Terri-Jean Bedford is a former dominatrix and advocate for sex workers.
I am the Bedford in Canada v. Bedford, the constitutional challenge striking down the prostitution laws. I was one of the three plaintiffs. I patiently and carefully watched the first four days of prostitution law hearings by a committee of Parliament last week. But prior to that, I had plenty of opportunities to learn about the issues. During the challenge I sat in on most of the sessions, private and public, trial and appeals. I was a witness and was cross-examined. I read most of the evidence as well. As a plaintiff I had the right to be present at all times and have access to all the materials.
I also learned about the issues by working in and managing almost all aspects of the sex trade over 30 years. I have fought the prostitution laws for many of these years. I have been in jail because of the laws. I have been in court as a defendant or appellant more times than I care to remember. I am Canada’s most famous dominatrix and perhaps Canada’s most famous prostitute. So maybe I know what I am talking about. Here are my some of my thoughts about those 4 days.
(What will be Canada’s new prostitution laws? Read The Globe’s easy explanation)
I asked myself, what exactly do they want to outlaw? What would be illegal between consenting adults in private for money? The response? Words to the effect that “everyone knows” or “the courts would have to decide.” If everyone knows, why not answer the question? If the courts would have to decide, why not refer the bill there immediately?
I found myself wondering why almost no one mentioned that in the past the purchase of sex was already effectively illegal. If not, where did all the so-called John Schools come from?
I was very pleased the committee was reminded that the government spent years and millions of dollars defending the old laws as constitutional. That makes those in the government responsible either stupid or liars. Three levels of court told us that. Take your pick. Are they suddenly credible now?
I was revolted by the way Peter MacKay was preaching about protecting women when he, as minister of national defence, was responsible for the armed forces and their open season on sexual harassment. If he didn’t know what was going on he is twice as guilty as if he was covering up. He has lost the moral authority to speak about protecting women.
I was glad to see clients of sex trade workers defended. I have known hundreds, many in the biblical sense and many at the end of my whip. Clients are not bad men just because they are clients. Most abusers of women are not clients.
I got the sense that some of the witnesses who spoke in support of C-36 sadly behaved as if they had been bought or were kissing up for funding, and of misfortunes being paraded gratuitously. That being said, I feel for those who have suffered. I have been there myself, in spades.
I was very, very pleased to hear that wider social and economic problems have to be addressed to help women who wish to exit the sex trade, and that the government is not proposing to do much.
Bill C-36 will fail. Changes to or removal of clauses from a fundamentally flawed bill are irrelevant. It is flawed in its intent. It will be flawed in its implementation. It is flawed as to whether it is itself legal or constitutional. It is flawed in that it will make things worse for women. Its passage will be a victory for human traffickers and organized crime.
At the same time, Stephen Harper has lost in a colossal way. This discussion will help to make people forget the positive things he achieved. This discussion will benefit his political opponents more than him. There are so many negative things being said about him, Mr. MacKay and the Conservative members of the committee, across the country. It is not possible, even to members of his base of support, to see the government’s handling of this matter as anything but dishonest, vindictive, incompetent and reckless.
It is only fitting that Mr. Harper is being punished by a dominatrix.