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Sextrade 101 rep testifies at Bill C-36 hearing

Friday August 8, 2014

Sextrade101’s Bridget Perrier, former Thunder Bay resident, was one of around 80 witnesses who testified in the House of Commons on Bill C-36 in front of the Justice and Human Rights Committee during the week of July 7.

Bill C-36 was tabled in June by Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and would make it illegal to buy sex from sex workers or sell sex in public places where young people under the age of 18 would reasonably be present.

The bill targets johns and pimps, and those who profit from prostitution.

MacKay said that the bill recognizes that the vast majority of those who sell sexual services do not do so by choice.

“We view the vast majority of those involved in selling sexual services as victims,” MacKay said at a press conference in June.

The proposed legislation comes after the Supreme Court Ruling in December 2012 that found Canada’s prostitution legislation unconstitutional.

While the witness testimony featured speakers in favour of Bill C-36, there were also those who did not agree with the legislation and expressed it violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The witness testimony will be considered when the Justice and Human Rights Committee votes on amendments of Bill C-36.

Perrier testified as a representative from SexTrade101, which is a sex trade survivors and abolitionists organization based out of Toronto.

Perrier was born in Thunder Bay to an Ojibwe woman and was adopted by what she described as a good family who “tried to raise me in the best way possible.”

She explained that as she got older, the effects of colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and child sexual abuse made her the “perfect candidate” for prostitution. At the age of 12, she explained she was lured and debased into prostitution from a child welfare-run group home.

Perrier testified that she was “paraded like cattle” in front of men who felt privileged to steal her innocence, and that the acts she performed were “something no little girl should have to endure.”

Perrier shared her story of the horrors she endured as a prostituted teen, and also read from a letter written by her adopted-daughter Angel Wolfe.

Wolfe’s mother, Brenda Wolfe, was one of the first six victims of serial killer Robert Pickton to be identified.

Perrier’s voice, which remained steady and composed during her own personal testimony, grew shaky and her eyes filled with tears as she began to read Wolfe’s letter to the standing committee.

In the letter Wolfe stated that it was a slap in the face to the 98 orphans left behind by Pickton that their mother’s deaths would be used to legalize prostitution.

Wolfe blamed prostitution and addiction for her mother’s death in her letter.

Perrier stated that Bill C-36 would protect her daughters from predators and Johns, and explained that prostitution is a lack of a choice.

“Sextrade101 believes that prostitution is not a choice; it’s a lack of choice that keeps women enslaved. Everyone should be shown a viable way out of the sex trade and not encouraged to stay in it,” Perrier said.

Perrier stated that Aboriginal women are not to be used and sold for men’s sexual needs.

“Our women are sacred. As life givers and nurturers, we are equal,” Perrier said. Testifying after Perrier was Chris Atchison from the University of Victoria, who was there as an individual.

Atchison stated that he has been studying, and does research with, adults who partake in adult consensual services with prostitutes (which includes 3,000 people studied over 18 years).

He said that the assumption that all relationships between prostitutes and “clients” are exploitative because the power is asymmetrical is not supported, and that the clients surveyed felt that the service provider had more power, He testified that only a small percent have said they had more power in the relationship.

Atchison blamed the demand for keeping the sex trade alive.

“On the assertion that demand for prostitution needs to be curbed and attitudes and behaviours of sex buyers needs to be changed, the belief that demand is solely responsible for the existence of the sex industry ignores the fact that in many cases supply produces demand,” Atchison said.

Atchison called it hypocritical and discriminatory that in a society where sex and sexuality are used liberally to sell all sorts of goods and services to criminalize the purchase of direct contact sexual services, while at the same time sanctioning the sale of such services.

“It’s highly unlikely that such a discriminatory law will stand up to the inevitable and costly challengers under section 15.1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Atchison said.

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