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A prostitute looks for customers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Feb. 9, 2009. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
A prostitute looks for customers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Feb. 9, 2009. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Justice

Tory MP sees 'the nation as the pimp' if prostitution ruling stands Add to ...

It's caucus day on Parliament Hill and behind the closed doors of the Conservative meeting you can bet that when the Ontario court ruling decriminalizing prostitution is discussed, Joy Smith will speak up.

The Conservative MP from Winnipeg calls Tuesday's ruling by a Superior Court justice "astounding and alarming." And she wants it appealed, fearful other provinces will follow suit, leading to the federal government to become Canada's "pimp."

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"My goodness we would have the nation as the pimp and that's wrong and we can't afford that," she said in an interview Wednesday morning before going into caucus.

Ms. Smith is a bit of an expert on these issues. Just before the Senate rose for the summer, it passed her private member's bill calling for a five-year minimum sentence for traffickers of minors.

Sex trafficking and prostitution are linked, she argues, noting studies she says show that where prostitution is legalized there is a significant increase in the expansion of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. For example in Amsterdam, Ms. Smith says there is an influx of human trafficking victims and some brothels have had to be closed down as a result.

Other countries where prostitution is legal have also experienced human trafficking problems.

"So why in the world would Ontario - I am speaking not for my government but for myself based on what I have done over the years - why in the world would this be happening? It's astounding is what it is."

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said that the government is "very concerned" about the ruling. He is seriously considering an appeal.

"I am not the Justice Minister," Ms. Smith said. "But I would strongly support that. There are so many women and children at risk. And I am astounded at this kind of thing would come forward in Ontario.

"We have to protect our women and children. We can't afford [to decriminalize prostitution]"

Indeed, Natasha Falle, the head of Sex Trade 101, an organization based in Toronto that represents victims and survivors of the sex trade, refers to Ms. Smith as an "angel." Ms. Falle knows of what she speaks, having worked as a prostitute for 12 years, beginning at age 14 and then being "trafficked across the country" by her pimp, who she married at 17.

"We are so happy to have her voice," Ms. Falle told CTV of the Conservative MP. "It's only been in the last few years since all those missing and murdered aboriginal women turned up dead did anybody care about us. So to have her speak out the way she is against this - what this means is so empowering."

Ms. Falle wants the ruling appealed, too. She says it does nothing to protect sex trade workers. Calling the ruling "misguided," she said, for example, the issue of where a sex-trade worker conducts her business - behind closed doors or in "outdoor locations" - makes no real difference.

"I've worked at both indoor and outdoor locations and they are equally dangerous," she said. "In fact, working behind closed doors put me at a greater risk than working on a street corner because at least on a street corner I was visible to the public."

Ms. Smith, meanwhile, is continuing to support the victims of human and sex trafficking. Recently, she put together a national strategy that she has given to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other cabinet ministers. It calls for counseling for victimized women, educational opportunities and support for them after they are rescued from trafficking rings.

 

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