Vancouver East Liberals will host town hall meeting on Bill C-36, which criminalizes prostitution

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      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.

      Late last year, Davies issued a statement welcoming the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling striking down three sections of the Criminal Code.

      "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.



      Prairie bong

      Sep 22, 2014 at 7:08pm

      Edmonton has a pretty liberal policy towards prostitution. It has licensed massage parlours all over the city, teh girls working there also need to get a license (yes, from the city of Edmonton, you prudes!) to work there. There is minimal outcry over this and hardly anyone has been murdered in an indoors safe sex facility. Of course, having the laws we have, the City pretends it is only massage/body rub and anything else happening JUST happens among consenting adults but that's another story.
      I hope (as a straight male small-l liberal) this 'Edmonton model' is adopted by Trudeau and the LPC as a made-in-Alberta solution!

      Martin Dunphy

      Sep 22, 2014 at 7:26pm


      Vancouver does the same as Edmonton, FYI.


      Sep 23, 2014 at 8:02am

      Why would a pro-business party want to eliminate a form of capitalist exploitation?


      Sep 25, 2014 at 3:55pm

      FYI Prairie bong - Those massage parlours are actualy operating illegaly. They are licensed for massage and not sexual services. Prostitution itself is actually legal in Canada, but just like the parlours in Edmonton, all brothels, bawdy houses, pimping, and, most crucially, public solicitation are not. So, if a prostitute is offering her service privately, either by telephone or online, and engaging in a private residence or hotel room, she is within her legal right. Although they are rarely enforced in Edmonton...