An Open Letter to Peter MacKay and my MP About Bill C36, “The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act”

As most people already know, the Conservative government released its proposed legislation related to prostitution yesterday. I sent this letter to Rick Dykstra and Peter MacKay today echoing the call for the bill to be scrutinized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

By maintaining the law against public communication by sex workers, coupled with provisions making it impossible to work indoors and difficult for sex workers who use drugs to work with others, the bill replicates exactly the same brutal conditions of criminalization that have been taking sex workers’ lives since the 1980s.

Regardless of where you stand on the criminalization of bosses and consumers, please raise your voice to object to provisions that can only facilitate violence against sex workers.

Dear Peter MacKay and Rick Dykstra,

I’m writing to echo the call for Bill C36, “The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” to be submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada for review to determine whether its provisions pass constitutional muster.

In December 2013, the SCC decided unanimously that the federal government does not have the right to get sex workers killed in the name of eliminating prostitution. Canada’s anti-prostitution laws (which criminalized public communication for the purpose of prostitution, working indoors in a brothel, and taking money from sex workers) were shown to cause immeasurable harm to sex workers.

As analysis by Pivot Legal Society and many others has shown, the government’s proposed new legislation is not substantially different from the unconstitutional laws. It still criminalizes communication in almost every public place; it criminalizes the advertising sex workers must do in order to work indoors, effectively making off-street work impossible; and it still criminalizes many kinds of relationships with sex workers that are not exploitative, forcing sex workers to be isolated. These three practices, taken together, are lethal. They always have been.

I call on Peter MacKay and the Government of Canada to submit this legislation for review by the Supreme Court of Canada, and to draft, in its place, legislation that truly protects sex workers’ lives and livelihoods.

Sincerely,

Sarah M.

MA candidate, Geography, Brock University

Please feel free to use my letter as a template for your own. I plan to phone my MP tomorrow to repeat my demand for scrutiny of this terrible piece of legislation by the Supreme Court. You can find out who your MP is here: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseofCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC

The Enemy of my Enemy… Why I Want to Talk with Abolitionists about the Cons’ New Prostitution Bill

This is Not Feminist Legislation, and it’s Not Supply-Side Decriminalization

For those of us who would like to see sex workers totally decriminalized within our lifetimes, the Conservative government’s Bill C36 – a replacement for the anti-prostitution laws struck down by the Supreme Court in R v. Bedford – was worse than we thought. I think a lot of us, including me, were expecting to see a hollowed-out version of the Nordic Model. Y’know, lots of bluster about pimpsnjohns and no more than the barest of lip service to addressing workers’ “push factors”: things like poverty that make prostitution one of very few viable options for many workers, labour market conditions outside of the sex industry that make sex work, even under the brutal conditions of criminalization, more attractive than temporary or minimum wage work. Joy Smith’s Tipping Point in bill form.

What we got are the same laws we had before, dressed up a bit and with sharper teeth. The better to get people killed with.

There is a law criminalizing the purchase of sex. But pre-Bedford anti-prostitution laws aSex workers’ lives are worth doing whatever it takes to make sure this law never again sees the light of day.lso criminalized clients, and we have
already seen how they were enforced. There is also exactly the same communicating law as before – the same communicating law that is undoubtedly responsible for hundreds’ of women’s deaths and countless women’s incarcerations – but now it’s limited to areas where there might be children. That could include any residential or commercial neighbourhood (so basically everywhere), which means sex workers will still be pushed into industrial areas at night, and will still be rushing transactions with their criminalized clients. We know exactly how this story ends.

The new “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” veneer on this dangerous, cruel law doesn’t actually give sex workers space to work in their communities—but it does codify in law the cultural belief that sex workers ought not to be near children. Maybe someone with more legal knowledge than I have would be willing to discuss how this could affect sex workers in family court or interactions with child protective services (we know that Indigenous women are overrepresented among outdoor sex workers and, not by coincidence, that Indigenous children are overrepresented among children in foster care—so this really matters). Or how it could affect sex workers being denied housing in certain buildings or neighbourhoods, or former sex workers facing discrimination in non-sex employment. Continue reading

Steve Paikin’s Got 99 Problems… But He Just Can’t Figure Out Why A Bitch Ain’t One

Spoiler alert: It’s not women’s DNA, it’s systemic gender inequality.

Back when I was still married, my spouse and I used to watch TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin together. Having a bit more patience for talking heads than I, she also rage-watched The Michael Coren Show and Fox News. But I’m not really into pundits—I was just in it for a short pseudo-Left debate every now and then and maybe something to think about as the night wore on.

But after a year or so of watching, I started to think to myself damn, that’s a lot of dudes. And once I noticed, I couldn’t un-notice, and as the show went on, dude after dude after dude, I gave up on it.

Earlier tonight, Paikin himself decided to address the dudely problem with The Agenda. That, in itself, is a fine enough thing to do, but he went about it… well, to put it mildly, he went about it all wrong:

No man will ever say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, I’m taking care of my kids.” The man will find someone to take care of his kids so he can appear on a TV show.  Women use that excuse on us all the time.

No man will say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing.” I’m serious. We get that as an excuse for not coming on. But only from women.

No man will say, “Sorry can’t do your show tonight, I’m not an expert in that particular aspect of the story.” They’ll get up to speed on the issue and come on. Women beg off. And worse, they often recommend a male colleague in their place.

Continue reading

Want More? Check Out My Other Writing

As I sit with about a zillion posts in drafts and no time or energy to finish any of them (sorry, that’s basically the story of my life right now), I thought it might be a good idea to put up links to older stuff I’ve written in other places. Some of the newspaper articles are lost forever on the internet, but I have pdfs of most of the things that aren’t linked. And the rabble.ca and Briarpatch articles are open-access, yay!

Here it is: https://autocannibalism.wordpress.com/other-writing/

Why Doesn’t Kim Pate Know What the Bedford Case Was About?

For those who don’t know, Kim Pate is the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a national association that represents a group of local social service organizations, all named for the Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. Their mission is to reduce women’s incarceration in Canada.

Elizabeth Fry Societies help women access legal aid, run diversion programs that women can be sentenced to complete instead of going to prison, supervise probation and community service, offer assistance meeting basic food and shelter needs, offer counselling and therapy, help women get pardons and do other stuff related to the general idea of making life a little easier for criminalized women. If you can swallow the smug self-righteousness that social workers seem to be trained in, and if you ignore the fact that “reform” and “collaboration with the criminal justice system” are very much one and the same here, you could say they are a force for good in a world where very few people give any fucks at all what happens to criminalized women.

The Supreme Court of Canada Thinks Human Trafficking is AWESOME

Since Pate became executive director, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies has also been an abolitionist organization, supporting “End Demand” laws. Fine. She’s probably not interested in changing her mind about that. But I want to talk about Pate’s  response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to strike down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional. As the CBC reports, Pate said:

It’s a sad day that we’ve now had confirmed that it’s OK to buy and sell women and girls in this country. I think generations to come — our daughters, their granddaughters and on — will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?’ …

To say that [prostitution] is a choice when you’re talking about the women we work with is to say that in fact it’s OK to just exploit them. …

We’ve never seen men criminalized for buying and selling women and girls. We’ve always seen women criminalized for selling themselves. We absolutely object to the criminalization of women. Our position would not interfere with those women who truly have made their choices.

We’ve seen plenty of “prostitution is bad and everyone who disagrees with me is a lying pimp” rhetoric these last few days (Jacqueline Guillion, determined not to admit that the Bedford applicants are current and former sex workers, called them “hopeful pimps”). That’s to be expected.

But criminalized women are kinda relying on Kim Pate to know what the fuck she’s talking about, considering she’s heading up a national legal advocacy organization on their behalf. And if it’s not the case that Pate doesn’t understand the Bedford decision, well criminalized women (and the general public) are also relying on her to not mislead them. Continue reading

MOAR READING

I’ve added a page to this blog. It’s an archive of reading lists I sometimes make for funsies on Twitter. The first two links are to lists of open-access scholarly articles on:

  1. Indigenous sex work, gentrification and violence against Indigenous women in Canada
  2. Criminalization of HIV in Canada and the US (mostly)

You can find them here: https://autocannibalism.wordpress.com/open-access-reading-lists/

I’ll add other lists, and I’ll take suggestions of topics from sex workers, community members, allies, etc who want a quick primer on recent research literature on a social justice issue. This is fun for me, so I’m not picky about what I look up, as long as I know enough about it to be judicious about which readings to include.

I’d also be open to archiving other people’s lists (with proper credit, of course!) if you are into making them, don’t have a place of your own to keep track of them, and can do topics that I don’t know enough about to do myself.

I will not take suggestions of topics from undergraduate students who have been assigned research essays in their classes. Yes, I will know the difference. And yes, I will google you and rat you out to your professor. If you are a student, use your university library’s webpage to search a database of journals related to your topic — that’s the kind of research skill that lasts a lifetime.

 

 

Just Say No: Why You Shouldn’t Study Sex Work in School

Before I finished my BA, I encountered a social worker who was working on her MA. Her politics were generally pro-decriminalization, but she also liked to trade in horror stories about women whose vaginas fell out from having so much sex. She had secured the cooperation of a rescue organization that collaborated with police to be allowed to study their Very Marginalized Whores. She wanted my help nailing down her research question.

“Don’t do this study,” I said. “Find something else to research.”

“OMG why are you so mean?” was more or less her answer.

I’m finishing one MA and starting another right now. In my first MA, I have studied sex work for a few years. In my second MA, I will not study sex work. I am going to explain why, and I hope others in the same position will also choose not to study sex work. Continue reading