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Prostitution laws up for debate

Friday February 28, 2014

The subject of prostitution is back in the limelight after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down anti-prostitution laws in a unanimous decision in December, and police services across Canada participated in a blitz called Operation Northern Spotlight in January that focused on young women who may be forced into the sex trade.

The laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating in public with clients were struck down in a 9-0 vote in December. In the Supreme Court decision, it states that the laws were “grossly disproportionate.”

Parliament has one year to create new legislation if it chooses to do so regarding prostitution laws.

SexTrade101 co-founder Bridget Perrier, a former Thunder Bay resident who was immersed in the world of prostitution at the age of 13, feels that the court ruling will make it easier for sex traffickers and pimps to profit off of women through legal brothels.

“Anybody could open a brothel, there are no screens on who gets to open one,” Perrier said.
Perrier was present for the December ruling. She said she felt it was unfortunate that the issue of missing and murdered women in Canada was a “stepping stone” for the case.

Perrier said vulnerable women in the sex trade, like the ones from the downtown East Side in Vancouver, have mental health and substance abuse issues and are not suitable for working in brothels.

“They are not fit for a brothel. When I was sitting in the Supreme Court of Canada one of the justices said the girls should be able to hire Brinks security. How can they afford to hire Brinks?” Perrier said.

Perrier feels that the new ruling allowing for brothels “would push it even further underground, because who is going to count these women?”

“A lot of the time, pimps are disguised as managers,” Perrier said.

Perrier said that legalized brothels would make it “excessively easier” to hide human trafficking involving women and children. “They’ve given those who traffic women the upper hand.”

Operation Northern Spotlight was executed by police services across Canada in order to focus on the concern over young women being forced to participate in the sex trade.

According to a press release from the Thunder Bay Police Services website, the operation involved 26 police services and was centered on hotels and motels located on major routes in over 30 cities and towns across Canada.

Over 330 women, some as young as 15, were interviewed and police found that some were being forced into prostitution.

The criminal code refers to this activity as human trafficking.

Police say although many of the women appear to be making their own decisions to participate for financial gain, investigators found several teenagers and young women were being forced to perform through threats of violence, physical intimidation, drug dependency, and other forms of coercion.

Their adult male controller or pimp, the statement read, kept part or all of the proceeds from sexual encounters.

Thunder Bay Police Services took part in Northern Spotlight on Jan. 23 and 24.

Investigators with the Thunder Bay Police Criminal Investigation Unit, Intelligence Unit, and the Community Response Team joined together to work on the operation.

A total of 20 young women, aged 22 to 48, were interviewed on the streets of Thunder Bay.
Investigators believe that three of these women were under some level of control, and were offered support services, including health care and mental/emotional supports in hopes that they can consider other options.

“It’s such a seedy underbelly business,” Perrier said. She said that prostitution is considered to be the world’s oldest profession, but it needs to be looked at as the world’s oldest oppression.

“Nowhere in the seven Grandfather teachings does it say to sell your body,” Perrier said. “We need to go back to those teachings. We need to band together as an Aboriginal community and say the Supreme Court of Canada is wrong. We need to protect our girls.”

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