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While sex workers await the result of an appeal launched by the Canadian government against the decision by the Ontario courts that the existing anti sex work legislation endangers sex workers and is a violation of human rights the anti sex work lobby have been busy. Ex sex workers have been exploited by the anti sex work lobbyists and encouraged to mount a demonstration outside the Canadian courts against the ruling. Once again anti sex work groups hope to emotionalise the debate to their advantage by providing sensationalist stories to a lazy media that prefers emotionalised propoganda to facts. Yes some people are exploited and trafficked within the sex industry but this is also the case in other industries and the overwhelming evidence suggests to a substantially greater degree. The problem is that the sexual abuse of one person is a human tragedy that can be easily exploited both by anti sex work lobbyists and the media to create a sensationalist story while the exploitation of thousands forced to pick fruit for example would hardly attract media attention. Sex after all sells. That is just the way it is sadly and the anti sex work lobbyists know this and exploit this laziness of both the media and of governments to their advantage. The result as Canada has recently experienced is the screening of biased and emotionalised documentaries/news which once again exploit the upsetting experiences of some sex workers and give credence to statistics and anti trafficking propaganda that are at best questionable if not simply salacious hype.
Andy Sorfleet has written this open letter to the CBC the station responsible explaining the anger of sex workers.
From: Andy Sorfleet
Committee to Unite Prostitutes
Regarding: “Is Canada becoming a haven for sex traffickers?” (which aired October 6, The National, 10 p.m. local time)
Dear Ms. Mesley,
I was appalled by your report on the “question,” Is Canada becoming a haven for sex traffickers? There certainly was no question in this sensational piece of propaganda, nor where there any alternative viewpoints. I have rarely seen such an unbalanced news story on the CBC so devoid of journalistic integrity.
You begin with some dark and eerie, lurid footage of sex workers in hooker boots — who you didn’t even get consent from to film and had to blot out their faces — and pans of legitimate business licences (City of Burnaby for example).
Then, you swiftly completely dismiss the viewpoints and hard work of an Ontario Superior Court judge, a constitutional challenge law team, an esteemed law professor, a sex workers rights orgnization and a person herself charged under Canada’s archaic bawdy-house laws. This is to prepare your viewers for your thesis claim that “pimping” (no definition provided) could become legal, making it more difficult for the police to “keep an eye on the pimp’s business.” This leads us to the hook of your story — the big, scary Internet and the proliferation of sex ads.
You follow by getting yourself nicely off the hook, by enabling someone else make the outrageous and unsubstantiated claims which you present as facts. Nothing convinced me — the viewer — however that Natasha Fall was anything more than a character from a bad CBC drama, played by an actor. You failed to create an atmosphere of suspended disbelief. There are some viewers, perhaps, who can easily believe that “these girls” all start working in the sex industry at the age of 14 and even younger. But the stories begin to stretch from there.
This practically anonymous young woman who works for a mysterious and unnamed support group states that all these “indepedent business women” (as you put it) who are happy about the ruling worked for the same “establishments” she did, apparently with the same escort drivers, and criminal activities etc. Then she becomes more zealous: “These are legal establishments. Children working in massage parlours…” According to your guest, the businesses are all organized crime.
Natasha Fall claims she’s met hundreds of women who are controlled by pimps. “Some are partners, but others are traffickers.” Later we learn that these traffickers are moving *Canadian* women around from massage parlour to massage parlour across the country, in order to provide a “fresh face” and make even more money.
What a way to defame the business licence inspectors and departments of many or most of the larger municipalities in Canada — without a shred of evidence!
In my 20 years as a sex worker advocate in both Toronto and Vancouver I have certainly not met hundreds of sex workers controlled by anyone but themselves.
You tell us that even in happy-hooking Amsterdam, legalization of prostitution led to an explosion of human trafficking. Your evidence: half of sentence from a former Amsterdam mayor, who simply says that “it didn’t work out.”
Your journalistic talents shone when you used clips from Canadian police TV fictional dramas (scenes of “girls” rescued from shipping containers) for entertaining filler (to help us get through you droning on with your definition of human trafficking) to take us to the meat of your story: how sex for sale has moved out off the streets and out of the strip clubs (also licensed by municipalities?) and onto the Internet.
I really don’t need to go with the play-by-play. I think you get the idea.
Your attempt to defame veteran and respected alternative news weeklies such as NOW magazine in Toronto and The Georgia Straight was charming. First you compare their businesses with ads on Craigslist. Then “Natasha” flips through a newspaper you just pulled out, and claims “I’ve met a lot of these women. I’ve witnessed — first-hand — who these women are and what their experiences are.” [Impossible.] “These women, at the end of their shift they’re going home to men who abuse them.”
You didn’t pull any punches when you interviewed Alice Klein (editor of NOW). You accuse NOW Of running ads for selling underage girls and other criminal activity. Klein didn’t see that coming. I have run ads in NOW magazine and others on your list of alternative papers. I dealt in person with my ad reps. I provided photo identification that was filed to my phone number in the ad. I payed by credit card even sometimes. You are not anonymous when you take out adult classifieds ads. Surely you know that.
Your accusations are like saying that a newspaper is responsible for classified ads for automobiles which turn out to be someone selling stolen cars. No classified advertising venue can guarantee that their all the ads published are by law-abiding citizens. It’s not the publishers’ responsibility.
Frankly, Ms Mesley I am embarrassed to think that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. National 10 o’clock news has sunk to this low level. Next time, perhaps you could do just a little bit of research to verify the claims in your show’s reports. Perhaps you could talk to sex workers who you don’t have to blot the faces out in your footage. Perhaps you could talk to people who have some credibility — if you ever expect to gain any.
During cross-examination in the Ontario case, Dr. Poulin (an expert witness for the Crown) was asked to provide a verifiable source for his claim that the average age of entry into prostitution in Canada is 14. At para 357 of of her decision, Judge Himel comments “… during cross-examination it was revealed that some of Dr. Poulin’s citations for his claim that the average of entry into prostitution is 14 years old were misleading or incorrect.” Even the Crown acknowledged that there is just one study in Canada reporting 14 as the average age of entry of the sample. The other studies report a higher average age of entry, some much higher.
Canada is blessed with a wealth of very smart, dedicated and veteran social science researchers in fields such as criminology, such as Frances Shaver, John Lowman, Celia Benoit, Gus Brannigan to name only a few. Canada also has several sex-worker advocacy groups who are long-established and well-respected, including Maggie’s in Toronto, PACE in Vancouver, Stella in Montreal to name only three.
I am certain you will have no trouble locating a wide range of opinions and facts to truly ask questions — and have a discussion that involves a variety of viewpoints — about prostitution and legalization here in Canada (and not just your own).