THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND
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.
SenatorBob 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
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 decision.
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 you've mentioned.
Senators, I thank you very much for your
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 critical.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Canadians.
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 exploitation.
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 takes place.
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 the offence.
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
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 become criminal.
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 previously mentioned.
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
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 material.
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 child prostitution.
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 Aboriginal women.
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
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
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 your reference.
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
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
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 their families.
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
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 necessary.
The Chair: And officials will be here until
noon, available for members' questions?
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 legalized.
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
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
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 based.
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, please?
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 just described.
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 possible.
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
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 opportunity.
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
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
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 associated.
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
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
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
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 it does.
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 million from?
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
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
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
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
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
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 Dagenais.
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
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 prostitution-related problems.
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
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 here.
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
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
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 captured online.
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
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 comment?
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 this material.
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 department.
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
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, 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, 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 bill.
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
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
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
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 context —
Senator Jaffer: I think you misunderstood.
You asked Pivot to do a report on this, and I'm asking you what the results
Ms. Levman: Now, we didn't ask Pivot. I
know that Pivot did a study.
Senator Jaffer: What did they say about the
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 subsequent offences.
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
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: 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
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 affecting 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 those phrases.
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
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
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
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 circumstances.
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 policy, senator.
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 286.5.
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 offered.
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 difference.
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
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 the sale.
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 from prostitution.
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
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 close.
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
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
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
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 interacting.
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 else.
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 protect me.
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
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 living conditions.
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 Canada.
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
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
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 in prostitution.
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
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 Charter.
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
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
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
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
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 can't.
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 past.
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
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 mothers.
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
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: 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 the provinces.
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 the end.
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
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
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
Senator Dagenais: I thank our witnesses.My question is for Ms. Pate.
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
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
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
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 women.
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 days.
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
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
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
Senator McIntyre: Thank you for your
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
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
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
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
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
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 table.
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
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 vulnerability.
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
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 criminalized.
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 the advertising.
Ms. Pate: That's right.
Senator Joyal: And the one dealing with
exercising prostitution within the schools.
Ms. Pate: We would suggest those be
Senator Joyal: Perimeters of distance.
Ms. Pate: We don't support those.
Senator Joyal: Are there other sections of
the bill you don't support?
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
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for
your very sincere and meaningful testimony.
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 permanent.
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 impossible.
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
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 intervention.
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 upstream.
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
Ms. Nagy: Thank you very much for those
questions. I hear them all the time.
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
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 own."
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
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
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 choice.
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 using women.
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 that.
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
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
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 thoughts.
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 this.
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
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 minimum.
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 prostitution.
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
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 support services.
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 area.
Senator Dagenais: You look familiar. I have
often seen you on television lately. In any case, we hope that
Radio-Canada’s mandate is nation-wide.
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 appreciated.
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
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 deliberations.
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 prostitution.
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 prostituted.
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 view.
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 bodyguards.
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
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
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 prostitution.
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 Bill C-36.
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 and injury.
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 the psyche.
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
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
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 on.
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 women.
While I have reservations regarding section
213, communication, I am in support of this bill and would ask for its
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
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 affirm wholeheartedly.
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
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
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 decriminalized.
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 sex workers.
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
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 Charter.
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 excellent presentations.
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
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
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 fall.
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
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
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 workers.
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
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
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
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
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 desperation.
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
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 occupation?
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
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
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 way.
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
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
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 brief.
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 that.
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
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."
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 to have.
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
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 reliable.
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
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
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
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 prostitution.
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
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 amendment?
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 appropriate.
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
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
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
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 human trafficking.
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
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 and Freedoms?
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 forward.
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
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 communicating law.
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
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. Please proceed.
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 follow-up.
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
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
Thank you for giving us the opportunity today
to speak in support of Bill C-36.
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
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
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 Vegas strip.
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 too late.
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 and internationally.
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
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
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 services.
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
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
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 this option.
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
For these reasons, and the ones detailed in our
brief, we urge this committee to reject Bill C-36 in its entirety. Thank
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
(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
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 sexual services.
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
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
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
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
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
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 today."
Senator Batters: Thank you very much all of
you for being here today.
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
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
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
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 think about.
You also testified before the House of Commons
Justice Committee, and you said:
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
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
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 positive results.
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 pornography.
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 prosecuted?
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
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
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
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
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 prosecution.
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
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
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
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 simple form?
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
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 about that.
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
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
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
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 trafficking.
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 criminalization.
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 addressed that.
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
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
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 alive today.
Ms. Claivaz-Loranger: Sadly, there are no
studies, based on previous examples, that we will actually be reducing the
Senator Plett: They would be alive today.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you all for your
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;
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 that.
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 other arenas.
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
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
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
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 indecency.
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
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 against advertisement.
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 else.
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 permitted anymore.
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
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
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 already understands.
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
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 Cheri's story.
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 worker.
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 the street.
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
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.