|An anonymous woman offers sexual services|
on the popular application Whisper
However, given recent economic events and the Jian Ghomeshi scandal and it's highlighting of violence against women and abuse by those with some form of power along with the royal ascent of C36 I've decided now is an ideal time to comment, if I'm going to comment at all.
To state my position clearly I oppose it completely; it doesn't in my opinion even come close to respecting the Canadian Charter, or even the spirit of the Supreme Court decision it's in response to.
Being I'm not a sex worker, or an expert in law, I felt compelled to examine some various sources, and the House of Commons readings on the subject as well as going through various parts of the bill itself, it's unfortunately a very big subject and I have a lot of catching up to do, however I feel confident in my position enough now to at least make a preliminary statement on the matter.
Perhaps what I find most egregious about this bill is it victimizes all sex workers, and villainizes all Johns supposedly with the intent of "ending demand", a lofty unrealistic goal that defies human nature. Sex is always, and will always, be in demand.
Reading through the House of Commons debates on C36 I noticed supporters of the bill repeatedly refer to protecting children, those unwilling or non-consenting, and human trafficking. None of the arguments made really showed how anything within bill C36 addresses those issues though, and I frankly don't believe C36 is meant to. I also don't believe it's meant to abolish sex work either as it claims to.
There is a reason criminal cartels prefer to engage in illegal activities, and why they prefer those activities remain illegal: by relegating them to the black market their rarity and risk increase their value. Prohibition doesn't work, and you can witness this now as a few tweaks to some U.S. State's drug laws are doing what years of bloody, brutal, endless "war on drug cartels" never could, perhaps to the disdain of Wall Street and the associated Federal agencies they control. So in the process of my research for this topic I came across an interesting statement by 'Sex Trafficking Survivors United', who support the C36 bill.
We urge Canadian Parliament to take a stand against the exploitation of the young, poor, and vulnerable by the richer, older and more powerful. Pass Bill C36. As all survivors know, the vast majority of people end up in prostitution because they have no other choices, and/or are the victims of coercion, fraud, abuse and violence. The untruth that “prostitution is a choice” only serves to stigmatize and further trap most of the sexually exploited. This empowers their traffickers and abusers, while erasing the truth that the exploited are the victims of multiple crimes.The richer, older, and more powerful. This clicked with me as the bombardment of reports on Jian Ghomeshi, while not related to sex work or human trafficking, did have a recurring theme of women not willing to go to police for fear of reprisal, personally or professionally, stemming from Ghomeshi's power. I certainly don't want to get into Ghomeshi here as that definitely is beyond the scope of this blog however the Ghomeshi event then clicked when I remembered reading something else about an internal debate amongst sex workers about releasing a list of MPs who themselves seek sexual services. Of course the existence of this list is hearsay currently but I really have no reason to doubt it's existence, it's not like the idea of richer, older, and more powerful politicians paying for sex is really "out there".
So I started thinking about this bill then from the perspective of a cartel, or a group of individuals vested in keeping certain activities underground. Generally the richer, older, and more powerful are not prosecuted unless some sort of campaign the size of Jian Ghomeshi is waged against them. The conclusion I draw from looking at C36 is that the likely result will be that women in the sex trade that either choose to remain in it or can't get out of it are being further isolated.
The "protections" being offered to them are supposedly more resources to help them get out of the trade, and nothing else. The criminalization of Johns and the purchase of sex does nothing more than ensure that sex worker's must stay even further out of the lime light of the police, to protect their clients and their business (the exact reason that POWER will not release the list of MP's names), which is inherently less secure along with the added disadvantage that private third party security can not be employed.
In the speech on C36 by MP Joy Smith (Conservative) one paragraph particularly stood out to me.
I had one case very recently where a boyfriend said to this young girl, “We'll get married. I love you”. He was her knight in shining armour. What she did not know was that behind the scenes he was part of a little gang that were targeting young girls, getting their confidence, taking away all their support systems through their families, their schools, their churches, all their supports, my beloved colleagues, and he sold her. She serviced up to 40 men a night before we got her out of that ring.Taking away all their support systems.
This is something we cannot be silent about. This kind of crime has been below the radar screen for so many years here in Canada. Everybody talks about every other country but Canada. In Canada, predators are making between $250,000 to $280,000 a year off their victims. That is tax-free money. That is why they do it. Mostly, it is because they follow the cash.
C36 takes away what little legal support systems sex worker's have and replaces them with a shaming and "I told you so" take on victimization, equivalent to promoting abstinence as sex education, "You won't get pregnant if you don't have sex.".
The current government, over the years, has demonstrated that it is a government of and for the rich and powerful, read into that what you may.
Now, before I continue, what I'm saying here is not analogous to being pro-prostitution in the sense that I'm now thinking due to the passing of C36, "oh no now I can't legally utilize prostitutes". It's really not something I spend a lot of time thinking about actually. I've never utilized the services of a sex worker, I'm barely comfortable in strip clubs and I've never had a lap dance. While I do understand that many enjoy their work (for the work, not just the currency), I personally would feel both degraded in the situation, as I prefer knowing that my sexual partner actually wants to be with me, and uncomfortable, as if it took currency to get them to be intimate with me then I'm probably not exactly what they desire. I think it would be difficult even to be in a relationship with a sex worker. But that aside, these are my personal feelings on the matter, it's not an activity I ever intend to engage in (though you never know my opinion on that might change in 30 years) but I can recognize that it's existence, and it's continued existence, are inevitable.
Perhaps Poloz's recent statement that adult children that can't find jobs, are saddled with student debt, and can't afford to move out of their parents should start taking internships for free to keep their resumes updated best shows the detachment between the crusade for the vulnerable, and the reality of the vulnerable. A deteriorating condition as collectively the world borrows more and more from future generations to prop up asset bubbles and other illusions of wealth. With the flexibility of the internet and the ease of access for providing sexual services along with their potential to provide a living wage and endless demand from a protected upper class it will remain or perhaps become even more so an appealing way to make quick cash, especially as further inter-generational inequality takes hold.
Criminalizing the Johns, preventing advertisements, are not going to end demand for sexual services. Human trafficking rings are already illegal, and the smaller ones actively prosecuted all the time. The sexual exploitation of underage children is of course already illegal as well. The idea the criminalization of Johns somehow makes it easier for "the victims" to approach the police is laughable at best, founded in the belief that now because the burden of proof is no longer on the women they can feel more comfortable coming forward. But the removal of the burden of proof of being "victimized" does not help with the stigma that currently comes with being a sex worker or the way police treat them. It does not provide confidence in the police in general, especially after high profile events like the G20 protests where multiple women reported sexual assaults and humiliation by the police which were subsequently whitewashed and covered up.
Sexual exploitation is an institutionalized, profit driven, part of our society. From the girls being exploited by the Tilted Kilt working there because of the tips, to the perfect sexualized beauties marching out of Hollywood. The continued criminalization of sex work ensures those who are in a position to capitalize on and exploit it will be free to do so while the sex workers themselves are placed in a more vulnerable and submissive position to accommodate for the newly added risk their clients are taking on by continuing to do business with them.
Special thanks to @kwetoday for her insight and research on this matter.
If the government really wanted to help with the exploitation of youth they'd be funding armies of guys like Mark Cherrington.
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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.
Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.