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MPs react to stay in prostitution ruling


MPs react to stay in prostitution ruling

Government refuses to deal with harmful sex-work laws: Davies
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was quick to take to the microphones in the foyer of the House of Commons on Dec 2 to announce how pleased he is to hear the decision to stay Justice Himel’s ruling on Canada’s prostitution laws until April 29, 2011.

“It’s our position that these provisions are not only constitutionally sound, but they also denounce and deter the most harmful and public aspects of prostitution as well as the criminal activity that surrounds it,” Nicholson says.

“The provisions also ensure that police have the tools necessary to continue to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution, both to the communities and the individual themselves, along with other vulnerable persons.”

Nicholson was very circumspect, however, to ignore the concerns raised by Justice Himel about the safety of sex workers, and instead kept his focus on harm to communities, even when asked point-blank about it.

“The laws are in place, they work well in this country, and I’m pleased we received a stay today from the Ontario Court of Appeal,” Nicholson says.

Nicholson pointed to the mid-'80s when street solicitation laws were struck down.

“If the activity is carried out on streets and the police are unable to intervene, this can have a devastating effect on communities and neighbourhoods.”

The NDP critic on the file, Libby Davies, has harsh words for Nicholson and the decision.

“The government has refused to recognize how harmful these laws are for sex workers, which goes back to the heart of Judge Himel’s ruling,” Davies says. “What I want to see is the government address this issue, and that’s what they’re refusing to do.

“I think [Justice Marc Rosenberg] in his ruling today, by setting it to April 29, it is putting pressure on the government to expedite their appeal, so that’s good, but my primary concern is that the government has continually refused to recognize the harms and dangers that sex workers face under the current laws, and they’ve refused to address this issue. They’re just stalling. They believe that the status quo is acceptable, and Judge Himel’s decision clearly showed it was not.”

Davies also says Nicholson’s concerns about what happened in the mid-'80s, which led to the law on communication for the purposes of prostitution, are part of the issue that needs to be addressed.

“It was that law in 1985 that set us on a disastrous course that has caused us so much difficulty over the years and put sex workers at risk,” Davies says. “That was one of the laws [Himel] struck down. There is a lot of evidence to show that the communicating law has been very problematic.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that the justice minister… actually refuses to recognize that, of what this law has done. Their response today is just saying everything is okay, keep the status quo, we don’t want anything to change. They’re really denying the reality that’s out there.”

Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings was also critical of Nicholson’s silence on the substance of Judge Himel’s decision.

“With the Ontario Court of Appeal's extension of the stay, Harper and Nicholson now have extra time to say why they still haven't addressed even one of Judge Himel's concerns regarding the safety and security of sex trade workers,” Jennings says.

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Ed's note
Hi Amy: Thanks for your comment. Government does all kinds of things to protect its citizens, workers and consumers. It is tasked, for example, to ensure employers are held responsible for maintaining minimum standards of workplace safety. It is tasked to ensure pharmaceutical and food producers are accountable for the safety and efficacy of their products. It is tasked to protect citizens from violence. Because sex work is such a legal quagmire, similar protections seem out of reach for many sex workers. It's a generalization I suppose, but I think it's safe to say that bad things too often happen to sex workers. Perhaps some of those bad things happen not because of the nature of the work or the choices of the sex workers, but rather because of the lack of legitimacy of the work, and by extension the workers, under the law. Hypothetically, if someone with an industrial job were to lose an arm in a work related accident, it doesn't seem reasonable to me to blame the injured person for making a poor career choice. Similarly, if a sex worker signs up to provide sexual services under his/her own terms and a client ignores those terms and abuses the worker, doesn't it seem that the client is acting immorally? Shouldn't they be held accountable under the law for doing so? Shouldn't everyone be protected from violent attack?
Simple solution.
The arguement that the politicians are not addressing the safety of "sex workers"(hookers)is invalid. Why should they? These women have become immersed in this enterprise by their own choice. Its a dangerous and questionable profession, and if the consequences of such actions were not obvious to them at the moment of their decision making, then its not for us as the rest of society to be forced to protect them. They are not babies. They are not children. I refuse to have to see my community suffer further because of their bad choices. These women are given plenty of options to get themselves out of the lifestyle and the majority of them refuse to accept the help. Why? Because its an easy buck. Because they can't get a job that will pay as well. Whatever. Social services here in Alberta has all sorts of programs to assist these women to obtain an education and get on to a better existence. At the end of the day, this is a choice that they have made, and they have to accept the risks that come along with their jobs, just like the rest of a functioning society does. If the rest of us feel unsafe about what we are doing for a job, we quit that job; we don't make everyone else pay for our mistakes. These women do not deserve to have special treatment when they have made the conscious decision to engage in these acts and perpetuate the problem. I sincerely hope that we never see the day when the laws in this country regarding this are actively struck down; to the contrary, I would like to see the laws regarding prostitution become even harsher. Perhaps if that little sixteen year old knows she's facing jail time by spreading her legs, maybe by the time she's eighteen she'll be a little more willing to stay in school and become a valued member of society instead of some cheap whore posting an ad on Craigslist, joining an Escort agency, or standing on some corner high on meth. Just my two cents.
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