Over the summer, I spent a lot of time speaking with sex workers in my home province of BC. This was in anticipation of bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.
As a result, I heard many stories over the past months, and was moved by a number of them. I thank all the women and men who trusted their experiences with me. I mentioned the story of one such woman in my speech yesterday. Taryn Onody sent me a letter with her story. I encourage you to read more of it in my speech, but here is a short excerpt:
“I started in the adult industry when I was 21yrs of age. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto. I’m a practicing Catholic. My parents are upper-middle class. My siblings are tax paying, working citizens. I come from a wonderful home, wonderful people, and a great upbringing. I was an over-achieving student with accelerated grades, and hold multiple post-secondary diplomas/degrees. I am the ‘girl next door’.
I started looking into sex work when I became bored with my corporate job, which I had held for 5 years. I felt bored, trapped, and craving something more in my life’s experience.”
With this, she added:
“We are all someone’s daughter or son. We all deserve rights, freedom, and safety.”
She expressed concern for Bill C-36, which is why she wrote to me. C-36 is the government’s legislative response to the Bedford decision. Terri-Jean Bedford is a sex-worker, and she challenged the existing legislation criminalizing aspects of sex-work as unconstitutional because it violated her rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with her, and struck down the existing legislation as unconstitutional. This gave the government one year, until December 2014, to come up with new legislation before the old legislation is no longer in effect.
On Tuesday November 4th, the Senate passed Bill C-36. Throughout all the hearings in the House of Commons, Senate pre-study, and Senate Legal committee, there have been many different views on this bill. While the conversation around this bill has been very controversial, I hope we will continue to have a healthy conversation about how best we can protect all of our citizens. This is an important conversation that needs to be continued. Please send me your thoughts by tweeting @SenJaffer.
By Senator Mobina Jaffer
This article appears on Senator Jaffer’s blog and is part of a series. To read more posts like it, click here.