On June 13, Canada's highest court will hear the appeal by federal prosecutors of a lower court ruling that struck down three anti-prostitution laws for violating the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.
Now we learn that it's possible sex workers won't have as strong a voice as they need in these proceedings. Presiding Judge Richard Wagner, it turns out, has denied intervenor status to many groups with frontline experience in the issues at stake.
This is a terrible loss. Shut out were organizations like Maggie's: the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, Stella and the Feminist Coalition, representing 23 women's shelters, rape crisis centres and clinics.
At the same time, the judge has allowed participation by a range of prostitution abolitionist groups with religious affiliations, like the anti-feminist REAL Women, Christian Legal Fellowship, Catholic Civil Rights League, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and more.
There are some exceptions to the pattern. Fortunately, the sex-work-positive and internationally respected Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network was accepted, as was United Nations org UNAIDS. Both these groups have statistical information about why the criminalization of prostitution is dangerous and contravenes the Charter.
The other positive is that two sex-worker-run groups did make the grade, one being the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence. While that group's interest lies in laws about solicitation, indoor prostitutes won't get much representation.
It seems odd that religious organizations are given so wide a platform in a case like this. Many of these hold firm to the idea that a woman or man cannot freely choose this type of labour, as though choice is something inherent in all other ways of earning a living.
Then there's the fact that the Bible condones sex trafficking. No, really, it does. Check out Exodus 21:7-11.
"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment."
So it is that the same people whose sacred text advises on how to keep a sex slave will be arguing against my right to make a living here and now.
Fleur de Lit is the pseudonym of a Toronto sex worker.