Thank you and good morning. We appreciate the opportunity to include the perspectives of Asian women into the consideration of Bill . We have also provided a brief.
The Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution has the goal of changing societal attitudes towards women, especially women of Asian descent. We work to advance equality for women and to create opportunities for Asian women to have meaningful participation and to take leadership roles in civil society. We see prostitution as a form of male violence against women that prevents women's equality and that encourages racist violence. We also believe that prostitution can be eradicated.
We're a feminist volunteer group. Our members have provided prostitution prevention education in the school system and legal advocacy to women involved in the live-in caregiver program. We've been front-line workers in feminist anti-violence centres. We've provided concrete aid and support to battered women and raped women, including prostituted women.
We were interveners in the Bedford case, where we provided a critical race analysis to help inform the Supreme Court's considerations.
I'll start by saying that we applaud the intent stated in the preamble setting protection of women's dignity and equality as an objective of the bill. This is consistent with the principle that all Canadian law is to be understood and interpreted in the context of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill's preamble demonstrates an understanding of the systemic nature of prostitution and the consequence of undermining women's equality on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, and sex.
We also appreciate that the bill acknowledges the danger that's inherent in prostitution and the profound exploitation done by the pimps, the brothel-keepers, the procurers, the advertisers, and the customers of prostitution to women, especially as it affects Asian and other racialized women. We recommend strengthening this acknowledgement by noting in the preamble the disproportionate impact of prostitution on racialized women.
We support the section of the bill that criminalizes advertising of sexual services because of the role that advertising plays in normalizing and entrenching racist and sexist stereotypes. For example, when we gathered online ads that were posted over a 24-hour period from the adult services section of the Vancouver Craigslist website, we found that 67% of the women advertised in the 1,472 ads we gathered were described or displayed by photo as Asian.
The Asian population of metro Vancouver is only 30%. It's reasonable to assume that Asian women comprise approximately 15% of that population but we're massively disproportionately overrepresented in that advertising. The advertising describes Asian women as providing a girlfriend experience. They're Japanese school girls, really young China dolls, Asian cuties, and they are paired with photos.
The pimps, procurers, brothel-keepers, advertisers, and others who are involved in the sales and marketing of prostituted women cater to these deeply racist demands. It's in their commercial interest to continue to normalize these stereotypes into Canadian society in order to grow the market for their product.
We experience negative consequences when our characteristics, whether they are real or imagined, are sexualized and commodified to promote sexual services. These stereotypes dehumanize and sexualize Asian women and they block our access to our Charter of Rights regardless of whether or not we are prostituted.
From our experience, prostitution overlaps with wife battering, rape, and incest. These are all acts of sexist violence that are usually committed by men in private venues, such as the home, where privacy is used to confine women, reinforce the attacker's authority, and hide the violence from public view. Being indoors does not increase women's safety from male violence in general. However, indoor venues such as Asian massage parlours do enhance safety for men. They shield the pimps, brothel-keepers, procurers, and customers from scrutiny and they hide the violence that's used to control women and the violence that is inherent to prostitution.
We support the tailored legislative approach offered by the bill. It accurately targets the men who are the source of the harm in prostitution.
We also appreciate that the bill differentiates between those who depend on a woman's income without caring about how it's earned. That includes dependent children, hairdressers, and other service providers. These people are very different from the people who are parasitically invested in having a woman enter and stay in prostitution. Those people include pimps posing as bodyguards, pimping boyfriends, brothel-keepers, and prostitution advertisers.
We also think it's important that the bill prevents these men from using a marriage licence or a family or other intimate relationship to escape criminal responsibility for their violence and exploitation.
We call for an amendment to remove the sections that criminalize communication in public areas because it undermines the objective of equality.
We agree that it's harmful for children and adults to observe a blatant act of racist and sexist exploitation, particularly in a situation where one feels they can't effectively intervene. However, it's more harmful for children and adults to observe or know that an exploited person will be punished by the state for their own exploitation. We'd much rather that they were offered the protection of the law and the charter.
Arresting and charging male customers and pimps—and not the women—will effectively address the harms caused by communication in a public place.
I'm now turning the mike over to Alice Lee, who is another member of our group, to talk about human trafficking.
Thank you for the invitation to appear in front of you today to make this presentation.
I was selected to be part of the U.S. State Department's international visitor leadership program to exchange expertise on human trafficking and prostitution with the FBI, state officials, and NGOs.
We praise Bill because it recognizes that human trafficking and prostitution are closely linked and related. Human trafficking is intrinsic to the Asian woman's experience of prostitution, regardless of what country she comes from.
The interconnected nature of human trafficking and prostitution is logical, given that we adopted the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, as well the CEDAW convention. The bill demonstrates leadership nationally and internationally through its commitment to dignity and equality. It is clear to us that Canada rejects the dehumanizing claim that racialized women freely choose prostitution and that somehow we're not harmed by prostitution.
We welcome the political leadership that the bill offers in allowing the police to effectively act on evidence of organized crime in human trafficking and human trafficking into prostitution.
We're especially aware that, currently, the human trafficking law we have only applies to the traffickers, but does not apply to the buyers. The bill makes it illegal for a man to knowingly buy a trafficked woman. The bill also helps prevent the transformation of organized crime into regular members of a legitimate business community.
Those who exploit Asian women for prostitution use various methods to control them. We know pimps will confiscate immigration documents or passports. They are known to encourage and force women to overstay visas, leaving women with illegal immigrant status. They are also known to threaten women who are not regularized with deportation or arrest.
By potentially removing the automatic criminalization of prostituted women, Bill offers some improvement in response to women in situations of exploitation. However, current immigration contradicts the spirit of the bill to defend women from exploitation. The bill does not change the balance of power created by our current immigration laws. We need this to change in order to enable women to successfully exit prostitution who might not have permanent status, citizenship, or a non-punitive means to be regularized.
The recent cases of abuse and exploitation of employers in Canada under the temporary foreign workers program demonstrates the vulnerability caused by poverty and a lack of secure immigration status. This is also an example of a gross imbalance of power in favour of the employer.
We recommend granting women in exploitative situations landed status upon arrival in Canada regardless of how each woman arrived. This will reduce women's vulnerability to being recruited or trapped in prostitution and will also contribute to her chances of successfully exiting the sex trade.
In conclusion, Bill establishes a progressive new legal paradigm. However, a made-in-Canada approach to prostitution must be much more robust if we want to create conditions that will allow us to abolish prostitution. Criminal law is limited in that it can only address violence and exploitation after it happens.
The Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution calls on our federal government to provide comprehensive social supports. These measures will both serve women who are exiting prostitution, as well as prevent women from being pushed into prostitution in the first place. These are the viable alternatives that we need so that we can counter the systemic inequalities that are in prostitution and be able to access our charter rights.
Hi. I'll start, and then I'll be followed by my co-worker Hilla.
Good morning. My name is Keira Smith-Tague, and I'm a front-line anti-violence worker at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. Vancouver Rape Relief is Canada's oldest rape crisis centre. Since opening in 1973, our centre has responded to over 40,000 women calling our 24-hour crisis line and seeking our support to escape all forms of male violence against women, including prostitution. Our transition house provides safe shelter to over 120 women and their children escaping violent men each year.
Rape Relief is a collective of women of varying age and class, many of them women of colour and aboriginal women. Our collective, both historically and currently, includes women who have exited the sex industry. Our authority and knowledge on prostitution as violence against women is grounded in and advanced by our front-line work with women currently or formerly prostituted. We view prostitution as a form of male violence against women within a spectrum of men's violence, alongside rape, incest, wife assault, and sexual harassment. As such, we are deeply invested in amendments to the federal government's Bill .
We know from members of our group and from women who access our services that the sex industry is both an expression and reinforcement of women's inequality in society. As such, many of the stated purposes of Bill in the preamble are consistent with our analyses. We are encouraged by and in support of this intent. We are in agreement with the acknowledgement of the disproportionate impact on women and children of prostitution, as it is consistent with our front-line knowledge of the sexist and gendered nature of this industry. It has already been said a few times, but I do want to repeat it. Almost all of the buyers in prostitution are men, and almost all of those sold are women and children. This fact alone shows the stark power imbalance between men and women in this industry.
The argument that's been made throughout these hearings, that normalizing this practice by fully decriminalizing or legalizing it will enhance women's inequality, is absurd. Women are already born into a world with a disadvantage to men. We live in a society where men have more power than women socially, economically, and politically. Overwhelmingly, men use that power against us, often along with their physical force or threat of it. We see this perfectly reflected in their entitlement to buy us.
Before I even talk about the violence and exploitation that is an alarming reality in prostitution, I wanted to make clear the very foundation of this industry as a sexist and misogynist one, and on that basis alone should not be condoned or legalized. In both the Bedford case and this process, men's demands to sex are being argued as their rights, and are being promoted and advocated for over the rights of women to equality in Canada. It's women's lives that are at stake, not johns' and pimps', and we expect responsibility from all political parties to ensure that you're invested in promoting women's equality first and foremost.
I want to talk a bit more about consent, as it has come up over the past few days. The notion that the relationship between prostituted women and the men who buy them is a transaction between two willing, consenting adults cannot be applied to prostitution. In the Criminal Code of Canada, it explicitly states that consent cannot be obtained if there are “threats or fear of the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant” or “the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority”.
Consent cannot be bought. The very act of exchanging money or materials in return for sexual services reflects the coercion necessary by men in order to buy women.
We know from women who call our lines and live in our house that the source of the harm in prostitution is from the men who buy them and sell them, so of course we're completely in favour of those men being held accountable and criminalized for their behaviour. We are encouraged that the government has acknowledged the profit and power of advertisers of the sex industry, and are in support of the inclusion of them under those to be criminalized for their exploitative behaviour as well.
We know that the growth of trafficking is fuelled by the local demand by men, which increases the trafficking of women and girls both domestically and internationally. Therefore, we agree that it is necessary to denounce and prohibit the purchase of sexual services because it creates a demand for prostitution. Direct criminalization of purchasing sexual services in any location is positive, sends a clear message to men that buying women is not acceptable in Canada, and is consistent with the government's intent to reduce the demand. We find it appropriate to situate the new law under crimes against the person in the Criminal Code alongside other forms of violence and trafficking.
We commend the federal government's intent to encourage those who engage in prostitution to report incidents of violence and to leave prostitution. As we know, issues such as poverty, racism, childhood sexual abuse, and addiction overwhelmingly affect women in prostitution, both before entering and continuing afterwards. We also know that most women who enter prostitution enter as children and teenagers.
There are provisions in this bill that we find extremely concerning and think are inconsistent with what the government's stated intent was to achieve in the preamble. The provision that would criminalize women communicating in public places for the purposes of prostitution where persons under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present is inconsistent with the understanding that prostitution is a practice that overwhelmingly targets, exploits, and coerces vulnerable women, and therefore their continued criminalization is in contradiction to the objective to protect them.
We are disappointed that this particular provision will target and punish the most marginalized, those women forced to prostitute in public space who are overwhelmingly aboriginal women and largely impoverished, and we believe it is a dangerous step back in protecting them from men's violence. If the intent of the law is to protect exploited persons, then the location in which they are exploited should not determine whether they face criminal sanctions.
Rape Relief has argued that government funding be provided to alleviate women's impoverishment and help support women to leave prostitution. So we are encouraged that some federal money is included as an initiative alongside Bill . However, we do not think $20 million is significant enough in reality to provide women with alternatives to prostitution. In order for women to have economic options other than prostitution, there must be funding and attention to the current conditions of women's lives in Canada. Women don't have enough money to live on in B.C. and across the country. We see this first-hand with our residents and their children and the numerous women calling us for shelter each day and night.
Women need a guaranteed livable income, adequate and affordable safe housing options, affordable child care, and more women-only detox beds in treatment centres, to be established in addition to the funding already allocated to exiting services. On top of these changes, we recommend that funding be allocated to existing women's groups already providing front-line services and should not be diverted to policing.
If passed, Bill has the potential to set a precedent in Canada that the buying and selling of women and girls by men will not be tolerated and for this we are hopeful the government will listen and follow the lead of women's groups and survivors. Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter stands firm in calling for legislation to criminalize pimps, johns, and profiteers for their violence against women, but we absolutely cannot endorse any criminalization of women in this bill, and for this we call on the justice committee to remove this provision. As long as men view women as commodities that can be bought or sold and women face being penalized for their own exploitation, women will not have full access to participate as equal members of society.
Through the hearings and beyond we heard a few opinions that criminalizing the men—the buyers and the johns—will put women in more danger, and Françoise, based on your Twitter last night, I am worried that you accept these opinions. Those who made this claim called for a harm reduction approach via complete decriminalization or legalization of prostitution, and I'm using quotation marks when I'm saying “harm reduction”, because these methods will not reduce the harm, on the contrary.
We heard that women will be safe if they can work indoors and my allies in the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution made a clear argument about men attacking women in private behind closed doors. Men control women privately behind closed doors, and promoting indoor prostitution as a safety method is false. It will protect the pimps and the johns, not the women. We heard that if we criminalize the johns, “the screening”—again, in quotation marks—will be rushed. Women will not be able to use their intuition to decide whether or not the john is dangerous.
We reject the idea of privatization of women's safety and security, and we don't believe it will work in reality. We know from our front-line work that it's impossible to know who is a dangerous man. You cannot tell a rapist, a pedophile, or a wife beater by his look or by his manners in public.
A “sex workers” advocate—again, l'm using quotation marks—told us yesterday, as a way to assure us, that we need not to fear from the johns since they are ordinary men who come from all walks of life. This is not reassuring at all. Rapists and wife beaters, the father who rapes his daughter, and the boss who harasses his female worker, are all ordinary men from all walks of life, often professional and educated, as someone used those phrases yesterday. I repeat my ally's statement that the cause of the harm in prostitution is the men. Therefore, it's illogical that, in an attempt to reduce the harm, we encourage these very same men to have a paid access and control over women's bodies.
In prostitution, as in rape, wife battering, sexual harassment, and incest, we need laws that will deter and will hold men accountable for their sexist attacks on women. As in other forms of male violence against women, we expect the state—we demand that the Canadian state—will protect women from men's violence.
Good morning. Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto would like to thank the members of the committee for inviting us to make submissions regarding this bill.
ALST, the acronym we use, is a multi-service legal agency serving Toronto's aboriginal community. Our only clients are aboriginal clients, or families who have aboriginal interests. Our guiding principles include that aboriginal individuals require equitable treatment in the Canadian justice system, access to legal and related resources within the justice system, as well as understanding of the system and their options within those systems. Aboriginal Legal Services' Anishinaabemowin name is Gaa kina gwii waabamaa debwewin, which translates into “All those who seek the truth".
The Supreme Court of Canada has granted us intervener status in 15 cases in which systemic issues affecting aboriginal peoples were addressed. As it relates to this bill, Aboriginal Legal Services' most noteworthy intervention was in R. v. Bedford. I was the counsel for Aboriginal Legal.
Aboriginal Legal Services objects to the passing of this bill because of the acute aboriginal overrepresentation in the criminal justice and penal systems, and the overall impact this bill will have on a number of aboriginal sex workers, their families, and communities.
We agree with a number of positions taken by POWER and Pivot in their written submissions, and the Lowman submission, “Tripping Point”. Because we do agree on some of those points and because I have limited time, I will only focus on two areas of concern today. We do not believe that Bill is consistent with the Gladue principles, nor is it charter compliant and consistent with precedent.
There seems to be a suggestion that two completely different and incompatible views have been presented to this committee: one from current or former sex workers, saying that the work is fine, empowering, and a completely autonomous choice; and the second view saying that sex workers are vulnerable, poor, addicted, and just surviving. From our perspective as front-line workers, not only in the Canadian justice system but in providing services—aboriginal community, justice-driven services—we say that these can both be true.
They can both be true because different people have different experiences. As my colleague and co-counsel on the Bedford intervention, Ms. Emily Hill, has pointed out to me, this committee should mostly be worried about the impact of the law on the second group, which everyone seems to agree includes an overrepresentation or disproportionate number of aboriginal people.
Another important point that Aboriginal Legal would like to make is that the government can do everything it's planning to do to support exiting for those who choose to, without also criminalizing sex workers. Neither of these groups of sex workers should be criminalized or put in harm's way because the law fails to account for their lives, liberty, or security of the person.
Our main concern that we believe the passing of the bill will raise can be talked about in two parts. The first part focuses on overrepresentation and Gladue principles, and the second part focuses on sex workers' rights to ensure safety.
Before we begin our discussions on these two points, we submit that laws and policy are not benign. We've heard in the media and through some of the witnesses here that it's not the law that rapes or hurts individuals. But we have to recognize that law and policy are not benign. Historically, laws in Canada have been used as tools of oppression that have attempted to assimilate aboriginal people. The state's legal and policy attempts at eliminating aboriginal people are significant. The treatment of aboriginal people in law and policy has arguably led to poor social determinants of health and hosts of issues that aboriginal people experience.
This was cited in “Forsaken”, the report by the Oppal commission:
The long-term impact of these colonialist policies continues to be keenly seen and felt by the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in nearly every measured indicator of social and physical suffering in Canada.
Law is not benign; law is purposeful, and law impacts us both beneficially and negatively.
Looking at the first part, when I was talking about aboriginal overrepresentation, this bill as it currently exists will criminalize sex workers through the communication provision. There is an overrepresentation of aboriginal sex workers—which all the witnesses seem to agree on—engaged in street-level and survival sex work. The acute overrepresentation of aboriginal women in the penal system, and the harm that incarceration or institutionalization causes aboriginal women, also applies to their families and communities. What we know of specific statistics is that three out of five federally sentenced women are aboriginal women.
What we also know is that a lot of those aboriginal women start off with minor records and administrative breaches that accumulate over time and see them coming back into the system, so that when they are charged with something they get longer sentences. This is known. It's well-documented. It's in a number of reports on aboriginal men and women.
One thing that we're excluding here, because the preamble and a lot of the submissions are focusing only on women, is that we also know there's a disproportionate number of aboriginal men and transgendered individuals as sex workers. It's important to understand that aboriginal men and women are affected when they're over-incarcerated. They serve longer custodial sentences, usually to warrant expiry; that means to the end of their sentences. They experience higher levels of discrimination while they're in custody and they're more likely to receive high-security assessment by virtue of being aboriginal.
These same factors are the factors that see enforcement and police over-policing certain parts of town that have aboriginal people. These are the same factors that relate to the discrimination that we saw in the Oppal report and in other reports such as the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba.
The Correctional Service of Canada is not meeting legislative goals. The disproportionate numbers of street-based sex workers, including those engaging in survival sex, are aboriginal and will be affected if criminal charges occur. The survival sex workers are the most vulnerable and the most marginalized of all prostitutes, and aboriginal survival sex workers experience higher levels of violence both in terms of incidence and severity.
In the past, we've presented submissions before the Senate on various bills that have recently come in. The omnibus bill, , and more recently, Bill . Essentially, our largest concern is that passing this act will result in the retreat, or undermining, of the principles as set out in section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, which the Gladue principles derive from. One of the biggest things that we're concerned about is the increased reliance on minimum sentences. This means there's less opportunity for appropriate and fit sentences, and this prevents judges from considering them as sentencing options.
For those who are incarcerated in the penitentiary system, which is three out of five aboriginal women who are federally sentenced.... Let me restate that. Three out of five federally sentenced women are aboriginal. For those who are incarcerated in the penitentiary system, realistically, they come out worse than they went in. We know this. They come out maybe no better, but often worse, with gang affiliations and substance issues and abuses they didn't have, and then they're released into the community without proper programming. The Supreme Court of Canada, in Gladue, stated that:
It is clear that sentencing innovation by itself cannot remove the causes of aboriginal offending and the greater problem of aboriginal alienation from the criminal justice system.
On Monday, responded to one of the member's questions in that regard. He said that the law was consistent with Gladue, or that all laws have to be consistent. We respectfully disagree. The law, or the bill, hasn't taken into account the acute impact it will have on overrepresentation of aboriginal people if the communication clause that will criminalize sex workers is left in.
Based on what we know, incarceration in incremental amounts does not deter aboriginal offenders. That includes people who sell sex. The law, as it exists, and the law, as it exists pre-Bedford, doesn't deter the actual sale of sex. Arguably, what will happen is that criminalizing one element of it will do what happened in Vancouver, or the Downtown Eastside, where we saw aboriginal women largely, but a lot of sex workers, pushed into the darkened corner. These are the types of submissions that POWER and Pivot made in their written submissions, which we agree with.
In Bedford, our intervention focused on the constitutionality of section 213 of the Criminal Code. It was our position that the communicating provision violated both section 2 and section 7 of the charter and that such violations were not saved by section 1 of the charter. We also had the position that the state had a much larger role in depriving street-level sex workers' rights to life, liberty, and security of the person and that the limited choices available to survival sex workers were constrained as a result of government action, the law, and the law not being benign.
One thing that we learned in Bedford, and we've heard talked about, is gross disproportionality and it's the only thing I'm going to focus on due to my limited time. Bedford spoke to the gross disproportionality between the infringement of the law and the objects of the legislation.
The object has been recognized to protect the neighbourhoods that experience harms associated with street-based sex work. That's what was determined in Bedford. The court said that the court must balance the harms that those neighbourhoods face with harms that street-level sex workers face.
We, at the time, submitted that the inconvenience and discomfort do not reach the same harm level as that experienced by sex workers who experience violence, sexual violence, and death. Quite frankly, we don't see a difference between what the bill is proposing and the law that was struck down as being grossly disproportionate.
Simple wordmilling by saying that it's about safety and not about nuisance is not enough. It's not the true measure a court will have to balance in determining constitutionality of charter rights, and it will always have to balance the safety of the person at risk.
I'll close with what Chief Justice McLachlin said at paragraph 121 of Bedford, which is:
Gross disproportionality under s. 7 of the Charter does not consider the beneficial effects of the law for society. It balances the negative effect on the individual against the purpose of the law, not against societal benefit that might flow from the law.
It is our opinion that the scope has not narrowed so much. This committee should ask themselves whether the legislative object has really substantially changed, or has there been some wordmilling.
Good morning. I would like to thank the standing committee members for this opportunity to speak about the tabled legislation, Bill . This bill will impact the lives of prostituted individuals, their children, and generations to come.
I'm speaking today on behalf of the board of directors of u-r home, and as a retired police officer with the RCMP. u-r home is a faith-based, grassroots organization registered in Ontario as a not-for-profit.
u-r home was established in response to a community need for safe and secure housing for individuals choosing to exit their exploited situation. This need was identified by police officers, community agencies, front-line case workers, survivors of sexual exploitation, and prostituted individuals as a critical component in supporting their desire to exit their exploited situation.
u-r home's objective is to establish safe and secure housing and support services for victims of human trafficking, including forced sexual exploitation, forced labour, and forced marriage. We will build mentoring and supportive relationships with trafficked and prostituted women in their restorative journey as they seek to understand their inherent worth and dignity as valued persons in our society. We believe in the inherent right of every person in Canada to live with dignity, equality, respect, and freedom from oppression. We do not subscribe to the belief that prostitution is an acceptable solution for the women, children, and men who are forced into prostitution due to racism, poverty, lack of opportunities, child abuse, or inequality.
We view prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation and work towards its abolishment. In a majority of occurrences, prostitution and human trafficking intersect, resulting in forced sexual exploitation. Project Safekeeping, an RCMP report, states the majority of pimps employ control tactics that would categorize them as human traffickers according to the Criminal Code.
Prostitution is not a victimless crime. It consumes the most vulnerable and marginalized persons in our society. We recognize that women, especially first nations women and youth, are overrepresented in prostitution. We believe that those who are prostituted are treated by the buyers and pimps as commodities with little value, and that the cycle of violence is inherent in prostitution.
u-r home applauds the government for its thoughtful work in the development of Bill in support of prostituted individuals. The government is taking a proactive approach in not criminalizing the prostituted, who are victims of violence at the hands of the buyers and pimps. Yet it stops short of total decriminalization of prostituted individuals. I know of no other offence in our Criminal Code that criminalizes the victim. I would encourage each of you as committee members, as you study Bill , to amend and remove the provision that criminalizes those prostituted victims.
Regarding the purchasing of sexual services, this new offence would prohibit the purchase or attempted purchase of sexual services. In an article by UN Women on ending violence against women and girls, it encouraged drafters of sex trafficking laws to include criminal penalties for buyers to address the demand for the sale of women and girls for sex, and that penalties should be sufficiently severe to deter repeat offences. We believe that the same can be said in the drafting of our new prostitution laws.
Prostitution is built on the economic laws of supply and demand. If there is no demand from men for sexual services, prostitution would not flourish. In the study of Canadian adult sex buyers, it describes that buyers actively attempt to hide their sex buying from others, and experience some degree of anxiety or worry at the thought of being outed as sex buyers. The report further indicated that the buyers of sex had worried about being arrested for communicating in a public place for the purchase of sex.
Police and front-line agencies are seeing a trend of younger girls being forced into prostitution. Why? The buyers are demanding young girls. They want sex with a young virgin, so the pimps are supplying the demand by recruiting vulnerable young girls, often from group homes. We support the strong message that in Canada it will not be acceptable to purchase the body of another human being for one's own personal sexual gratification. If this legislation is passed, the buyers' conduct and the purchasing of sexual services would be illegal for the first time in Canada.
Profit, greed, and power are the driving forces for pimps, traffickers, organized crime groups, gangs, and businesses engaged in such criminal activities as forcing women, youth, and men into prostitution. Research shows that daily profits from one prostituted woman can be over $1,000 a day, earning as much as $280,000 a year, tax-free. A drug trafficker sells one kilogram of cocaine once, but a pimp sells a prostituted woman for an average of seven years, earning potentially millions of dollars in profit.
Addressing the purchase of sexual services is only one avenue to deter the exploitation of individuals. Seizing, restraining, and forfeiting the proceeds of crime—of everyone benefiting—is another effective tool that police officers can apply that will reduce sexual exploitation of vulnerable individuals. Forfeiting the assets and illicit wealth will take the profit from those who benefit.
We believe the advertising of sexual services both online and in print media that depicts women in sexual and degrading poses reinforces the sexual objectification of women. It has been said that women who grow up in a culture with widespread sexual objectification tend to view themselves as objects of desire for others. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health, clinical depression, habitual body monitoring, eating disorders, body shame, self worth, life satisfaction, cognitive and motor functioning, and sexual dysfunction. Hatton, in a 2011 study, found that “Sexualized portrayals of women have been found to legitimize or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys”.
With regard to offences in relation to offering, providing, or obtaining sexual services for consideration, the government has outlined a legal framework in this legislation that encompasses its view of those who are prostituted as victims, vulnerable, and in need of support and care. We believe it is inconsistent of the government to establish new legislation whereby prostituted individuals are regarded as victims in certain situations but not in other instances.
We do not support the offences as described in the proposed changes to section 213. These offences will criminalize the most vulnerable marginalized individuals in our society—those who engage in street prostitution, the majority of whom are women. These women, who are poor, often homeless, addicted, and suffer from serious health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder, need care and support, not revictimization. We do not believe the risk of violence that is inherent in prostitution would be diminished, but this offence would force those involved in street prostitution to make choices that could risk their personal safety.
Research and disclosure by prostituted women support the findings that they experience violence in many forms from both buyers of sexual services and individuals who exploit them for profit, and not from the law. Police in Christchurch, New Zealand, have stated, “At least monthly we are dealing with a working girl being victimised in some way, if not more.” The law needs to focus the responsibility of the inherent violence in prostitution and victimization of vulnerable individuals where it belongs, the buyers of sexual services and pimps.
The continuation of the criminalization of vulnerable individuals will only create additional barriers to exiting prostitution—namely, criminal convictions. This type of barrier has already created loss of opportunities for jobs and completion of college programs where, for many young women, the co-op programs require a clear vulnerable screening check by police. We believe those who are prostituted are not choosing prostitution. There is no criminal intent.
I understand that the $20 million is not part of Bill , but I would like to address some comments in relation to this proposed funding.
We recognize the importance of a public awareness campaign and training for police on the application of the new laws, but these initiatives should receive separate funding. The training for police is critical to ensure the consistent application of the new laws across the country, unlike the current situation. Currently, some police services view prostituted individuals as victims and in need of rescuing from their pimps and buyers, and work in this manner. Other police services criminalize those who are prostituted, thus creating inequality in the application of the law.
We support the $20 million in new funding. As many others have suggested, however, we strongly urge the government to dedicate sustainable long-term funding to the development of robust exit strategies and programs.
Survivors of prostitution have stated and shown that it is a difficult process for individuals to leave prostitution. Many of the social barriers that have been factors for entering prostitution such as poverty, housing, health, lack of opportunities, abuse, addictions, and survival can also be barriers for exiting. We know that legal prostitution for many is not a one-time event but individuals may exit and re-enter a number of times before they are successful in overcoming the barriers that keep them entrenched in prostitution.
It is essential that survivors of prostitution and prostituted individuals be included in the development of these exit strategies and programs. Many survivors have commented on the importance of developing relationships with a few trusted workers. Therefore, it is imperative that there is a continuity of resourcing and funding for staff retention in organizations that provide support and services to sexually exploited individuals.
Whether or not you amend Bill as suggested, as an organization we would support the bill as tabled. We would continue to advocate for the total decriminalization of all prostituted persons.
I would like to conclude with the words of my friend Beatrice Wallace Littlechief, who speaks of being prostituted as a child and exiting prostitution many years later as a forever changed woman:
At 14 years old, I was forced to sell my body to a middle aged white man who said as I wept, that he would take it easy and then proceeded to have sex with me. I was also in fear of my life if I didn't follow through. I was alone and scared and only wished that there was someone there to help me. He thought this was ok to do this to me, but somehow mainstream society thought I was the one in the wrong.
As the streets hardened me and death evaded me, I think back to those early days and compare them to today with Bill C-36 coming to reality, and I am filled with joy and hope that this is going to save so many girls, especially First Nation girls like myself, from ever having to experience sexual slavery. We are vulnerable and left to fend for ourselves with pimps and evil just lurking and ready to grab us and eat us alive. There will be protection and exit strategies in place to help save these girls and woman who are trapped.
For those that think prostitution is a chosen profession you are only fooling yourself, because what if your 14 year old came to you and said, I got a job as a prostitute, you would definitely not be jumping up for joy.
I personally want to thank the government for finally stepping up and seeing myself and others in this plight as humans, as equals that deserve protection. I have been out for a long time but the scars are still there and always will be, but now there is finally hope.
That's consistent. I simply wanted to make sure that the logic applies across the board.
Ms. Pond, I appreciated your mentioning the fact that there will be a big need for police training. Because we heard a lot of stories, and heartbreaking stories at committee of situations where people, young people, were taken by gang-related organizations, criminal organizations, and brought into prostitution, which resembles human trafficking a lot, which is already in the Criminal Code.
What really came to my mind was the fact that they felt pretty much hopeless. Even the police felt almost hopeless on that aspect.
A lot of witnesses made a correlation with domestic violence, and when you talked about training it reminded me of how, at the time, domestic violence was happening, and so on and so forth, and nothing was happening criminally. Now we see more and we address that issue. But we address the issue not by creating a new infraction, because the infraction was already there. It was just to give the tools and also the training, the education, to say that domestic violence was not okay.
When police went to the door and said, “Oh, it's domestic. It's between the spouses,” and then turned around...we stopped that behaviour. Courts changed their behaviour, the way they addressed the witnesses in those cases. There was a section in the Criminal Code that was added, but more to the aggravating factor. If the infraction of aggression, of hitting somebody, was done against a spouse, it became an aggravating aspect.
So I'm very happy you talked about the importance of training and also giving them the tools to go after the root of what I'm hearing a lot here, which is human trafficking and exploitation.
It brings me to my question on the Bedford decision, because at the same time, Justice McLachlin said that it is a very dangerous business, and I'd be very surprised if anyone would argue it is not. It is a very dangerous business. Even if there is some type of consent from the person, it is a dangerous business. That's the issue the court was addressing foremost.
Ms. Big Canoe, you were really talking about the importance of having legislation that would still answer the court in Bedford.
I wonder, because I'm thinking a lot about the issue, could we have maybe defined a bit more what exploitation was all about, and that would have been deemed correct in the sense of the Bedford decision, and maybe also criminalized the buying of sexual services from a trafficked person? Do you think it would have—
Mr. Chair, if I can answer the member's questions, they are very good questions. Thank you for asking them.
Yes, we do represent only aboriginal clients. Some of them are sex workers. Do we keep statistics on that? No, because we meet our clients where they are at. We allow our clients to self-identify. In order to meet clients where they're at, particularly in a solicitor-client relationship, we have to let them come as they are or define who they are.
When I use the word or language, “sex worker”, it's probably informed exactly by the type of work we do in representation. We actually do a large amount of victim representation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and have a number of victims who are still in domestic violence. From an aboriginal perspective, we still don't see the police responding to aboriginal women around domestic violence, and a lot of times things are going through a sort of victim advocacy process.
So to echo what the president of NWAC was saying, yes, we walk with our women. I'm first nations. I come from a first nation community. I work with mostly aboriginal staff, aboriginal clients, and we have an understanding. Ours are informed in different ways. As the president of the national organization, I'm sure she has the opportunity to see more parts of the country. My experience is informed by the clients I represent, who are not just in Toronto; we do inquest work throughout the province and in other parts of the country. It's informed, and the one thing that's really important is respect for that diversity or those opinions.
I, too, do not give the voice of all aboriginal people. But Aboriginal Legal Services is known to be an ally of sex workers, and we use that word—and we choose that word—because we always accept our clients as they come to us.