Friday, June 7, 2013

Charlie Smith


Opponents of prostitution laws will rally in Vancouver

A Toronto bondage-house operator says the government has no legal right to shut down her business. PHOTO: Shutterstock
PHOTO: Shutterstock
A Toronto bondage-house operator says the government has no legal right to shut down her business.

Sex workers and their supporters will gather on the south side of the Vancouver Art Gallery at 2 p.m. on Saturday (June 8).

It's part of a national day of action in advance of a Supreme Court of Canada hearing on June 13 in a landmark case involving the legal rights of sex workers.

The attorneys general of Canada and Ontario have gone to the highest court in the land against Toronto dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford (a former resident of Vancouver), former fetish-house escort Amy Levovitch, and Sex Professionals of Canada executive director Valerie Scott.

In 2010, the trio successfully argued in Ontario Superior Court that three antiprostitution laws in the Criminal Code of Canada were unconstitutional because they interfered with sex workers' freedom of expression or their right to security of the person.

The Naked Truth, Triple-X Workers' Solidarity Association of B.C., Pivot Legal Society, FIRST: Feminists Advocating for the Decriminalization of Sex Work, B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities, Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence, and the PACE Society are all backing what's being called the Red Umbrella March.

"Prostitution laws threaten the liberty and security of almost every sex worker in all sectors of the indoor and outdoor sex industry," the Naked Truth declared in a news release.

The red umbrella is a symbol of the global sex workers' movements, and participants are being encouraged to dress as sexy as they like.

"Media camera crews are expected," Triple-X WSABC stated in a news release.

After speeches at the Vancouver Art Gallery, there will be a march to Victory Square.

At 5:30 p.m., there will be a book launch of Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada. At 7 p.m., the film Testimonial Cultures: Visibilité & Sex Work will be screened at Pivot Legal Society (121 Heatley Avenue).

In 2010, Justice Susan Himel struck down prohibitions against keeping a common bawdy house, communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution, and living off the avails of prostitution.

In 2011, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Himel's decision regarding keeping a common bawdy house and living off the avails. However, the five-member panel said a prosecution could proceed against someone living off the avails "in the circumstances of exploitation".

By a 3-2 margin, the judges overturned Himel's ruling on street prostitution.

There are numerous intervenors in the Crown's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Correspondence to the court has already come from Pivot Legal Society, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Christian Legal Fellowship, Catholic Civil Rights Leagues, REAL Women of Canada, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and us others.

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Created: June 7, 2013
Last modified: June 27, 2013
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