Although it meant this post was late in coming, I wanted to take the time to weigh the pros and cons of Bill C-36: Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (click here). After careful research and deliberation, I’ve come to a conclusion:
Bill C-36 is everything we have been fighting for.
For the first time in Canadian history, sex purchasers would be brought out of the shadows and held accountable for their actions. This is a huge jump forward from where our old laws were. We are finally ready to recognize that the actions of sex purchasers cause harm to others.
Additionally, children would be protected by dealing harsh punishments to exploiters and sex purchasers. No more would purchasing the sex services of a “juvenile prostitute” somehow be considered less severe than raping a child. If they’re under 18, they can’t give consent. End of discussion. Also, the modern ways that exploiters groom prostitutes would be criminalized, giving the police more tools to make arrests.
But the best part of the Bill is a $20 million commitment from the government to educate law enforcement and assist those looking to exit prostitution. Amazing! This is everything that the Nordic Model-promoting abolitionists were hoping for and I couldn’t be happier.
To demonstrate how far we have come with Bill C-36, I would like to compare both sets of laws.
The purpose of the laws were originally intended to prevent prostitution from being a public nuisance.
1) Operating a brothel was illegal (subject to fines/imprisonment)
2) Living off of the income of a prostitute was illegal (subject to fines/imprisonment)
3) Communicating for the purposes of prostitution was illegal (subject to holding for a few hours then release, if not John School).
The purpose of Bill C-36 is to protect vulnerable and exploited persons by criminalizing the exploiters and those that fuel the demand.
1) Purchasing sex is illegal (subject to fines/imprisonment)
2) Exploiting a person for prostitution is illegal (subject to fines/imprisonment)
3) Purchasing sex from or exploiting a child for prostitution is illegal (subject to minimum imprisonment requirements equating that of statutory rape)
4) Communicating for the purposes of prostitution in an area where you could expect children to be present is illegal (subject to holding for a few hours then release, if not John School).
Unfortunately, Bill C-36 has come under severe attack in the media for the communicating section (Section 213(1.1)). As you can see, it closely resembles that of the old law, but with the intent changed to protect children from being propositioned. The media has jumped on this and blown it way out of proportion by saying that this Bill criminalizes prostitutes. This is misleading and incorrect. To criminalize prostitutes, it would have to be a crime to sell sex and they would have to be charged with a fine or imprisonment. As it stands, prostitutes would likely be told to move along or be held at the station for a couple of hours. Section 213(1.1) has received so much attack in the media that it has completely overshadowed the amazing and groundbreaking strides that we have made in obtaining the Nordic Model in Canada. In an attempt to find a uniquely “Canadian model”, Parliament has essentially copied the Nordic Model and added Section 213(1.1). In Parliament, this is considered a big win. So please excuse me while I take a moment to do a little dance in celebration of this Bill passing first reading.
Some critics have claimed that the entire Bill won’t pass Supreme Court of Canada scrutiny. As the Bill has significantly increased prostitutes’ safety rights, I disagree. I will admit that Section 213(1.1) is very similar to the old law and could be struck down by the SCC on a possible challenge. However, I want to make it very clear that if this section is challenged at the SCC level and is struck down, Canada would then have 100% of the Nordic Model! This is a win-win situation for abolitionists.
To those that would condemn the entire Bill due to Section 213(1.1), I would point out that in the realm of politics, you very rarely get 100% of what you want. Abolitionists face pressure on the right from prohibitionists and on the left from legalization advocates. Bill C-36 is a gift to abolitionists, and those who condemn it for Section 213(1.1) are completely missing the big picture. The reality is that if this Bill does not pass, there is a serious chance of legalization in Canada and we will have lost the fight entirely.
It is because Bill C-36 stands up for prostituted persons that I am advocating this Bill to my MP. The $20 million would likely be spent on training law enforcement so that they understand that prostitutes are not criminals and need assistance. The preamble and the language of Bill C-36 makes this abundantly clear: we will no longer stand idly by while prostitutes suffer in silence. Thank you to all of you who helped make this happen. On Thursday, June 12, 2014, this Bill will go to second reading, so before then, please make an effort to make you opinions known to your MP. United, we can stand up for exploited persons’ rights. The rest is up to you.