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QueerOntario.org

August 6, 2010

Queer Ontario Urges Harper to Reverse New Regulations to Bawdyhouse Laws

TORONTO: Queer Ontario is fundamentally opposed to the regulatory changes to the bawdyhouse laws
that were secretly passed by the Conservative government on July 13, 2010, and the undemocratic pro-
cess that was used to pass them.

By designating bawdyhouses as ‘criminal organizations’ and by designating their operation as a ‘serious


offence’ under the law, the Harper government has once again demonstrated that it is incapable of passing
provisions that are publicly accountable. In advancing their tough-on-crime agenda above any nuanced
understanding of organized crime in Canada; above any consideration for the lived realities of sex profes-
sionals; and above polls demonstrating the statistical drop in crime and the low priority crime-fighting has
among Canadians, the Conservative government has made yet another unwarranted decision. Unfortu-
nately, these measures are only exacerbated by the fact that the regulation was passed behind closed
doors, without any opportunity for informed debate from either fellow MPs or the stakeholders who were
to be affected by these amendments.

Indeed, this new regulation highlights the government’s misunderstanding of the nature of sex work, which
is based largely on the Conservative Party’s staunch moralism regarding sex and sexuality. Not only does
the Conservative government fail to recognize the legitimacy of the consensual, self-determined work of
sex professionals -- not to be confused with the exploitative practices of human trafficking, a true breach of
fundamental human rights! -- It also flies in the face of growing evidence suggesting that centralized work-
places like bawdy houses are much more beneficial to sex workers than the street or private residences
most professionals are forced to seek out as a result of these puritanical laws. That is: bawdyhouses, when
properly operated, have been proven to provide sex workers with clean, safe, and accessible work environ-
ments that make sex work less dangerous for professionals and their clients.

By criminalizing bawdyhouses and the people who operate them, the government is only serving to endan-
ger the bodies and lives of our nation’s sex workers, effectively working against a protection of their rights.
Rights which should be granted and protected unconditionally, given the fact that the government has no
legitimate reason to regulate what consenting adults choose to do with their own bodies in private.

Rather than continue to marginalize sex workers in attempts to further its ideological tough-on-crime agen-
da, the Harper government should be working towards garnering a better understanding of the sex trade
with the aims of ultimately decriminalizing it, as a handful of nations have successfully done so in the past.
To this end Queer Ontario calls on the Harper government to reverse its changes and to initiate a bona fide
public consultation to make these reforms happen.

Queer Ontario is a provincially based network of individuals who are members of the gender and sexu-
ally diverse populations and their allies committed to liberationist and sex positive principles that focus on
questioning, challenging and seeking reform to social norms and laws that regulate queer people. Queer
Ontario engages in public education, political action, promoting access and diversity and coalition building.
 
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Interviews:
Nick Mulé, nickm@look.ca