C-36 and the prostitution debate

The Liberals oppose the bill
Minister of Defence Peter MacKay stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, December 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

While Independent MP Brent Rathgeber has his doubts and Conservative MP Brad Trost considers the government’s prostitution legislation to be “illogical,” the Liberal caucus has apparently deemed the bill unsupportable. Here is the statement issued just now by the Liberal leader’s office.

The Liberal Party of Canada is opposing C-36. We have serious concerns that this legislation fails to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the requirements outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Bedford decision. We are also concerned that this legislation fails to adequately protect the health and safety of vulnerable people, particularly women.

We have called on the government to produce evidence of the legal opinions they sought in drafting this legislation; the Conservatives continue to refuse to release this information.

We also note that the government has refused to submit this legislation as a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to determine its constitutional validity.

Alan Young, the Osgoode law professor and lawyer who represented the sex workers involved in the successful Bedford challenge, wrote last week to Justice Minister Peter MacKay to request both that the bill be referred to the Court and that the minister provide any opinion that was prepared by the justice department.

Letter by Prof. Alan Young – Prostitution Legislation

As of yesterday, the minister had not yet seen the letter. But he seemed to ignore the suggestion that any legal opinions be released when the NDP’s Francoise Boivin suggested as much during the first hour of debate on the bill (though he had earlier assured the House that there was a section of the department that reviews each bill before it is introduced, which is at least nice to know).