Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Justin Trudeau's stand on decriminalizing still a work in progress

  While I keep my distance from politics, I've somehow ended up on the federal Liberal email list and have been receiving messages urging me to donate to Justin Trudeau and seeking my thoughts. With the heartbreak of Bill C-36 and the further criminalizing of sex work hanging over me, I seized the opportunity to respond to one of the messages to feel out Trudeau's position on decriminalization. Here is our exchange so far.

My response to the Liberals' email asking for my thoughts:

I would like to see Justin Trudeau come out with a clear statement around decriminalizing the work of adult, consensual sex workers. I am a passionate activist on this issue of human and civil rights, and will support the candidate who supports an end to C36 and understands that decriminalization is the best way to reduce risk to sex workers, decrease stigma, and ensure civil equality to a population of workers who are discriminated against and silenced. 

Their response to me a few days later:

Dear Jody,
    Thank you for writing to us about the Conservatives’ recently proposed prostitution legislation, Bill C-36.
    The Liberal Party of Canada opposes this legislation. We have serious concerns that Bill C-36 fails to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the requirements outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Bedford decision. We are also concerned that this legislation fails to adequately protect the health and safety of vulnerable people, particularly women.
    We have called on the government to produce evidence of the legal opinions it sought in drafting this legislation, however, the Conservatives continue to refuse to release this information. They have also refused to submit this legislation as a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to determine its constitutional validity.
    Given all of these concerns, we remain troubled the legislation will not actually make life safer for sex workers.
    Thank you again for contacting us on this important issue. It is through dialogue with Canadians like you that the Liberal Party of Canada can continue to develop policies that reflect the values of Canadians.
    Kind regards,
    James Cano
    Liberal Party of Canada

And my response back to them, sent today: 

    I really appreciate that someone took the time to respond to my query. However, I urge you to make your platform just a bit more specific around WHAT you will do for sex workers. For instance, I am unclear whether you would support decriminalization of adult, consensual sex work, or if you still like the idea of further criminalization but believe that C-36 isn't a good law for doing that. I feel this is one of the most important civil and human rights issues in our country right now, as tens of thousands of consenting adult sex workers work in the shadows without our support, without the same access to civil and criminal remedies such as police, courts, contract law, employment standards, workers' comp.  

    If the Liberals are looking for more information and research to help them take a firm position on this issue, here are some links that I think have great sources of information. The first is the site of a very large research project going on right now in Canada, which involves subjects who are connected to the sex work industry in a variety of ways. The second is the site of an organization I work with from time to time and am very closely tied to, Peers Victoria. The third is the site of Maggie's, a Toronto sex worker organization that has collected some excellent resources. The fourth is the site of Stella's, a Montreal sex worker organization. 

    There's so much more information I'd be happy to connect you to, from all around the world. This is an emotional issue, but the research around it is very clear. Nothing improves - for sex workers or the communities they live in - through criminalization. Yes, bad things happen to some sex workers, but how does any of that improve by criminalizing the work? The question is not whether we'd want our children to be sex workers (we activists are constantly having that question thrown at us), it's what kind of a work place and safety structure we'd want for them if they were doing this work. 

    Please take a clear stand on this issue as one of human and civil rights. The Liberals stand a very good chance of forming the next government. Be brave, humane and evidence-based, and support a decriminalized workplace for adult, consenting sex workers. 

And what will they say next? Stay tuned. 

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