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Sex worker Terri-Jean Bedford answers questions following an Ontario court ruling striking down prostitution laws Sep 28, 2010. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Sex worker Terri-Jean Bedford answers questions following an Ontario court ruling striking down prostitution laws Sep 28, 2010. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Earlier discussion

Dominatrix takes questions on ruling against prostitution laws Add to ...

In a landmark decision Tuesday, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down the core of a controversial anti-prostitution law, saying it actually endangers the very women it aims to protect. The decision made waves across the country, and if upheld on appeal the ruling would topple the use of the prostitution provisions across the country.

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford has been involved in the struggle to fight the law, and we're pleased she took your questions on what the new law means for sex-trade workers.

The Globe and Mail: Hello everyone. I'm Jill Mahoney, a reporter at The Globe. I'll be hosting our discussion today with Terri-Jean Bedford. We'll be getting under way momentarily. In the meantime, please start submitting your questions.

The Globe and Mail: Terri-Jean, thanks for taking the time to join us today. Yesterday's decision was a landmark ruling, and I know you've been involved in the legal battle for quite some time. Were you surprised by the judge's decision?

Terri-Jean Bedford: No. There were 2 years of hearings with dozens of experts. The law is clearly in need of change. Nothing can be worse than what we have now - whatever your values.

Guest: I understand the desire of sex workers to be able to work in safety, and i support that, but how do we (as a society) target those who are exploiting sex workers, such as pimps. Does Terri-Jean have any suggestions?

Terri-Jean Bedford: Allowing for the term pimp, several ways. Licencing them like gun dealers, druggists, massage therapists. Also, the law as the judge saw it should allow sex workers to report abuse without fear of the police.

Frances: Hi Terri-Jean - congratulations on the win. I am concerned about the 30 days where the laws will still be in effect - is there any concern that police in Ontario will lash out while they still have a chance? What steps can sex workers take to guard against this?

The Globe and Mail: Click here to read a story on the decision by The Globe's Kirk Makin.

Terri-Jean Bedford: I think the negative publicity that would result from any last minute frenzy of enforcement would deter them.

Guest: So do you see the solution as Government regulation of the industry? Am I going to one day find escorts wrapped in plain brown wrappers, or hidden out of sight at a check out stand?

Terri-Jean Bedford: That is what you are finding now. We are in the worst case scenario. I think government should have some role, like everywhere else, but that role should just be part of the coming changes.

Edgars: OK, so now that some of the hindering laws have been dropped, what laws would you reccomend be instituted to eliminate street level solicitation and indecency acts in public spaces that are associated to the sex trade?

Terri-Jean Bedford: I think the Prime Minister should answer that and then go to Parliament. The key here is for the government to be specific about what we can and cannot do.

The Globe and Mail: Terri-Jean, why did you get involved in the struggle to fight Canada's anti-prostitution law?

Terri-Jean Bedford: In 1994 I was shut down and reduced to poverty and to this day I do not know why. On my website, madamedesade.com you can read my open letter. This is the latest in my legal battles to get the government to make clear rules.

Guest: I noted in the Globe this morning that Provincial Governments seem to have no problem taking money from problem gamblers and regulating that particular "sin" industry. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before they begin regulating the sex industry too.

Terri-Jean Bedford: I think legal behaviour for money should be taxed. When I ran my facility I paid all taxes. If the activity is underground the incentive to do this is reduced.

The Globe and Mail: To take up Guest's point, do sex-trade workers plan to lobby for a regulation regime that would include things like workers' compensation, health standards and inclusion in the income tax regime?

Terri-Jean Bedford: I cannot speak for the various groups or their representatives.

Concerned Canadian: Do you think the reaction to this will be the Conservative government playing to their base and banning prostitution outright?

Terri-Jean Bedford: I don't know. Nor do I think it is just among their base that an aversion to prostitution exists. Opinions vary across the spectrum. I think the judgement acknowledged that.

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