My Reflections on Bill C-36 – Part 3Published on 25 November 2014 Blog by Senator Mobina Jaffer
I decided to write a series of blog posts on Bill C-36 even though it has passed because I believe that the discourse around this piece of legislation needs to continue.
Bill C-36 brought with it a heated debate, with strong opinions and strong emotions. Instead of abruptly ending that dialogue, I want us to continue to discuss what is right for us as a nation collectively. The chapter does not close with the passing of the bill – now is where the work begins. We need to make sure the legislation works as the Minister of Justice said it would, and that it protects those members of our society that need the support.
In this post, I want to explain to you why I proposed amending bill C-36. Even though the amendment did not go through, I firmly believed that under no situation should a sex-worker be criminalized – I still believe this. By criminalizing the worker, they will be distanced from the very people that can help them if they find themselves in an abusive situation. If they fear being criminalized, they will be less likely to report violent clients to law enforcement officials, because they will fear facing a conviction of their own. By criminalizing the worker, sex work will be forced to go underground and function further away from the law.
The bill in its current form leaves room for discretion of whether or not a sex worker can be criminalized in certain situations. One example is the ban on discussing the sale of sex at or near a playground, school or daycare. We have a duty to protect our schools, but also have a duty to protect these sex-workers. There is a possibility that the interpretation of this section of the bill can be used out of reasonable limits, and this concerns me.
Ultimately, we want to see sex workers that are choosing to remain in the profession doing so safely, without having to compromise their rights protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
While the amendment did not go through, there is still hope. We need the continued support of our law enforcement officers and social workers to ensure that safety is given the utmost priority. We need to support these agents to help them do their job the best they possibly can. I will continue to listen to the concerns of citizens, whether they be sex workers, law enforcement officials, social workers, or anyone else, surrounding the effectiveness of this bill.
I want this dialogue to continue in a respectful manner, and I hope you will share your thoughts on bill C-36 with me.