Opinion Column

Nordic prostitution model an exercise in futility 0

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, one of three current and former sex workers who initiated a challenge to Canada's prostitution laws, reacts at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa December 20, 2013. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down all current restrictions on prostitution on Friday, including bans on brothels and on street solicitation, declaring the laws were unconstitutional because they violated prostitutes' safety. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, one of three current and former sex workers who initiated a challenge to Canada's prostitution laws, reacts at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa December 20, 2013. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down all current restrictions on prostitution on Friday, including bans on brothels and on street solicitation, declaring the laws were unconstitutional because they violated prostitutes' safety. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Ever since the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the prostitution provisions of the Criminal Code last December, the federal government has laboured to cobble together a solution to the gigantic headache the judges gave the justice minister.

All of the noises emanating from Parliament Hill seem to indicate the government is leaning heavily towards the so-called Nordic model — favoured by Sweden, Iceland and Norway — which criminalizes the buyers of sexual services and the pimps who control those services. This is the favourite choice of Conservative MP Joy Smith, as featured in her Tipping Point report.

There is no end to the problems with this report. Not the least of which is that Smith starts with a pre-conceived notion that presumes something which is simply not true, but is rather a sop to her own sensibilities. “There are those who wish to legalize and normalize the industry, those who wish to criminalize all aspects of the industry, and finally those, like myself, who recognize prostitution as a crime that is inherently harmful to women and girls and therefore must be eliminated,” she writes in her introduction.

Eliminate prostitution? With a law? Well, good luck with that — there’s a reason it’s called the “world’s oldest profession.”

Maybe if Smith jumps up and down, holds her breath until she turns blue, and wishes really, really hard that’ll happen. But I doubt it.

It’s hard to know where to start criticizing Smith’s fatally flawed report, but consider that she quotes as an authority a United Nations report. Given that organization’s lack of credibility on pretty much everything, I’m not sure that’s a good foundation upon which to build an argument.

Celine Bisette, a sex trade worker, wrote this in Monday’s National Post: “We already have laws against rape and assault in this country. I don’t need a law against the purchase of sex to help me. What I need is to feel like the same laws that protect everyone else also protect me. If I am assaulted at work, I want to be able to go to the police and report the crime.”

And she is exactly correct. The Nordic model keeps the sex trade underground no matter the wishful thinking of Smith. There are women who willingly ply their trade, but criminalizing the buyer or the seller still keeps it underground.

As a mature country, surely we can have a serious conversation about the sex trade as it really is.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.

 

 

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