More than three months ago, I suggested that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was the only hope for sex workers.
It came in the wake of the Conservative government unveiling Bill C-36, which criminalizes the customers of sex workers.
Some commenters on this website ripped into me for suggesting that Trudeau would do this. After all, Trudeau has previously supported the Nordic model, which also criminalizes the client.
My response is that Trudeau changed his views on marijuana.
There's no reason he wouldn't reverse his position on prostitution if there were sufficient public support and if evidence led the Liberals in that direction.
The research by SFU's John Lowman and others is already clear. Sex workers' lives are jeopardized when the state drives their industry underground.
That's why the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that Criminal Code prohibitions on soliciting clients in public, keeping a common bawdy house, and living off the avails of prostitution are unconstitutional.
The government's response, Bill C-36, might as well be called the Willie Pickton Law. That's because it will make it easier for predators to kill sex workers after the Harperites have once again pushed sex workers to the margins.
I'm surprised that Justice Minister Peter MacKay would countenance something like this, but who knows what's going on his brain?
This week, the Vancouver East Liberals have announced that they will host a town hall meeting on Bill C-36. It suggests that the party has an open mind on this issue.
Door open at 6:30 p.m. at the Strathcona Community Centre on Thursday (September 25).
The panel features sex-workers' advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton, Vancouver park commissioner Sarah Blyth, and UBC researcher Becki Ross.
It's taking place in the riding of NDP MP Libby Davies, who's long been an advocate for increasing sex workers' safety.
In 2002, Davies introduced a motion in Parliament to review prostitution laws. That was the same year that Pickton was charged with 26 murders.
"The exploitation, murder and violence against sex trade workers in Canada happens at an alarming rate, and until today, the laws dealing with prostitution remained unchanged and governments remained unwilling to realistically deal with this growing public safety issue," she said. "These laws have been a failure, both from the perspective of assisting and protecting sex workers as well as in mitigating the impacts of street prostitution on local communities."
Davies also spoke at a rally this year opposing Bill C-36.
So why is Justin Trudeau and not NDP leader Tom Mulcair the only hope for sex workers?
It's because most of Davies' colleagues in Parliament have been silent on this issue. And if the NDP forms government, there's no guarantee that it will reverse the criminalization of customers and other unconstitutional aspects of Bill C-36 until Mulcair delivers an unequivocal statement on this issue.
It's fine and dandy for him to stand up in Parliament and put the government's feet to the fire with regard to Senate expenses. But Bill C-36 is legislation that will result in people dying unnecessarily. Why isn't the Opposition leader putting as much energy into this?
In the meantime, the federal Liberals are seeking public input. That's the first step along the road to developing better policies.
It's why I still believe that Justin Trudeau is the only hope for sex workers.