Smith: In our daughter's case, it was a money issue. The young
man who convinced her — we call it the lover boy scenario — had a $400-a-day
drug habit. He needed to get money for his drugs and Cheri was the way he
made money. She never had a penny to her name. She worked the streets of
Regina. We would go and pick her up and take her out for coffee. We always
had to pay for the coffee; she never had any money. So, it's money. This is
what's behind the whole industry.
Ms. Smith: On the other hand, for Cheri, it was love. She thought
that she was in love with this young guy to the degree that we could not
convince her to leave him or to speak against him. Even a social worker
tried to convince Cheri that she didn't have any money to show for how long
she had been working. This man so psychologically controlled Cheri that she
was willing to do anything that he asked her to do because she thought she
loved him. She told us straight up front that this relationship meant
everything to her and she would do whatever she needed to do to keep it.
Senator Dagenais: My second question is for Ms. Claivaz-Loranger.
I listened to your take on Bill C-36. I spent 39 years as à Sûreté du
Québec police officer. So I have witnessed sexual exploitation, violence and
related criminal activities first hand. I have even been exposed to human
trafficking, organized crime, as well as drug-related crimes.
We know that the bill's goal is to protect individuals and communities,
and especially to reduce the demand for sexual services, since we are well
aware that, by reducing the demand, we will reduce the number of victims.
I am having trouble understanding your opinion that Bill C-36 will reduce
clients' security level. I would like to hear your thoughts on that.
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: I was going to start in French but I will
continue in English.
I'm thanking you for this opportunity to express myself on this topic
because I want to make it clear that we consider human trafficking to be a
very serious crime. It is a crime and should remain a crime. We're just
stating the difference between adult consensual sex work and human
One thing that came up from two studies conducted in Sweden is that there
were concerns that the new Swedish law creates a barrier to the prosecution
of people involved in trafficking. Before, for instance, clients would have
spoken and would have come forward to give testimony and alert authorities
whereas now they fear self-incrimination. We've also had sex workers
reporting that it's harder for them to get help in the context of
We are definitely not minimizing the importance of sex trafficking; we
think that all measures need to be taken against it. Our concern is that the
provisions of Bill C-36 do nothing to address it and they create the same
harms that were raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in Bedford,
which are unconstitutional. We're worried about the impact it's going to
have on the sex workers and on the security of the sex workers while at the
same time thinking there are laws to address sex trafficking and are used to
fight sex trafficking.
Senator Plett: Senator Boisvenu actually asked the question of the
Smiths and Ms. Grant that I was going to ask, so I just want to make a
comment on that and not ask a question.
I certainly agree with you. I believe in any cases of prostitution there
are victims. Whether the victim is the prostitute, the parents, the children
or the wives, there are always victims in prostitution. I think you have
I want to thank you for your testimony and for being as strong as you
have been here today and I simply want to wish you well.
I will now ask a question of Ms. Claivaz-Loranger. This has been dealt
with to some extent, but, for the record, I want to ask this question. As an
organization focused on health concerns and disease control, I would think
that you would at least support the government's goal of significantly
reducing the incidence of prostitution in society. Certainly condoms are a
way of having safe sex, but if we reduce the incidence of prostitution,
would that not go a long way to reducing some of our concerns in disease and
health control such as HIV and others?
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: I'd say that we're mainly concerned about
the human rights violation that happens in the context of criminalization.
One of the main public health principles is that people need to be empowered
in order to take the measures necessary to respect their health. This is
where our concern is, as a human rights organization, namely to make sure
that people's human rights are actually respected so that they are empowered
with respect to their health.
I also need to state again that there has been no conclusive data that
criminalizing the client actually helps to reduce prostitution. For
instance, in Sweden, the numbers have been criticized a lot. Different
people who evaluated the reports that came out said that there was no solid
data upon which the government based its evaluation that prostitution had
actually decreased. Some people have stated that street sex work has been
reduced by 50 per cent, but there's actually no information as to how many
of these activities could have been moved indoors.
Most importantly, in 2007, the Government of Sweden, the National Board
of Health and Welfare, conceded that there hadn't been any change in the
overall amount of sex work, and what they could at most discern is that
street prostitution was slowly returning after swiftly disappearing
post-law. I think Katrina Pacey referred to that and how it could be related
to policing strategies. If police are a lot more present right after the law
passed, you might see people move out of street prostitution, those who can,
and move indoors instead. We can't draw the conclusion that it will actually
be reducing prostitution overall.
Senator Plett: Let me draw one conclusion, if I could. You may say
there aren't statistics. The one conclusion that I would draw, if the
Smiths' daughter or if Jessie had had no customers, they would probably be
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: Sadly, there are no studies, based on
previous examples, that we will actually be reducing the men —
Senator Plett: They would be alive today.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you all for your presentations.
Bill C-36 may not be perfect and it may contain flaws, but for all its
flaws, in my opinion, it fills a void created by the Bedford
decision. When you look at Bill C-36, you will notice that there's a shift
in the legislation, in other words, a shift from prostitution being
essentially a nuisance offence, as described in Bedford, to the de
facto prohibition of prostitution. The emphasis on Bill C-36 is to protect
sex workers, protect communities and reduce demand for sexual services.
My question is this: Do you fully or partially agree with this shift of
the legislator's intent, that is, the shift from prostitution being
essentially a nuisance offence to the de facto prohibition of prostitution?
Do you want to get rid of prostitution or do you want the shift?
Ms. Smith: Are you speaking to me, sir?
Senator McIntyre: All of you.
Ms. Smith: I'll let somebody else go first.
Ms. Grant: I'd like to get rid of it altogether, but we're pretty
sure that won't happen. So what we need to do is gain some control over
what's happening and allow only those who want to do it, do it. It's the
bottom line. Like Senator Plett said, women would be alive or not missing
today if it was not for a john or a pimp, period; that's it.
Ms. Smith: But I'm thankful that society's attitude is changing. I
see this as a shift in the way we look at prostitution, and I'm glad for
Senator McIntyre: A good shift?
Ms. Smith: Yes.
Mr. Smith: I can understand why prostitution is called a nuisance,
but that's like looking at the top of the ocean and saying, "Well, it's a
little bit wet here," when it goes so much deeper. The nuisance part is
such a small fraction of the damage and harm that's being done.
Ms. Gillies: If I could respectfully add that I do disagree on
several points. In my opinion, the problems — and indeed tragedies — that
we've witnessed aren't inherent to prostitution or sex work, per se; it's
about the context in which sex work takes place, context that's
criminalized, where there's stigma, and that stigma is reinforced and
reproduced through things like the criminal law. It's also about systemic
social inequities that play out in negative ways in the sex trade and in
It's my belief that in a proper context, where it's safe and where
people's rights are respected, prostitution actually could serve a social
value. I say that simply because, at its heart, prostitution is about
providing a service that meets a basic and natural human need, the need for
sexual intimacy. I think that if we had a more, if not ideal, then
supportive environment, socially and legally, we would then have people who
do not wish to engage in sex work having alternatives, and people who are
comfortable with exchanging sex for money, or purchasing sexual services,
being able to do so in a way that's safe and upholds our rights.
Senator McIntyre: Going back to the objectives of Bill C-36, which
is to protect communities, protect sex workers and reduce the demand for
sexual services, do you think that by legalizing prostitution it would
fulfill those three objectives? Do you think legalization of prostitution
would protect communities, for example?
Ms. Gillies: I'm going to differentiate between legalizing and
decriminalizing because, as you know, in many legalized regimes the
restrictions imposed are such that not everybody has access and you create a
multi-tiered system, and abuses do occur.
I do think that, in a decriminalized system, communities would be
protected through the use of administrative mechanisms, such as bylaws
around zoning and licensing. Certainly, sex workers would be protected,
first because they wouldn't have to worry about the criminal law and law
enforcement, whether it's against them or their clients, interfering with
their access to safety measures or going to the police when something goes
Many of the abuses — and I'll use the word "abuse" — that we see in the
sex trade are correctly characterized as labour abuses. Once we move sex
work out of the criminal shadows, we would be able to use employment and
labour laws and other such mechanisms to better improve the circumstances of
all involved. When you push something underground, you attract more criminal
elements and you make it more dangerous.
Senator McIntyre: Then again, with legalization comes human
trafficking and the growing of the sex industry.
Ms. Gillies: I would disagree. I think that with
decriminalization, there's literally more eyes on the street. People are
better positioned to report instances of abuse.
I have to say that we are not talking about eliminating the trafficking
laws. The trafficking laws are important and they should stay on the books.
If anything, it's good that they are being strengthened. But consensual
adult sex, for consideration or otherwise, is different than trafficking and
murder of children, as we've heard about previously. I do not think it's the
case that the demand will push trafficking forward. I think that if there
were decriminalization, there would be more perfectly willing workers
because the conditions would be safer and there would be less stigma. If
there were the opportunity for trafficking to occur, it would be much easier
to identify it because it would be above ground, because people like myself
and my clients and managers I've worked for would never tolerate it. It's
not tolerated now, but often instances of abuse do not get reported because
there's a fear that the heavy hand of the law is going to come down upon us.
Senator Joyal: I would like to draw your attention to page 7 of
the bill, section 12. The bill redefines "common bawdy-house" in the
Criminal Code. Presently, the Criminal Code, at section 197, defines a
common bawdy house as:
. . . a place that is kept or occupied, or resorted to by one or more
persons, for the purpose of prostitution or to practise acts of
The bill, in fact, eliminates the purpose of prostitution because the
bill now concentrates only on the acts of indecency. What legal weight do
you give to that change in the Criminal Code?
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: I think it does mean that, in theory, the
prohibition is removed. The word "prostitution" is removed from the
definition of "bawdy house." So the Criminal Code, per say, no longer
prohibits bawdy houses.
However, the Supreme Court did say that it's important, and we all know
that the different sections of the bill need to be read together. What
happens is that other sections of this bill will come into play and will
prevent sex workers from working in indoor locations. Some examples are the
fact that, as I mentioned earlier, no one can be receiving a material
benefit in the context of a commercial enterprise, and the prohibition
What we're saying is that the consequences of the act will be very
similar to what was happening before Bedford when sex workers were
prevented from working in indoor venues.
Senator Joyal: If I understand your reasoning, it means that, for
instance, a person who wants to practise prostitution could team with
another person who wants to practise prostitution and open a bawdy house. In
other words, a place where you can entertain sex against benefit,
remuneration. But if those two persons hired a manager in that place and
that person would draw a salary, for instance, to maintain that house, that
person would find him or herself under the other sections of the code.
That's where you say the nuance means that, in fact, it would maintain
the present prohibition on a bawdy house because somebody would be the
manager of the place and directing customers and making sure that everything
goes as it should. Am I right in stating that in fact the amendments that
are proposed to the definition of bawdy house apply only in the context of
two consenting adults grouped together to offer sex in the same place?
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: Exactly. What you described for managers is
exactly our interpretation of what will likely happen. It's not even clear
that two sex workers will be able to work together, because the immunity
against selling your own sexual services is taken away if you are having any
activity that might have to do with selling the sexual services of someone
else. It's unclear.
If two sex workers are working together, you may easily find yourself in
a position where you refer one client to the other person or you might be
taking care of opening the door to receive the clients. Maybe one of you is
good in accounting and the other is better at marketing so the roles may be
separated, but then you're advertising for the sexual services of somebody
There's ambiguity, and we're worried that leaving the door open to having
sex workers work indoors in fact will not allow a sex worker to work indoors
unless maybe in a situation where she's very isolated, but even then she
could not likely work indoors as she wouldn't be able to advertise.
Ms. Gillies: Not only that, but couldn't communicate or screen
effectively with clients because, under the provisions of this bill, any
such negotiation on the part of the client will be criminalized. Under the
current laws, as I mentioned, if I go out to a client's hotel room I can
speak with him freely in that environment. I can also speak with him in
advance of being in that environment. Under this bill that will not be
Senator Joyal: I have listened carefully to the work you do, Mr.
and Mrs. Smith and Ms. Grant, and I wonder today, with the Internet age and
all that kids have access to, porn and everything, all the sites to meet
adults or whatever, if in fact the most effective effort would not be at the
education department level. To me it's better to teach children about the
risks of sex than to think they're going to find it on the Internet.
To me, sexual education needs to be accessible in the right presentation
form, with the responsibility that it involves. Because today, if you don't
do it, they will do it by themselves anyway. They run more of a risk of
being badly informed with this than if there is open discussion for everyone
to have about what it entails. I wonder, if we want to be effective, if not
at that level, that we should target first rather than trying to repair the
pots once they are broken.
Ms. Grant: Proactive is always better and cheaper than reactive.
Senator Joyal: In your suggestion to use the $20 million, should
some money be made available for that? It seems to me that preventing and
informing someone of the risks of what prostitution entails for a kid is
important. It's easy to fall in love at 15, 12, we all dream of falling in
love at that time with the perfect person, and we idealize the first
relationship we have. We think we're going to marry that person and be so
happy on a deserted island somewhere. We all dream at that age.
The risk of someone depicting that mirage of taking you to the deserted
island, how do we address that situation, which is risky in itself, and how
do we sensitize youth to that situation? To me, that's a way to address part
of the problem.
Ms. Grant: As a grandmother now, I see that my grandchildren know
a lot more and different things than I did — I was really sheltered — and
than my kids did. Kids are learning a lot of things earlier and younger.
Parents aren't always good at even having the sex talk with their kids. Sex
education at school is where some kids learn, and through their friends and
talking is how others learn.
I think if the education came through young enough — for me I get invited
not usually by the schools, it's a certain teacher for that one class, or
maybe there's an assembly. It's not something that the schools are
participating in fully, but it has made a difference.
Every time I've talked to students I've had a result in some way, whether
it's a young man coming up to me and saying, "I will never hire a
prostitute in my entire life," and having that mindset, or having young
women understand what could happen. We're not saying that they're all going
to be Jessies or they're all going to be Cheris or they're all going to be
murdered or go missing, but I think the chance of one of our daughters being
murdered or missing is enough.
Anyone who has children, they know; whoever has lost a child, they know.
I don't know if anyone else in this room has a family member who is missing.
That's an ongoing nightmare. We don't get to have a funeral. I can't even
say I think my daughter is dead because if she comes back I have to look her
in the face and tell her I gave up.
We have to start young and we have to instill it. When I was young there
was no talk about not smoking, and look at how things have changed. This is
just another one of those things; we're at this time in society in the world
now where this is what we talk about and are teaching our children.
My five-year-old grandson says to me, "Why did somebody take Auntie
Jessie?" And he actually knows the name of the perpetrator simply from
hearing us talk about it over his entire life. He says things like, "I'm
going to grow up and be a policeman and I'm going to arrest him." He
I don't just want kids who have a missing aunt or deceased relative to
get this. I want kids to have this understanding. Kids are so smart
nowadays. They learn everything long before I ever did and this is just one
more thing they'll learn at a young age, that they're going to be educated
on. It's not going to seem weird that your child comes home and talks about
preventing human trafficking or any kind of sex work. It's just going to be
part of the conversation now, and I believe it's past that time.
Senator Batters: To the three of you who have lost daughters,
because there has been a lot of talk about your daughters, Cheri and Jessie
as prostitutes, and one who has been murdered and one missing. There's been
a lot of talk about them in that context, and I wanted to give you an
opportunity because you don't have the opportunity to come before a Senate
committee often, I'm sure. I know that your work here will do a lot of good,
but I wanted to give a chance to each of you to briefly tell us a little bit
about your daughters and about their lives.
Ms. Smith: It's really an honour to be able to speak here, and
really the tragedy that our family has gone through has put this situation
of prostitution and youth in the forefront of many people's minds that I
believe would not have happened if we weren't upfront and willing to tell
As soon as the news was released in Regina of her body being found, the
news station wanted us to talk about it, and so from that point on that's
what we decided to do. It's just amazing where telling her story has taken
us. We've been to Europe and India and up North, and it's because people
don't know about these things. They don't know how to talk to their
children, and they don't know about the signs and symptoms of a child
engaged in dangerous activity, and we've done research and put things
together and so that's what we do.
We just feel very honoured and privileged to be able to do this. I think
we would rather have our daughter, for sure, but it's really a privilege to
be able to speak about not only our sacrifice, but as I said earlier, the
restoration that can take place when people have an opportunity to make
better choices, whether you are a youth or a john or a girl who is a sex
Mr. Smith: It's a little bit hard to do. But, yeah, you know, she
— as you were sharing, Cheri was an honour student, top of her class,
involved in sports, music, and just had so much potential, and yet we still
don't understand why she would fall for the line that this guy gave her,
because we were a very open, loving family. Cheri was not abused, but after
her death we did find out that in Grade 9 she had been sexually assaulted by
one of her peers. We found out two years after her death, and that answered
a lot of questions for us.
Because when the assault happened, her behaviour changed. And so many of
the girls that we have dealt with over the years, the numbers are just
astronomical as to how many have suffered some type of sexual abuse. A lot
of them are First Nations, Aboriginal girls. We have a friend who is a First
Nations woman who was on the street for years. Her heart's desire at this
point is to start a ranch that would be a recovery facility for girls off
When I hear $20 million in the bill to be involved, I can just see if she
were able to somehow tap into that to fulfill this dream she has to help
these girls. So many First Nations girls in our city really need someone to
come alongside of them and help them.
We've received wedding invitations from gals that Linda has dealt with in
their family to help the girl realize the danger she's getting into. Years
later we get a wedding invitation from a girl we don't know who this is. She
kind of realizes, she phones and says, "You don't remember me, but, Mrs.
Smith, you came to my house and talked to my mom and let her know what kind
of guy I was going out with, and I'm getting married today because I
realized you were telling the truth and so I dropped him and now I have got
a good guy and I'm getting married." There are those encouragements that
come along, and we are so thankful for that.
I agree about education. Sex education for children needs to be education
that says sex is more than a physical act. It's so much deeper than that. It
goes to the core of your very being, and so I'm really encouraged by this
step, and I hope we take more steps in the future.
The Chair: We are going to have to end it on that heartfelt note,
and we appreciate the testimony of all of you here today. It is very helpful
to our deliberations.