Last winter, history was made in Canada when, after years of lobbying, the Supreme Court struck down three major aspects of sex work laws in Canada, making them void. This was a unique occurrence, where the Supreme Court gave legislators one year to come up with new legislation. This opportunity for change meant that Canada could lead the way with sex work reform, crafting a new model that could make the lives of sex workers less marginalized and overall safer.

While some applauded the strike down, groups like STELLA based in Montreal, and Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, acted as an intervener on the case. Others like the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), took a firm stance against the ruling, stating that such a ruling failed to protect Indigenous women who are already marginalized by society.

Now, the Conservative government has tabled a bill that would target – in Minister Peter MacKay’s words – “pimps and johns” in an effort to criminalize the purchasing of sex work. However this has received criticism from groups that say this will actually make it harder for sex work to be practiced safely.

The name itself is unsavoury – “The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act”– a bill that itself seems concentrated on taking the agency away from sex workers, by deeming them “exploited persons.” Even after tabling the bill, MacKay referred to sex work as a “degrading activity,” that will “always have inherent danger.”

Under the proposed bill, the buying of sexual services, as well as the profiting from others, will be deemed illegal. Additionally, it will also be illegal for services to be advertised in areas where children could be present, something that those who oppose the bill say would force those involved with sex work into less populated and more dangerous areas.

Another part of the act makes it illegal for print or online advertising of services, something that Christine Wilson points out in a Globe and Mail editorial, makes it so sex workers cannot work from home or bawdy houses, areas that can be made secure and vetted beforehand and thus making it more unsafe for sex workers.

Across the board the feedback from the proposed bill appears to be negative. Sex workers and organizations that work to fight for their rights have come out against the bill. The consensus is the bill, while not totally criminalizing sex work, would make it hard for sex workers to work in a safe, secure environment.

By pushing Bill C-36 forward, the Conservative government is ignoring the chance to actually positively reform the laws regarding sex work in Canada, and instead pushes forward a bill that actually endangers the lives of sex workers. MacKay, and other members of the government, should actually take the advice of the workers they are supposedly seeking to protect, and formulate laws in consultation with groups like STELLA, or Maggie’s in Toronto, to form new legislation that would actually be beneficial for sex workers across Canada.


In October of last year, NDP MP Dany Morin proposed anti-bullying legislation in the House of Commons. Conservatives, including Peter MacKay, defeated it.

Over a year later, following the tragic cyber bullying death of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Harper Conservatives are ready to pass their own piece of anti-cyber bullying legislation, Bill C-13, being championed by none other than current Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Could it be that they learned their lesson and are finally doing something about a problem that needs to be dealt with?

Well, the bill does deal with cyber bullying, making it illegal to transmit images of someone without their consent for the purpose of intimidation. That’s fine by me, cyber bullying is a huge problem that we need to get rid of, along with analog or old-school bullying.

The problem is the bill also brings back some of the provisions from Bill C-30, you know, the one that then Justice Minister Vic Toews defended by saying “you’re either with us, or you’re with the child pornographers.” Canadians widely rejected that bill and the Conservatives promised us that they had scrapped it.

Turns out they didn’t scrap all or even most of it. They just re-branded it.

If you want the details on what’s in and what’s out, Micheal Geist has a thorough rundown. Long story short, law enforcement will gain a bunch of new powers that have nothing to do with online bullying.

It makes sense that the Conservatives blocked the NDP anti-bullying legislation. Why waste a perfectly good hot-button issue by dealing with it directly when you can use it to justify passing a whole bunch of unrelated laws that people already rejected when they saw through your child porn smokescreen?

It’s like telling a kid in the playground that you’ll stop some other kid from taking their lunch money but only if they agree to share their lunch with you. Sounds like bullying to me.

We need to attack bullying just as we need to attack child porn. Direct laws that deal with these issues can and should do it.

Unfortunately, Harper and his gang of bullies don’t see the intrinsic benefit in dealing with real problems. They are only tools to get what they want and in this case it’s a surveillance state.

So what can we do about it? Raise hell, yes, but unless MacKay slips up and has his own George Bush moment like Toews did, that might not be enough.

I think the best solution is for our elected officials to propose an alternative: a bill that deals with the real issues but eliminates the secret Harper agenda.

Looks like the NDP already had this idea. Despite the defeat of Morin’s bill, Robert Chisholm has proposed another private members’ bill, C-540, which tackles the issue of cyber bullying head on, without any unnecessary baggage. If the Conservatives vote against this, they are voting against parts of their own bill.

If it passes, we’ll have legislation that is needed and there will be no excuse for the stuff we don’t. If it doesn’t then at the very least, Harper will be exposed as the bully that he is.

Photo by Reuters