On Thursday, November 6, seven masked sex workers spoke at a press conference in Vancouver to give specifics on how Canada's new prostitution law will harm them. The theme was "What a Difference a Day Makes" -- because on Wednesday they were responsible working adults providing a legal service to ordinary Canadians, and on Thursday the law had transformed them into helpless victims being exploited by violent predators and perverts.
An important day just went by, marked by hundreds of events and campaigns and lots of noise around the world. Some of you may have never heard of it before, but to an abortion rights activist like me, it's practically a statutory holiday.
September 28 is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. The day originated two decades ago in Latin America and the Caribbean where women's groups have been pushing governments to decriminalize abortion and provide safe and affordable access. The date itself commemorates the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1871, and came to be adopted by Brazilian women as the day of the "free womb."
I don't speak French. I wish I could but I can't. Canada is a bilingual country and it was a mandatory course in my high school. I took two years of French in college, and once even hired a tutor for private lessons. Sure, I can still stammer out a few simple sentences in French and understand some of what I read and hear. But Vancouver is a long ways from Quebec. On the west coast, French is rarely heard and, shall we venture to say? -- unnecessary.
Related rabble.ca story:
The new prostitution bill introduced in June by Injustice Minister Peter MacKay is blatantly unconstitutional and will result in more dead women. Bill C-36 will harm sex workers in even worse ways than the previous criminal provisions that were struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in December.
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Justin Trudeau's statement that any new candidate for the Liberal Party must agree to vote pro-choice on any bills is positive and entirely appropriate. It stirred up a surprising amount of criticism and confusion in the media, however, in addition to the expected histrionics from anti-choice and religious communities.
The government of New Brunswick has embarked upon a perilous political path in recent weeks. It has decided to directly endanger the health and lives of New Brunswick women on the basis of its presumed "pro-life" religious beliefs. The main person behind this decision is, ironically, Health Minister Ted Flemming.
Much has been said and written since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three prostitution laws in December because they imposed dangerous conditions on sex workers, thereby violating their constitutional right to security of the person. Sex work is legal in Canada, but the criminal laws prohibited various activities around it, including communicating in public, operating or working in a brothel, and living off the income of a sex worker.
Imagine for a moment, if the debate over prostitution laws was aimed at other types of workers...
In a bold move aimed at protecting workers from exploitation while on the job, the government today passed a new law that criminalizes most employers and customers. The law addresses the void left by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013, when it struck down laws that it said prevented workers from taking safety measures to protect themselves from abusive customers, but which the government said were designed to prevent people from working, period.