The Conservative government has turned aside calls from Liberals and New Democrats, as well as its own MPs, to rewrite federal criminal laws in order to shift the burden of punishment away from prostitutes and onto their customers and pimps.
The problem with shifting all of the burden away from prostitutes is that it implies they are always the innocent party. Certainly, prostitutes are significantly more likely to face exploitation than their pimps or customers. It would be a mistake however to assume that they are always being exploited.
Ontario New Democrat Irene Mathyssen also accused the government of not taking the problem of human trafficking seriously enough. In particular, she said, recently proposed legislation to limit the number of women who can come into the country to work in strip clubs was more about optics than substance, given that the practice had already all but disappeared under the former Liberal government.
All but disappeared? What statistics was she looking at? Where was she when Sgro was busted? Under a rock?
But Tory MP Joy Smith said opposition MPs should not rush to judgment. She insisted she is not giving up on getting the government to agree to target johns and pimps instead of prostitutes.
Again, not to be repetitive, but I think the words "instead of" indicate a wrong approach to the problem. Pimps and johns should receive tougher sentencing, of that there can be no doubt. But it would be a mistake to assume prostitutes are always innocent.
The committee had also wanted the criminal law amended so as to make purchasing a sexual service a criminal offence, and to repeal provisions that outlaw the act of soliciting by prostitutes and that make it illegal for them to be found in a bawdy house.
I agree with making it illegal to purchase a sexual service. That is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Repealing laws that make it illegal to solicit isn't necessarily the way to go however.
Although Nicholson did not respond directly to the call for revamped federal prostitution laws, he did defend the existing law.
"The Criminal Code of Canada provides a comprehensive set of tools to ensure that traffickers are held accountable," the government's response statement said.
Nicholson is wrong. Our current laws are totally inadequate. That is why the situation is as bad as it is.
I think we need tougher sentences for johns and pimps. Instead of lightening the sentences for prostitutes, I think we should develop a comprehensive program to help them get out of the trade. The program should include counselling, a program to help them get off any drugs if needed, a halfway house for them to live while they get cleaned up, and an employment service. The convicted prostitute should be able to avoid a sentence if she agrees to go through this program and change her life.
No mercy for the scum that exploit people though.