Honourable members of Parliament, justice and human rights dignitaries, thank you for the invitation to speak to this extremely important bill that will greatly impact the future of many of my friends, their children, and countless other women and children who are trapped in the prostitution industry.
Sexual exploitation is a human rights crisis for women and girls. The harm of sexual exploitation extends throughout our whole nation. It begins with the individual, extends to the community, and then to the country. Prostitution and trafficking restrict women's freedoms and citizenship rights. If women are treated as commodities, they are consigned to second-class citizenship. A country cannot be a true democracy if its citizens are treated as commodities, nor can a true democracy flourish when women who enter this lifestyle as a result of oppression or force are criminalized.
My name is Casandra Diamond. I am the director of a grassroots organization named BridgeNorth, a program of Grace Church Newmarket, that seeks to help trafficked and prostituted women understand their inherent value and dignity through mentoring and creating opportunities to gain healthy, full, and balanced lives.
I stand before you also as a survivor of the sex trade, echoing the experience of hundreds of women who cannot be here today. This is the perspective I'm speaking to you from.
Bill shows great promise with the preamble, an excellent framework, and the necessary perspective to replace the laws deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It was like medicine for my heart to read:
Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns about the exploitation that is inherent in prostitution and the risks of violence…;
Whereas the Parliament of Canada recognizes the social harm caused by the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity;
Whereas it is important to protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children;
Whereas it is important to denounce and prohibit the purchase of sexual services because it creates a demand for prostitution;….
That is real medicine and a prescription for healthy citizenship.
In the preamble, the Canadian government is sending a very clear message to its citizens that it wants safer communities for women and children and that prostitution is inherently violent and dangerous and a direct violation of the human rights of each person.
Speaking from a decade of experience in various capacities within the sex trade, I am intimately aware of the inherent dangers of prostitution, regardless of whether the trade occurs indoors or outdoors. If anything, working indoors offers even less choice to women. Unlike outdoor girls and women who are able to scan, see, and talk to a client before brokering a deal, an indoor woman or girl is lined up and then paraded before being selected by the client. She does not have a choice to say no. Plying the trade indoors often means more pimp control, with no place for the person to turn to for help.
Concealing prostitution behind doors is more socially accepted because it permits society to ignore the brutal reality that people are being destroyed by it. It allows people to romanticize the idea of prostitution, and to be blind to the degrading and dehumanizing treatment of women by the criminals who profit from it. The turning of the head of ordinary citizens helps to reinforce the power of the industry in coercing women. This makes them perfect prey for highly organized and deadly organizations to take over their lives. There is no such thing as a safe place to engage in prostitution.
Prostitution in Canada today is organized by criminals; namely, the mafias and gangs that operate the global underground economy, dealing for profit in drug and human trafficking. In my 10 years of experience, I have never not worked for organized crime and gangs.
Highly organized groups have infiltrated essential social systems, such as licensing and government agencies and police forces, where they have built influential relationships with officials within these systems. These hidden power structures keep prostituted women and girls acutely vulnerable to continued abuse and exploitation.
Decriminalizing prostitution is not the answer and will not wrestle this lucrative globalized industry out of the clutches of organized crime. As a matter of fact, it will only make it easier for worldwide criminal networks—many already well-established in Canada—to increase and expand their hold on trading in women's bodies. By instituting and enforcing Bill with an amendment to decriminalize women in prostitution, Canada will protect itself from becoming a destination of choice for organized crime and sex tourism.
In attempting to craft laws to end this exploitation, Bill must address these issues and consider that criminalizing women is a matter of revictimizing the victim.
Some people talk about prostitution as employment, as if it were a job like any other. It isn't. Legitimate employment has laws against sexual harassment and discrimination. It does not allow hiring a woman based solely on her breast size or hair colour or weight. Our labour laws have in place standards that protect us from such practices because they are discriminatory, unhealthy, and misaligned with society's views and values. In a regular job, I am not forced to willingly and knowingly subject myself to numerous sexually transmitted infections, life-threatening diseases, and violence.
There is a lot of talk about harm reduction. Harm reduction suggests that any harm done is minor and can easily be treated or healed. However, harm minimization does not eliminate harm, and that should be our ultimate goal. There is overwhelming evidence to show that PTSD, dissociation, and depression are rampant among women in prostitution. This would not be acceptable in other jobs. We must try to not only reduce harm but to eliminate it.
I am encouraged that Bill speaks to both of these issues in that it provides funding for exit strategies for women plying the sex trade and safe havens for women who experience violence or need medical care while involved in the sex trade. The funding of $20 million tells us how important the government believes this issue is, and I'm very thankful for that. However, continued financial backing will be imperative to achieving the desired results that this hard-working bill is seeking.
Bill gives us a chance to name prostitution for what it is, and it is an extreme manifestation of exploitation and violence against women. By decriminalizing the prostituted, those who are primarily forced into prostitution by desperation or are direct victims of human trafficking and sex slavery, there is public recognition that, by and large, women in the trade are not exercising free will and there is no criminal intent on their part.
By criminalizing those who are exercising control over the prostituted for their own financial gain, the harm to the prostituted is recognized and validated. To be clear, many women in the middle positions of these power hierarchies are themselves victims of coercion and should not be included in this criminalized group. By criminalizing the johns, the law recognizes that men who solicit women for services are willingly, albeit perhaps unknowingly, engaging with organized crime to coerce and hold women in sex slavery. Clear laws like these, and the social commitment to implement and enforce them, will offer hope to women who are now trapped. This is why I support Bill .
I do dream of living in a Canadian society that believes and practices gender equality. When we reach that pinnacle, women and girls will no longer be bought and sold by men. I want to live in a country that protects all of its citizens, and whose country's value system creates and provides laws that enshrine the safety, equality, and value of its people above all else, simply because they are human beings regardless of sex, class, race, and economic standing. I want to live in a country that prohibits the sale of its citizens as commodities to be bought and sold. This is why I stand before you today.
I think that Bill , amended to remove criminalizing the prostituted themselves, will help us to find our way to that country. Please do all that you can to make this a reality.
My name is Emily Symons. I'm the chair of POWER, which stands for Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work Educate and Resist. We are a sex worker-led organization founded in 2008, and we advocate for sex workers' human rights and labour rights. We envision a world in which people can freely choose to do sex work or to not do sex work and in which those who choose to do sex work are able to do so in safety and in dignity. We are completely unfunded and entirely volunteer-based. Our membership includes people of all genders working as escorts, erotic massage providers, street-based workers, erotic dancers, and webcam performers.
I'm here today to present the expertise of our membership on how Bill will impact the safety of sex workers. I would like to say that I believe we are all here today with the safety and well-being of sex workers at heart. I will say that sex workers are the experts, and sex workers know better than anyone else how these laws will impact their work and their safety. Sex workers who are currently working are also the ones who will directly experience the impacts of any new laws that are put forward. For this reason, we must privilege their voices and experiences.
The Himel decision and the decision that came down from the Supreme Court of Canada explicitly outlined the dangers of criminalizing street-based sex work as well as third parties. For this reason, I'll focus on the two sections of Bill that criminalize the purchase of sex and criminalize advertising. I would like to show how these laws will contribute to violence against sex workers.
I will start by discussing the criminalization of purchase of sex on the streets. This law, if it's put forward and becomes law, will replicate the same harms that we see under the communicating provision. We know from sex workers in Ottawa currently working on the streets that criminalizing the purchase of sex puts them at increased risk of violence.
I will say that there is a common misconception that sex workers don't have a voice and therefore other people must speak for them. In fact, sex workers can speak for themselves. Sex workers do speak for themselves. The issue is that we aren't listening.
In March 2014, POWER facilitated the women of the Oasis drop-in in Ottawa to participate in the government's online consultation. This is just one drop-in centre that POWER collaborates with. Twelve women who are currently working on the streets as sex workers participated. Their unedited responses are available on our website at powerottawa.ca. Much of what I speak about will be drawn from their experiences.
Criminalizing clients is not something new. In fact, Ottawa police have been enforcing the communicating law against clients, and not sex workers, for the last few years. We therefore already know the impact it has on sex workers working on the streets.
What we know from street-based sex workers is that criminalizing their clients means rushed negotiations. It's very important for a sex worker working on the streets to take the time to evaluate a client before jumping in his vehicle. This may include smelling his breath to see if there's alcohol, doing a scan of the interior of the vehicle, and checking their bad date list to see if he's on it. When clients fear being criminalized or the police are around, it's very difficult for sex workers to screen their clients. When clients are criminalized on the streets, this means they don't go to well-lit and well-populated areas to pick up sex workers. So in order for sex workers to access their clients, they are pushed into the shadows, into unlit and unpopulated areas. This puts them at increased risk of violence.
Sex workers working on the streets work in groups or in pairs in order to protect themselves. They can watch out for each other and take down licence plates. When sex workers' clients fear being criminalized, they don't approach sex workers working in groups or in pairs. They approach sex workers working alone.
So when we criminalize clients, we're essentially replicating the same harms of the communicating law in which sex workers don't take the time to screen their clients, they can't work in well-lit and well-populated areas, and they must work alone.
We also see that when we criminalize clients, we end up taking away a lot of the sex workers' good clients. They may move to a different part of the city to pick up sex workers where there's less policing. They may move indoors. When there are fewer and fewer clients, it becomes harder and harder for sex workers to say no. It's very important for a sex worker to be able to say no to a client and to know that there will probably be another one coming up soon. When you decrease the pool of clients, it becomes more difficult for sex workers to say no when they have bills to pay.
Sex workers also generally stay out until they have made the money that they need. They will have a certain amount in mind that they need to pay their rent or to buy their groceries for that week, and when the police are out arresting clients this means that sex workers are out on the streets for much longer in order to make the money they need. This puts them at increased risk of encountering a predator, and it can also increase tension with community members who are offended by the presence of a prostitute.
I will now discuss criminalizing the purchase of sex indoors. This will continue to undermine sex workers' ability to protect themselves. The key way that both independent sex workers and agencies protect sex workers is by requiring personal information from a client generally in the form of a phone number. So, if you were to go online where sex workers advertise, you will frequently see “no pay phones” and “no blocked calls”. This is because sex workers require personal information about their clients so that if something would happen, she has information to give the police. Now, she may not feel comfortable calling the police but this serves as a deterrent to the client because the client knows that if he commits a criminal act then she has his phone number to give the police.
What we see when clients fear criminalization is that they don't want to provide this information for screening, which makes it very difficult for sex workers working indoors to be safe.
When clients are criminalized sex workers don't feel comfortable calling the police. Sex workers rely on sex work to provide their income and to support themselves. Sex workers don't want the police to come and arrest their good clients and take away their income. Therefore, sex workers don't feel comfortable calling the police when they've experienced an assault because that could have their location of work targeted as a hot spot.
Clients are often the first to know when exploitation is taking place. In fact, here in Ottawa there was a situation where there were underage girls who were being forced into the sex industry. It was actually a client who facilitated getting her back home to her parents and facilitated the situation being reported to law enforcement.
When clients fear being criminalized, they don't want to report this exploitation to the police because they fear being arrested themselves.
I will now move on to talk about the criminalization of advertising.
What this will mean for sex workers is that sex workers will begin to advertise in code, both because of the ban on advertising and the ban on the criminalization of clients. So what this means is that sex workers will start to say things like, “It's $100 for a happy ending” or “It's 200 roses for my companionship for one hour”, without explicitly mentioning sexual services. This means that sex workers cannot post their restrictions—sexual acts they are not comfortable performing—and their safer sex requirements. If you go online today and look at advertisements of sex workers working indoors, you will see a list of acronyms. These acronyms represent the sexual acts that the sex worker is comfortable performing, the acts she is not comfortable performing, as well as her safer sex requirements.
Now, when sex workers start to advertise in code and can't explicitly discuss safer sex practices or what they are not comfortable performing, then this can lead to misunderstanding where the client can show up expecting something that she is not offering, which can be a very scary experience.
We know that the safest way to work as a sex worker is to work indoors. There is much less violence indoors than on the streets. Criminalizing advertising poses a significant barrier to sex workers being able to work indoors.
Places of advertisement like cerb.ca are about more than just advertising. They provide a “sex worker only” space where sex workers have their own board and can talk to each other. They can provide references about who the good clients are and they can also post “bad date” lists. There is an extensive “bad date” list on cerb.ca, which is probably the primary place sex workers advertise currently in Ottawa. There has been a lot of talk recently among sex workers in Ottawa about what we will have to do when the five years of the “bad date” list is taken down.
There is also a lot of talk about how the advertising isn't going to target sex workers because it's not going to be a criminal law to advertise your own sexual labour, but in fact, this law will criminalize sex workers. It's very common for sex workers to advertise duos, to offer two women with one client. If you go to sex workers' personal websites, you will often see a links page where sex workers post their friends, and these are the people they share references with. So they will call up their friend and say, “Hey, did you see Bob? Was he a good client?”
Sex workers will also frequently perform administrative tasks for each other for a fee, which can include renting an in-call location to see clients, or hiring someone else to do your advertising for you.
My understanding is that this law will criminalize sex workers advertising duos, criminalize sex workers advertising their friends, and it will criminalize sex workers performing administrative tasks for each other. These acts facilitate working collaboratively. Working collaboratively is safer. Performing in duos is safer, being in a group of two sex workers. Sharing a workspace is safer. Sharing bad date information and providing references are safer. This law will chip away at a sex worker's ability to work collaboratively.
I will finish by briefly talking about funding. I'm very disturbed to learn that only exiting services will be funded. What this tells me is that women who choose to exit prostitution are worthy of human rights, and women who don't wish to exit prostitution are unworthy of human rights.
Some of the services that benefit the safety and health of sex workers include having someone compile bad date lists for street-based sex workers and distributing them to sex workers; health services for sex workers; Grandma's House, which is a location to bring clients where there is supervision, and if a sex worker screams there is someone to intervene; outreach workers; and safer sex supplies. These are services that help to keep sex workers safe and healthy, and it's a shame that they won't be funded.
I'll finish by saying that Bill is irredeemable, and in all its parts it will put sex workers at increased risk of violence. We need to start from scratch, and we need to take the lead from New Zealand. We need to meaningfully engage with sex workers to develop a legal regime that prioritizes their health, safety, and well-being.
Thank you very much, honourable members and guests. I very much appreciate the opportunity to present from the perspective of a police service. When I speak of police service, I'm talking particularly about the Calgary Police Service.
I want to start by providing a bit of context of what we face. I'll start with a story that relates to a mother who was raising, in her words, a beautiful intelligent daughter, who in elementary school was brilliant. She was a star of elementary school because when you're smart and pretty everybody loves you. Then, as she got into junior high school, being smart wasn't as cool, and by the time she hit high school she was beautiful but being smart got you no points.
In late high school, she went to a party—and this did not happen in Calgary but it ended in Calgary—and somebody offered her a joint. It's harmless, right? You hear about it all the time. She didn't know it was laced with crystal meth. She became addicted to crystal meth. She wound up working for an organized outlaw motorcycle gang in a downtown west coast city, where she was abused and working the streets and addicted. If you would have asked her, she would have said that she chose this life. It's what she wants.
Now, the mother tried to get assistance from other agencies, and she was told that when she hits rock bottom, she will come home; don't worry about it.
I would ask any parent in this room if you'd be prepared to accept that and let her continue to do that until she hits rock bottom. The sad part about this story from this perspective, from the starting point, is being the police service of jurisdiction where that mom, that family, comes to you and says they need help. “We need to extract our daughter from this. We know she's addicted. She knows she's being manipulated. She comes from a good family.” The police service of jurisdiction and the agencies involved in that area say you just have to wait until she hits rock bottom. Well, I come from a jurisdiction where I don't believe you have to succumb to that and wait for that.
The mother and some of her friends had to take extraordinary measures to remove her from the situation and deliver her to a place in Calgary where they have addictions treatment. I'll finish the story at the end of my presentation here.
The Calgary Police Service believes that Canada's public policy should be the complete abolition of prostitution, and passing Bill is required in order for us to reach this goal. It is our firm position that the purchasing of sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence for the following reasons.
Research shows that many prostitutes were the victims of exploitation as children and youth, are currently the victims of exploitation, or are otherwise vulnerable to exploitation because of drug dependency, FASD, emotional problems or mental illness, or economic disadvantage. Prostitution, therefore, is not simply the delivery of sexual services for money or other consideration, but it is instead sexual exploitation.
There's a need to discourage sex tourism. We need to reduce the number of prostitutes and associated harms, reduce the demand for the sale of sexual services, detect and eliminate the human trafficking of persons, reduce the risk of violence and homicides, and address the overrepresentation of aboriginal women and children in prostitution. We need to eliminate the commodification of persons for sex, reduce and eliminate negative community impacts, reduce gender bias in our society, which is really important, and discourage that it's acceptable or normal to solicit the service of a prostitute.
Research and our working knowledge of the sex trade tells us that regardless of what regime, model, or laws are implemented, those who sell sex are exposed to violence, exploitation, degradation, and unpreventable harm. Sex trade workers are overrepresented by aboriginal people and youth, the mentally ill, and those suffering from addictions. The only safeguard for those trapped in the sex trade is removal and support.
We acknowledge that all efforts must be taken to not further victimize those trapped in the sex trade through criminal charges. Instead, apprehension powers should be used to remove sex trade workers from oppressive situations and connect them to counselling and support services. Canada should develop a national strategy to first reduce and ultimately eliminate prostitution.
Support services should aim to improve the lives of sex trade workers through initiatives that focus on prevention, education, intervention, and exit. To aid in the aim of this national strategy, law enforcement requires legislative authority to interdict and intervene in attempts to reduce the inherent harms associated with the sex trade, and to address the resultant community harm.
The legal regime in Canada should not discourage any prostitute who has been the victim of human trafficking, assault, sexual assault, robbery or other offences to be able to come forward and report the offence to police, or otherwise seek assistance, intervention, protection, or exit. In fact, in a report commissioned by the Home Office in the U.K. called “Shifting Sands: A Comparison of Prostitution Regimes Across Nine Countries”, the authors note, and I quote here:
We also found little strong evidence that different prostitution regimes affect willingness to report assaults. It seems more likely that enhanced reporting is the outcome of local climates of trust built between women who sell sex and state agencies/individuals/services.
I would also like to address the issue of community impact. Communities are negatively impacted by prostitution. These harms include a reduced perception of safety within communities; an increased perception of social disorder; public nuisances such as condoms and needles in public parks, parking lots, and sidewalks; increased noise and vehicle traffic; public sex; the unwanted sexual proposition of citizens; and public health concerns. Criminal law prohibitions will continue to be needed to control and reduce these harms. This is the experience of almost 40 years in policing, where we are, unfortunately, the ones who have to deal with the issue of strolls when they're in places that are frequented by the public.
Economically benefiting from prostitution, other than for those reasons mentioned in Bill , should be a criminal offence. In order to meet the concerns expressed by the Supreme Court and others respecting the need to eliminate or reduce the exploitation of persons and to enhance the safety of prostitutes, Canada should work with provinces, municipalities, and social agencies to develop a national strategy to reduce and abolish prostitution and improve the lives of those affected through initiatives that focus on prevention, education, intervention, and exit.
Here I have to say that the $20 million, over five years, is woefully inadequate. If you were to bring that down to a provincial level, Alberta has roughly 10% of the population, or a little more, in Canada. This would mean that for a province like Alberta that would be $40,000 a year for the five years. If you divide that into Edmonton in the north and Calgary in the south, and the other jurisdictions, a place like Calgary, with a population of 1.25 million people, would be dealing with the social aspect of it with the addition of about $125,000 a year. It's woefully inadequate. If there's a commitment to deal with this in an effective way, then I think we have to look at the exit strategies and adequately resource them.
I want to say that over 40 years of policing for a number of years there was nothing I enjoyed better—-as I still do today—than walking into schools and talking to kids. In those 40 years I've never had a young kid come up to me and say, when I grow up I want to be a drug addict, a criminal, or a hooker. It never happens.
I want to also talk a little bit about human trafficking, and the fact that it's a $3-billion-a-year industry worldwide. Let us not pretend or ignore the fact that if Canada changes its course in this regard we will be a place where this becomes more and more prevalent. We can all beat our chests and wail about what happened in Nigeria with the kidnapping of almost 300 young school girls, but the reality is those girls are going to wind up sexually trafficked and could very well come to this country, like they go to other countries. We've visited Scandinavian countries to study the Nordic model. East European girls and those from Africa are disproportionately represented.
There are two other points I want to make. There's been the belief that somehow you can pick out serial killers. I can tell you from 40 years of policing and studying jurisdictions across North America where killers have done their thing, people like Jeffrey Dahmer or the Green River killer in Washington, you can't pick out a serial killer. You can't interview him and say, “That person is a serial killer”. They come across, they present like you or me until they get captured.
I just want to conclude with the story that I started with. This young girl was brought back to Calgary. She was put into a program for addictions, and it was a battle, but this woman today is a second-year medical school student. She is in medical school, second year. Yet had her parents not taken steps that technically they shouldn't have had to take, this young girl would be a woman on the streets and if interviewed today, she would say, “Of course, it's my choice. Of course, I'm here because I selected it.”
I'm not saying that in each and every case there aren't those who voluntarily choose it without being abused or having backgrounds of abuse. I'm not saying that, but our experience is that the vast majority of them have. All we're asking for is the legal authority to intervene in a way that allows us to target organized crime and johns, while using the law as an opportunity to extract and provide services for those who are the victims of prostitution, the service providers.
Thank you very much.
My name is Robyn Maynard and I'm an outreach worker at Stella. Stella is sex-worker led, a “by and for” sex worker organization. We offer service and advocacy to Montreal-based sex workers. Stella has been around since 1995.
Because there were a few comments levelled yesterday really talking about how sex workers' organizations push people to stay in the industry, I did want to address that. I think that is something that is not accurate at all about the way we work. We have a listening line. We have a drop-in centre. We do daily street-based outreach. Some of that—at least two shifts a week—are with nurses from different community organizations because sex workers are often isolated in the way that they work from the legal system and they face a lot of stigma. We work specifically with street nurses doing outreach.
We also do regular workplace visits to escort agencies, to massage parlours, to dance clubs. We have a medical clinic, and we also have an anti-violence program in which we support sex workers who are in violent situations whether that be with a boyfriend, an abusive working situation, or anything like that, and based on their own defined needs, we'll really help to support them in that violent situation. Sometimes that could mean coming forward against someone who committed an aggression against them. It can mean a variety of different things, but it's a really important project to us as well.
In 2012-13, we had 500 visits to our drop-in, answered 5,000 calls on our listening line, met thousands of sex workers in their workplaces, and accompanied almost 250 sex workers to health, legal, and social services.
The opinions that we have around the effects of the laws are really based on what we see on a day-to-day basis. I'm a street outreach worker. I'm often working until midnight on the main strolls where sex workers are working. We can really see the effects of the laws as they play out on sex workers. We talk to them on a daily basis.
The work that we do is important in the context of criminalization especially because sex workers face so much isolation and stigma and fear of outing themselves because of their fear of losing their children, losing their apartments. A lot of the accompaniments that we do are legal accompaniments because of that, because of criminalization and also because of the situations that people are facing because of their work being criminalized. A lot of the calls we get are around people who are afraid of being arrested.
We operate on principles of harm reduction, which is extremely important for us. There is a lot of talk about money going toward just exiting programs. Often there are sex workers who want to leave the sex industry, who should be supported. We often help people to write their resumés and things like that, but often also people just need basic legal information and help with youth protective services, just to understand the laws better, to have education around, say, hepatitis C or HIV prevention. There are many different needs that sex workers have beyond just the idea of exiting, and it's very important for us to be able to provide all of those.
Many sex workers will eventually go on to do other things, but Bill really does seem to be saying, “Get out of the sex industry or you'll make your work more dangerous, or potentially be arrested.” It does not actually provide other viable options at the same time. Our communities have diverse backgrounds and lives and working conditions, and there are many different needs that sex workers face. None of these are addressed by Bill C-36.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down many provisions that criminalized the sex trade because the laws had the unintended consequence of endangering the lives of sex workers. That is why these laws were struck down. The decision was seen by many sex workers as a human rights victory because it was found that sex workers should not have to be unduly exposed to danger because of the criminal laws surrounding their work. Originally these laws took place in the name of combatting public nuisance. Now we are really seeing a re-creation, with many similar laws and going even further. Now it's under the name of protecting vulnerable communities, but these same laws that were used to combat public nuisance are really being brought back in to apply to sex workers again.
Living in a legal vacuum is dangerous and the danger is quantifiable. We know that for people living in a legal vacuum who are criminalized, the rates of murder and violence toward sex workers is abhorrent in Canada. The Supreme Court did find this directly related to the laws, so the laws are very important to sex workers' lives.
It's fine for any member of Parliament, any person living in Canada, to have the right to their own personal opinion on the sex industry and the morality of the sex industry, and whether or not we think it should exist and what we think it means, but imposing morality at the cost of human lives is not something that is acceptable.
What is the cost of passing laws trying to abolish the sex industry? The cost is extremely dangerous. Even if we look at trying to abolish what we see as a social harm, there are actual physical harms to people's physical safety and their actual lives are endangered by these same laws that try to abolish the sex industry.
We can look to Sweden and Norway, countries that have brought in what people often call the Nordic model, where the purchase of sexual services has been criminalized. The National Council for Crime Prevention, the Swedish National Board of Health and Social Welfare, and the Swedish National Police Board have reported that sex industry activity has not dwindled but has actually shifted venues in order to evade police detection, and has actually increased the dangers faced by sex workers.
There is more in the brief, so I won't focus too much on this. You can actually see that in Norway, violence towards sex workers has actually increased. Evidence shows that sex workers who are homeless or substance-dependent are actually more dependent now on individual clients. Here in Canada, though, we actually already have a lot of evidence that shows us what happens when we criminalize sex workers working on the street and also when we criminalize the purchase of sex.
Emily mentioned that the police in Ottawa for a while now have actually not been criminalizing sex workers on the streets. That same thing has been true in Vancouver, as was just documented. It's also been true, from what I've been seeing, in Montreal. We've seen a lot fewer arrests of sex workers working on the streets, but the client sweeps haven't stopped and police posing undercover hasn't stopped. We also see that violence has not stopped in this way. This model has already been imposed and applied. The police have already had this power and have been using it. It hasn't been working.
First, I just want to talk specifically about the law recriminalizing sex workers who work on the street in a public place where there could be minors, which is anywhere. This one is very scary. As I was saying, sex workers who have been working on the street this entire time have lately actually had a break from the fear of arrest, the fear of prison, and the fear of losing their children. For many women I've been talking to, they are terrified of this coming back and of having to all of a sudden face this threat again.
I really think that many people know very well what the dangers are of criminalizing sex workers on the street, but I think less attention has been paid to just the ability of criminalizing client-worker interactions. These have unambiguously been shown to endanger sex workers' lives and safety. Two different reports commissioned by the Canadian justice ministry, in 1989 and in 1994, really showed the direct link between the criminalization of sex workers' negotiations and ability to screen clients. They showed that this caused displacement and increased violence towards sex workers.
Even when I go out on a street work shift on, say, a Thursday night, when the police are extremely present, that keeps clients away. Sex workers just end up moving to alleys and to other parts of the city where there are fewer peers and other people around. They're still trying to seek clients, but this is becoming more and more difficult. We know that this kind of isolation is really putting people in danger.
In Montreal our bad clients and aggressors list receives more reports of violent incidents directly after the police do large-scale client sweeps. Over a three-month period during the massive client sweeps in 2001, Stella documented a threefold rise in violent incidents and a fivefold rise in incidents with a deadly weapon.
In Vancouver, where there is one of the most mediatized amounts of violence towards sex workers, the Vancouver Police Department had actually already only focused on arresting clients. A report that came out from the British Medical Journal Open and the Pivot Legal Society also found that sex workers were still exposed to danger, again because of this reduced screening time when they had to move to darker areas.
It's just that the displacement that comes from criminalizing client and sex worker negotiations, even if it's just on the side of the client, does put sex workers in danger. We really need to look at that more than the idea of what it means to criminalize the johns. If criminalizing the johns means that people are having to place themselves in danger, then we need to re-evaluate the point of that law. Justice Wally Oppal also reaffirms the harms caused by this criminalization in the report from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry .
As well, because women of colour, indigenous women, and those who are substance-dependent are overrepresented at the street level, that does mean that these harms would be levelled at these groups at a larger rate than for other groups in society. That's something that we also need to think of—the most marginalized people and how they'll be affected by the laws.
Emily already discussed really well the harmful effects of Bill on sex workers who work indoors, but I do just want to mention, on this idea that still places where sex workers work indoors, like massage parlours and escort agencies, the ability for sex workers to be able to negotiate with their clients and the ability for sex workers to have condoms on site in these places. If these indoor locations are still criminalized, and are still trying to purposely avoid law enforcement because condoms can be used as evidence and things like this, we are really still putting sex workers at risk with this part of the law.
Again, the way that sex workers share their bad date list often is online. The safe practice of escorts to actually get the personal information from their client would be extremely difficult.
I have a quote by a sex worker we interviewed for a project called Stella Deboutte, which we haven't released yet, who says, “Because clients are scared and nervous, I think I lose business. One reason I work alone is that clients are often more afraid of arrest when we work in pairs, which essentially would make us more safe. But because the client has fears, I feel as though I have to kind of accommodate those fears and that those win out over my safety, essentially.”
What would a more positive law reform look like? I think we can see that these criminal laws are not the way to address the sex trade. They're really re-endangering sex workers, who have already been placed in undue danger for decades now and who really deserve something better. We already have laws against exploitation, robbery, extortion, bodily harm. Importantly, there are also specific criminal laws and laws in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on trafficking. UN Women has put out a statement specifically saying that if you treat sex work and trafficking as the same thing, instead of treating them as separate kinds of abuses, then you're putting sex workers at danger of human rights risks and trafficking victims are not being helped.
Can I have one more minute?
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to compliment my colleagues from the Canadian Parliament, and all the witnesses and persons present.
I am a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe, for the ones who might not know, is much larger than the European Union. It comprises 47 member states. It is the big Europe, from Russia to Portugal.
One of our main concerns is the elevated number of people who are trafficked every year. It is estimated in Europe that between 70,000 and 140,000 people every year are put on the circuit of trafficking human beings. The problem is that 84% of the victims of trafficking is for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.
Although we understand that prostitution and trafficking are separate phenomena, there is a strong link between prostitution and trafficking. This concern lead the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to nominate me as rapporteur for the report that is called “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”. We are talking about modern slavery in Europe when all these people are forced to do something against their will.
I would like to show you a map of Europe. If it's possible that you can see, there are many different situations approaching the prostitution phenomenon in Europe. You see, in red, the countries in Europe where there is a total prohibition on prostitution. Then you see, in blue, the countries where prostitution is accepted but some aspects are criminalized. The ones in green are the ones where prostitution is legal. The ones in pink are the ones that have approached the Swedish model, where the purchase of sexual services is criminalized, as is the case in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, for the moment.
In this report, there was no intention of making any kind of moral judgment, and there is also no philosophy or ideology in the report. I tried to go to certain member states to conduct fact-finding visits and missions, and to have dozens and dozens of meetings with members of government; members of Parliament; NGOs, including sex worker organizations; police forces; and all the types of institutions that deal in one way or another with the phenomenon of prostitution. We were convinced that the policies on prostitution could have an impact on reducing or increasing the level of trafficking of human beings. That's why I went, first of all, to Sweden. That was the basis of the motion for this report, to study the Swedish model and see the weaknesses and strengths of that model.
There are no models that are 100% perfect. They are all subject to criticism, of course, but we have to check the results. I went to Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, which are three examples of legalized systems of prostitution. I wanted to check the results of these policies on legalizing prostitution.
Let me start by saying that the Swedish model—after 1999, with the sex purchase act, prohibiting and sanctioning the purchase of sexual services but not their sale—really had an intention. They wanted to curb the demand because they wanted to attack the root cause. The root cause is that without man's demand, there would be no demand for trafficking of human beings. The prostitution industry would not be able to flourish so much.
They are taking the basis that prostitution is harmful to women and is also affecting the boundaries of equality between men and women. It's a barrier to gender equality. Also, they think that this distinction between voluntary and forced prostitution is not relevant.
I must tell you in the beginning, in 1999, when this purchase act was approved, there was a big division in Swedish society. Some political parties were against, some others were in favour, and the society was divided.
One of the conclusions after all these years, since 1999 until now, is that now there is a large consensus, or at least the majority of public opinion supports this policy. All of the political forces—I spoke with all of them in the Parliament—stand together. There is no division on the political forces, so the results are being appreciated.
Of course, there is the criticism that when you attack prostitution on the street probably you are making it behind the scenes, and this would put more danger on the women. But the fact is that there are other ways of checking if this is true or not, if the Internet is replacing the street.
The other ways...for instance, Interpol intercepted a lot of calls and intercepts every day, and the calls between the criminal organizations that are connected with the trafficking on human beings don't consider Sweden anymore as an attractive country for their business. This is also some kind of reality.
The aim in Sweden was really to eliminate rather than regulate the prostitution. They have sanctions. They have administrative sanctions just like fines, and they have prison as criminal sanctions. But it's also important to say that practically no one was sent to prison because usually it remains on the fines. What they want is to send a strong message to the public that prostitution is not acceptable on their standards.
May I also tell you that the number of people who have been trafficked in Sweden, according to the data available—I will mention the problem with the data—has decreased substantially.
Let me just tell you that I went to Germany. Germany introduced in 2002 the legalization of prostitution. What I heard from many organizations is the following. The main proposals of the legalization system all failed because one of the main proposals was to attack the criminal organizations that were behind the scenes of trafficking and prostitution, and the result was totally the contrary.
Another one was to improve the status of prostitutes, and it's absolutely the contrary. The prostitutes are no longer checked either on health or on safety. Even the police have no access to the brothels. The industry has totally and tremendously expanded.
Now some things happen in Germany that I think, from the perspective of human rights, we should not accept that human beings, and women especially, are treated like that. What is called gang bangs and what is called the flat rate, and that is described by the press and the media.... I have a lot of articles about it.
It's really unacceptable that one man can pay 70 euros or 100 euros and can have sex with as many women as he wants to. At the end there are some who make the comment that the women are not in good condition to have sex. Of course. There are no timetables. There are no limits. They don't have a home. They live in the brothels. So this is the situation, and that was confirmed by many people on both the political side and the NGO side.
We have the sex workers' organizations, and they all claim they have the right, and this is some kind of right to choose prostitution as a way of being. But the problem, and my conviction after these meetings, either in Sweden, or in the Netherlands, or in Germany, or in Switzerland, is that those associations of sex workers really do not represent what is the reality in Europe, and I mean it. It's in Europe. I'm talking about the European experience.
What happens is that, in reality, the great majority of prostitutes nowadays in Europe are trafficked. They are there against their own will. Many of them are illegal and are not represented by these sex worker organizations. That is the problem; they don't have a voice.
If you look at the advertisements, it's very easy to understand. They are circulating between town to town, between member state to member state. When we read that there is a new stock of new flesh in town coming from this place or that place, we easily understand that they are controlled by mafias. They are controlled by criminal organizations. That was exactly what these countries that have adhered to the legalization wanted to avoid. Look at the Netherlands, for instance. In the Netherlands, you see that the mayors in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague are reducing the number of licences for what is called the red light district, those windows where the women present their product.
When the police in the Netherlands made a report saying that 90% of the famous red light district in Amsterdam was controlled by criminal organizations, this is totally the opposite of the intention when they legalized prostitution in that country.
Of course, I'm doing a report—
I get your point. Thank you. Time is of the essence.
You've opened the door for me, in a sense, and for the other members of the panel, in terms of one of the key successes of the Swedish model being the fact that it was in parallel, at the same time, to very strong social democratic measures.
My question is for Ms. Diamond.
I agree with you. A preamble is very important. It gives you the story that you're going to read.
I found there were things missing. It might be a start, but there are things missing. For me, that's where it gave me the impression of what the law from the government was all about. What was missing, and I don't know if you agree, is that we should also in the preamble address the questions of poverty, of housing conditions, health care needs, and other social measures. That would have given me the impression that we wanted to address everything.
At the same time, there's the fact that everybody on every side of the equation believes that at no time should the prostitute be criminalized in any consideration. The fact that it is.... With the fact that the yesterday said to us that it's an intrinsic part of the bill to protect communities, I didn't sense, and I'm not quite sure and convinced, that we'll be able to amend it.
I had long discussions with members from the audience at the end of the day yesterday. They were saying, we're counting on you to amend it. We'll try very hard, but honestly, if it's part of the essence of the bill, I do not have much hope.
For you, is your support of Bill still there, even if we cannot amend it and we still criminalize prostitutes, sex workers, at the end of the day?
In my recommendations I take the position very clearly in favour of the Swedish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex. That means an option. I'm not criminalizing the offering of the sexual service. At the beginning of my statement I showed the map of Europe. I showed the countries where it's criminalized. Those are the countries that have more prostitution, that have more trafficking. So it's some kind of hipocrisia. If you go to many of the eastern countries in Europe, you see it's criminalized prostitution, but in every corner, in every hotel, you have sexual services being offered freely, so nobody controls. When you criminalize the women who is a prostitute, you are also putting her in danger.
I believe the best approach is to criminalize the purchase of sex. That was an option, it was a political option, for my part, and that is translated in the resolution. I am suggesting that every member state from the Council of Europe, if they want, and if they decide by their own will and by their own political bodies, should follow the Swedish model.
In case they are not following the Swedish model, of course I have other suggestions. For instance, it was spoken a few minutes ago, and I think it's a very important issue. The minimum age for a prostitute in a legalized system, I think, should not be less than 21 years old. If you legalize prostitutes at a very early age, you are destroying the future of a girl who, some years later, may regret making that choice. The more time they have before entering that activity, the better. I believe that is also important if a country decides to go for legalization, which is not my opinion, but if they decide...later is better.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for coming to see us today.
Let me begin, Mr. Bota, by welcoming you and saying that it's nice to see you again. I attended the presentation of your report in Strasbourg, at the Council of Europe. I appreciated that and it's great to see you again and hear about your work and what's going on in Europe, and the comparison. We really appreciate that and it's very informative for our study.
I do want to point out—just to continue with something that Mr. Casey was asking about, just to let this committee know, and those who are watching—that data collection on the numbers with regard to human trafficking are a strong part of the national action plan on human trafficking that was recently passed in this Parliament. Absolutely, we agree that's something very important. In order to be able to understand the issue and to properly legislate, we have to know what the numbers are.
I'd like to ask you, Mr. Bota, about Germany, and the German example, in particular. I wonder if you believe that less regulation in prostitution leads to more or less underground.... I do hear from proponents of legalization. They believe that if it's legalized the government can then tax it and regulate it, and that having it all above board and visible is a result of legalization, and that's what happens when we legalize it.
Do you agree, or have you found, in the German example, that it's the other way? Is it more visible and better for prostitutes? Or is it driven underground and there is more organized crime? Which one is it?
This is an excellent opportunity to clarify this whole issue.
The Identification of Criminals Act under the Criminal Code is very specific. If you're charged with an indictable offence, you will be fingerprinted and you will be photographed, full stop. If it's a dual procedure, dual procedure says that you may be convicted of an indictable offence for up to two years, five years, 10 years, or summary conviction. For dual procedure offences, you are fingerprinted and photographed. When it goes to court, a determination is made by the crown whether they want to proceed by indictment or summary conviction. Regardless, your fingerprints and photographs have already been taken.
There's a reason for this. If we arrest somebody today in Calgary and they're in Montreal, and somebody by the name of Rick Hanson gets arrested in Calgary, and then somebody by the name of Rick Hanson gets arrested in Montreal, how do you know it's the same Rick Hanson? Because I can tell you there are lots of them.
The third option is pure summary conviction offences. In other words, an offence punishable by six months or less, or a fine, does not fall under the Identification of Criminals Act. You do not fingerprint. You do not photograph. So you may have a conviction registered, but you have no record, because how do you identify that person without fingerprints and photographs? How do you know you're charging the same person? Well, you don't.
What you're talking about is frequently dual procedure offences, where the crown chooses to proceed by summary conviction, but it's still fingerprints and—
It totally does. Let's talk about issues that relate to so-called police harassment. Let's talk about when strolls are established in your neighbourhood, on your street, in front of where you live, your apartment building, in front of where you work, and what authorities the police have to deal with that.
If it's a pure legalization and there is no Criminal Code or no offence there, then the issues around enhanced vehicle traffic, johns approaching regular women on the street trying to use the sidewalks, and needles, condoms, and those types of things, are a source of grave community concern. Frankly, the community does not accept the police throwing their hands up in the air saying, “Geez, we can't do anything about it,” when it's your 16-year-old daughter who perhaps has been solicited, or things like that are happening.
I was at a police commission meeting a few years ago where this was indeed happening in the community, and the community collected a jar full of condoms and needles and such, brought it up, put it on the desk of the chairman of the police commission, and said, “You tell us it's not a social problem. Tell us what you're going to do about it.”
By having some provisions under the Criminal Code that allow us to take some steps, and by making it minimal provisions under the Criminal Code, i.e., summary conviction offences, it allows us to take some actions to remove the social disorder issues associated with that, and allows us to take some steps to address the victimization issue of those women, or men, because there is male prostitution, just to put this on the table. There's very little in the way of recognition or treatment of that.