Friday, January 10, 2014

Canadian bishops will continue to oppose prostitution despite ruling

CCCB president Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher Canada’s Catholic bishops will maintain their opposition to prostitution despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s Dec. 20 ruling striking down Canada’s prostitution laws.
 
“The bishops of Canada and the CCCB will continue to teach Catholic values on the sacred role of sexuality in building a committed, loving relationship between husband and wife,” said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops media relations director Rene Laprise in an e-mail. 

“As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains (no. 2355), prostitution injures the human dignity of all those engaged in it. Furthermore, it reduces human persons to instruments of profit and sexual pleasure.

“While recognizing that destitution, coercion and violence are concerns that society needs to take into careful consideration, the Church across Canada will continue working with other religious and social organizations to limit all forms of human trafficking, including prostitution,” he said.

In a message responding to Pope Francis’ New Year’s message for World Peace Day, CCCB president Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher also touched on prostitution.

“Our Pope deplores the presence of criminal organizations that profit from the sale of drugs, corruption, human trafficking and prostitution,” Durocher said. 

“Persons involved in such organizations or doing business with them should seriously listen to the call of Pope Francis: 'In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.'

“How shall we help our brothers and sisters free themselves from the scourge of organized crime?” he asked.

The Supreme Court suspended its judgment for a year to give Parliament a chance to respond. The Catholic Civil Rights League has urged its followers to write Justice Minister Peter MacKay and their own Members of Parliament to introduce “a new law that will combat prostitution in a charter-compliant way.”

The league intervened at all court levels in the case “to give voice to the moral values shared by the majority of Canadians.”

“Despite the excessive attention given by the media to the shouts of joy from the plaintiffs in the case, these changes aren’t really about making it easier to work as a prostitute; rather, they are about pimping, living off the avails and public solicitation,” the league said. “In other words, activities that involve either exploitation of a vulnerable population or the forced exposure to the trade of neighbours and bystanders.”

The unanimous Court decision, written by Chief Justice Beverley MacLachlin, noted that prostitution itself is legal in Canada and that this decision concerning the laws around it were not determining whether prostitution should be legal or not. 

The laws against communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living on the avails and keeping a brothel were struck down for violating the Charter’s Section 7 right to security of the person. 

They prevented prostitutes from working in safer environments indoors, properly screening their clients and from hiring bodyguards or security staff, the decision said.

Conservative MP Joy Smith, one of Canada’s foremost experts on human trafficking, said the ruling deprives police of “important legal tools to tackle sex trafficking and organized crime.”

“Despite this ruling, the debate around prostitution is hardly settled,” she said in a statement. “There are those who wish to legalize and normalize the industry, those who wish to criminalize all aspects of the industry, and finally those, like myself, who recognize prostitution as an industry that is inherently harmful to women and girls and therefore must be eliminated.”

Smith has been advocating laws based on the so-called Nordic model, reflecting laws in Sweden and Norway that target the buyers of sex.

“Countries that have legalized and regulated prostitution have seen sexual exploitation, human trafficking and violence towards women and girls increase drastically,” she said, noting a 2012 study of 150 countries showed this increase, while those adopting the Nordic model “have seen a significant decrease in prostitution and sex trafficking.”

“The Nordic model of prostitution is effective due to its three approaches: explicitly criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, a national awareness campaign to educate the public that the purchase of sexual services is harmful to women, and finally strong support programs for those who seek to exit prostitution,” she said.

Smith pointed out many police forces across Canada already reflect the approach vulnerable persons and groups are victimized and harmed by prostitution.

“Prostitution must be eliminated because it dehumanizes and degrades humans and reduces them to a commodity to be bought and sold,” she said. 

“Legalizing prostitution is a direct attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, girls and vulnerable people. In the same regard, continuing to criminalize the women and vulnerable populations being prostituted creates barriers that prevent them from escaping prostitution and entrenches inequality.”

Delegates at 2013 Conservative Policy Convention in Calgary Oct. 31-Nov. 2 passed a resolution put forward by Smith that says the Conservative Party “rejects the concept of legalizing the purchase of sex, declares “human beings are not objects to be enslaved, bought or sold” and that the party “will develop a Canada-specific plan to target the purchases or sex as well as any third party attempting to profit from the purchase of sex.”

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