A high-profile former sex worker who led a successful challenge of Canada's prostitution laws was kicked out of a Senate hearing after running afoul of committee rules – and threatening to make public a list of politicians who hire prostitutes.
Terri-Jean Bedford was among those testifying Wednesday to a Senate committee considering Bill C-36, the Conservative government's prostitution bill that was tabled after Ms. Bedford's Supreme Court case led to the existing laws being struck down. The bill aims to largely eliminate the sex trade by prosecuting the buyers of sex, though some provisions could still lead to sex workers being prosecuted.
(What will be Canada's new prostitution laws? Read The Globe's easy explanation)
Ms. Bedford's testimony was occasionally combative – she urged senators to "be quiet" and to "ask me something important" while tapping a riding crop against her palm. She said many "pillars of the community – often business leaders, professionals, politicians" hire sex workers, and later threatened to reveal information implicating some of them.
"If this law passes, I'm going to make you guys forget Mike Duffy," she said, referring to the suspended senator whose expense scandal has swirled in Ottawa for the past year. "Because I have more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at. I promise."
Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, the committee chair, later warned Ms. Bedford that she was out of time. She asked for more time as she searched her documents to find the cost of her legal fight, answering a question from a Liberal senator. Mr. Runciman threatened to kick her out if she kept speaking out of turn. She pressed ahead and announced her legal fight cost $500,000. Mr. Runciman tapped his gavel on the table, adjourned the meeting and Ms. Bedford was escorted out.
Outside, she declined to elaborate on her threat to disclose clients of sex workers. "I'm just going to leave it at that for now, but if this bill passes, you're going to find out a lot more than that," she told reporters. Asked if current parliamentarians were using sex workers, she replied: "What do you think? I'm going to stop answering stupid questions."
Ms. Bedford's threat comes two months after a National Post report that Ottawa sex workers, opposed to the bill, were compiling a list of MPs who use their services. An Ottawa sex worker group called POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist) later denied that, saying releasing a list would be career suicide.
Ms. Bedford also said she has spoken with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about asking prosecutors not to enforce the law, if passed, but declined to say what Ms. Wynne pledged.
In her testimony, Ms. Bedford told senators that consenting adults should be free to exchange money for sex, and urged senators to reject the bill. She was among roughly 17 people who testified Wednesday.
The government has signalled it intends to pass C-36 by December, when the current laws will expire under last year's Supreme Court decision.