As much as I like to gripe about Canada's government, there are only a handful of decisions over the years that have really stood out in my mind as betrayals of what I think it means to be Canadian.
One was free trade, which followed the U.S. into a downward spiral of lower wages, part-time work and a dwindling list of goods that could be honestly considered to be "made in Canada." While it may have made things better for developing countries, it has been one of several factors adding to the growing divide between rich and poor.
Another was the revamp of coastal fisheries regulation. Ham-handed, poorly informed and hopelessly politicized, it destroyed the economies of communities up and down the B.C. coast, destroyed resources as small operations were replaced by corporate fisheries, and turned once-independent coastal fishermen into wage workers on rich men's boats.
And another came this week, when the Conservatives pushed through Bill C-36, a new anti-prostitution law that ignores all evidence to the contrary (not to mention a Supreme Court of Canada ruling) and increases the criminalization of the sex industry.
There is not a shred of research or anecdotal experience that it's possible or even desirable to abolish prostitution by criminalizing buyers. Nor does the government have any idea how many Canadian sex workers are victims desperate for rescue, compared to how many are regular people earning a living, whose ability to do so has now been made considerably more risky by the need to move deeper into the shadows to protect customers from arrest.
The country known for pioneering the so-called Nordic model, Sweden, in fact has not a sniff of baseline data to even be able to gauge the effectiveness of such laws, as a former Swedish policy maker noted at a symposium in Ottawa last month. Meanwhile, New Zealand - where adult, consensual sex work has been decriminalized since 2003 - has much evidence that decriminalization has increased equality for sex workers without leading to any of the dire scenarios of increased violence and community decay that abolitionists predicted.
Anyone who contemplates the issue logically for even a few minutes would conclude that the Nordic model can only increase danger significantly for those working in the industry, as even victims awaiting rescue benefit from a safer place to work in the meantime, Somebody please tell me, how does criminalizing the work help anyone, most especially the supposed "victims"?
But the Conservatives were hell-bent on gaining support from those driven to oppose sex work for ideological reasons. And so they sold out the tens of thousands of Canadians who work in the industry.
It's a shameful, profoundly sad day for Canada. Nothing will be made better with this bad law, and much will be made worse.