Hi, Gerald. Let's begin with today's editorial: Why did the editorial board endorse the Ontario court's ruling that brothels and bodyguards should be legalized?
In the past, The Globe's editorial board had said that Parliament, not judges, should deal with this. But Parliament hasn't acted, and the Ontario Court of Appeal was faced with a case in which it was clear that prostitutes' lives are in danger because of the prohibition against brothels -- that tends to make prostitution to a very large extent street prostitution -- an activity that is physically very dangerous. And the Charter guarantees the security of the human person.
The Ontario Court of Appeal did disagree with the lower court on solicitation. Was this a good compromise on the court's part - to legalize brothels and security, but keep solicitation illegal?
I think it was more principled than a compromise. The old idea was that "bawdy-houses" caused public disorder, but it's much more plausible that there is less disorder if customers go inside a building. There is a legitimate public interest in preventing public nuisances and disorder on streets. So the judges accommodated two distinct principles.
The judges' decision does mention legalization in the Netherlands -- and apparently the parties did supply a lot of documentary evidence -- but it does not seem that the appeal court judges relied on the experience of other countries, one way or the other
At the core of the judgment is the fact that prostitution itself is legal. So such an increase was not relevant to the question the judges had to answer
The court gave the government a year to pass new legislation. And they upheld the "living on the avails" offence, by reading in to it the idea that exploitative, coercive pimps are committing a crime, but other facilitators are not
Canada could try that. But bear in mind that Parliament has not made it an objective to prevent prostitution -- the buying and selling of sex. So the Swedish idea has been proven to have an effect -- but the question remains what the public purpose is
Thanks for joining us today, Gerald. We're now being joined by Valerie Scott. Welcome.
Thank you for this opportunity. Let's begin.
Sex workers are eager to work with governments to ensure fair business regulations, and not hyterical reactions. Safe, clean and healthy environments are a primary concern for us.
Just by virtue of being able to work together it promotes safety. If everyone reading this had to always work in complete isolation, they too, would experience more violence. Also, we will be able to hire staff, like receptionists, or drivers. Even cleaning staff would have been subject to the old procuring law. Also, the vast majority of our clients are good and decent men, but tiny percentage who are violent, won't be able to count on our silence and fear of being found out by the police.
Municipalities need to make ensure that licenses are a reasonable fee. If they charge thousands of dollars per year, sex workers will not be able to afford a license, but organized crime will. We don't want to see another Amsterdam fiasco. Also, municipalities need to hold meaningful discussions with sex worker rights organizations about regulating our occupation. For the past two years sex workers Canadian sex worker groups have been meeting to discuss municipal law, employment and labour laws, income tax laws, company laws, pension plans, workers compensation, union laws, etc…
When Rob Ford was running for mayor, and just prior to our first win in Ontario Superior Court, we wrote to him requesting a meeting. He refused, saying that associating with people like us could be damaging to his character. He was in the middle of an election campaign and didn't seem to know who we are. We hope he will meet with us in the near future.
I'm hopeful that it will open the door for a more rational approach to prostitution. I see yesterday's ruling, as the Court of Appeal for Ontario telling the federal government, that it's time to catch up to what the federally appointed Frasier Committee recommended in 1985. I don't think the feds should waste time with yet another appeal, but it is their prerogative, and the taxpayers money, so that is the avenue they will take.
Yes. There are many provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code that can be used. For example, we only challenged one of the ten subsections of the procuring law. The rest still stands. We did not, and will not, challenge any of human trafficking laws or the youth prostitution laws. We stand firmly against human trafficking and underage prostitution. In the future, we will be able to call the appropriate authorities when see another sex worker being exploited. As it stands under the old law, people would be afraid of being busted for sex work. This is another reason why the governments shouldn't fight our court wins, and work with sex workers.
Drug abuse is a problem that spans almost every occupation. I do think Canada needs to revisit its approch to addiction. We don't like to see people in this occupation against their free will either. I don't think brothels will help them though, as I don't see them being able to hold down the job. My heart goes out to the men and women working the streets. It's very dangerous.
Agreed! As I mentioned, for the past two years, sex worker groups have been discussing and writing plans municipalities can adopt. We would like brothels to be small in scale and not forced into ghettoes or 'red light' districts. Segregation has never worked. Sydney, Australia decriminalized in the late 1980's. There are about 100 brothels in various commercially zoned areas. A study published Basil Donovan of the University of New South Wales, March 23, 2012, found that Sydney has the "world's healthiest sex industry" and the majority of sex workers are "well adjusted and comfortable with their occupation". It's not a utopia though, and the study states there are "ragged edges" and room for improvement. I briefly worked in a brothel there and it was great.
Yes. In fact we already are required to pay taxes, and many of us do. We now have an occpation code with the CRA. We can, and do claim expenses, and pay into CPP. Many sex workers are unaware that they can pay taxes. We receive new inquires on how to go about it every year. I imagine more will pay now. In defence of those who didn't, why pay people to throw you in jail. Responsibilities should come with rights.
There has been. For those working in a bar or any other venue, who wish to unionize, they should be able to do so. But the entire industry shouldn't have to. Sex workers are not in favour of a 'one size fits all' approch around unionization.
The best way to get rid of organized crime, is to decriminalize sex work. Shine a light on the industry. If we are forced to work on the run, and under the gun, these guys prosper. Legitimize our occupation, let us work with city officials etc... One example is: Cities should ensure licensing fees be reasonably priced. If they are not, we won't be able to afford a license, but organized crime sure will.
Thanks everyone for reading today, and you posed some great questions. Thanks, Valerie, for joining us.
It's been a pleasure. Thank you everyone.