The Constitutional Challenge on Canada’s Prostitution Laws & the Strength of Women


On strong women, returning to my Ground Zero and experiencing the world through my son’s eyes.

By Trisha Baptie | Twitter: @trisha_baptie

My word of the day?


I have been home from Toronto for a day now. Last Thursday I sat in the Ontario Court of Appeal to hear Prof. Janine Benedet give what can be called nothing less than a spectacular and information-rich argument to the judges, while sitting beside the heads of some of the brightest women’s equality-seeking groups in Canada.

This Charter Challenge is the result of three women who say they choose to work in the sex industry and Canada’s laws impede their ability to create “safer” working environments. They want certain laws relating to prostitution struck down.

I say it was never the laws that beat, raped and killed me and my friends; it was the men. It was never the location we were in that was unsafe; it was the man we were in that location with, that was unsafe. I do agree the laws need to change, but they need to make men more accountable for their abusive behavior.

So, last Friday I was able to ally with some personal heroes of mine: Timea Nagy, Kat MacLeod and the passionate Shae Invidiata and we held a press conference on the front steps of the courthouse and spoke our truth, as well as the truth of many women.

Here’s what some of the press reported:

Through his eyes

I brought my middle son with me on this trip. He was done high school and I wanted to be a bit of a tourist this time in the city, so needed a partner to do things with. He was amazing. I worked hard the first two days and he is so supportive in his little ways.

He joined us at the press conference and while there are a thousand stories I can tell you from that day, the one I want to share is about me looking up at my boy, my son, my young man, sitting on the bench with all the gear around him–we were filming for a documentary I am a part of–the women’s purses and just, well, stuff.

He was there fidgeting on some electronic device and I was caught off-guard seeing him chatting away to a wisp of a woman, a woman with long, thick flowing hair. I recognized her right away; my boy did not.

So I stood there and watched him chat to Valerie Scott. For those who don’t know her, she is one of the three women who launched the charter challenge.

I watched them talk, and I was reminded the day before when I chatted with Nikki Thomas the new Executive Director of Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC). (I had met her on my previous trip to Toronto when I debated her for a district-wide high school conference.) She’s got a cute li’l lisp, is smart and is clearly on the wrong side of this debate, but I realized as I hugged her goodbye out front of the courthouse and watched Valerie chat with my son, we are all women.

Strong women at that.

As I moseyed over to my son and chatted to Valerie about the pros and cons of his device, we introduced ourselves. As my son sat there still completely unaware of what was transpiring around him, his naiveté reminded me that we are not enemies. I wish no one on their “side” ill-will. In fact, I am doing what I do for them as well.

For me it was a profound moment … a moment to step back from the rhetoric and remind myself how all of us have our own stories, a story that got us to where we are and propels us forward in doing what we do.

I was also reminded though that abolition will win, because we have truth on our side … and we are right 😉

So why “shattered,” though?

-I sat in the coutroom listening to the arguments from other interveners and it was hard to sit through the lies of their arguments. I cannot quote them verbatim and I am not comfortable sharing too much, but suffice to say they were the most convoluted arguments I have ever heard.

-It was hard to go back to that place of remembering the individual acts as lawyers talk about it as though it should just be common place.

-Shattered spiritually, as Toronto was hard, but there were many blessings, like seeing Niagara Falls … what an amazing experience!

-I also went back to a place I said I would never go back to, which is Robert Pickton’s farm. My ground zero.

I went to see some dear friends with Walk4Justice off as they walk across Canada for the SECOND time to raise awareness of Canada’s epidemic of murdered and missing predominantly aboriginal women and girls.

-I am shattered by God’s bigness, by his smallness, by his perfect timing, and those moments you just have to decide to trust.

-I am shattered on every level–and I don’t mean broken and can’t fix it, like a vase–I mean shattered like Creator can put every piece back together as only he can.

-I’m exhausted. But a delicious exhausted as you can look back and see concrete results.

I’m home for a few days and then it’s off to Ottawa for the International Women’s World Conference and I am SUPER excited about that. Then it’s home for the summer and maybe we can start to walk through these two events in depth.

Update on the court case: We will get a judgment–some are predicting in October, but it’s anyone’s guess, really, and it’s almost a guarantee it will go to Supreme Court.

About Trisha
Trisha Baptie is Executive Director of Honour Consulting and founding member of EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating). In 2008 she won BC’s Courage to Come Back Award for her bravery in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, for giving the murdered women of Vancouver a voice through her trial coverage of Vancouver’s serial killer and for her ongoing activism. Follow Trisha’s tweets at @trisha_baptie or friend her on facebook. She recently founded EVE (formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating.)