Frances M. Shaver is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University; She has submitted a brief on the subject to the Commons Committee examining Bill C-36.
Bill C-36, the federal government’s response to the Supreme Court ruling striking down Canada’s prostitution laws, is the Conservatives’ third chance to respond appropriately to concerns about the safety and security of those working in the sex industry. It looks like they are going to strike out.
Their first chance was almost 30 years ago, in response to the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution.
The legislation enacted by the Conservatives failed to act on the committee’s recommendation to allow for two or three people to work together and instead simply replaced the soliciting offence with “communicating” (the section struck down in the latest Supreme Court ruling). My research indicates it also failed to introduce changes to enforcement patterns: they continued to be gender, class, and sector biased.
Their second chance was 20 years later in response to the House of Commons Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws. They missed the mark again. Their report paid too much attention to the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking and too little to the way the laws and their enforcement push sex workers into situations that put their health and safety at risk and leave them open to stigma, discrimination and violence.