Excerpts from Affidavits of Members of the Intervener Women’s Coalition
Court of Appeal for Ontario
JEANNETTE CORBIERE LAVELL – President, The Native Women’s Association of Canada:
NWAC has a particular interest in this appeal because it is concerned about the high levels of sexual exploitation and sexual trafficking of Aboriginal women and girls occurring right across Canada. Aboriginal women, women in low income situations, those suffering from mental health and ddictions issues, are working in prostitution because of systemic racism and classism, as well as a fundamental power imbalance and issues of inequality which are at the root of prostitution. Prostitution is inherently harmful to equality, health, and security of women and girls. Women and girls in prostitution in Canada are disproportionately of Aboriginal descent. Their overrepresentation in prostitution cannot be disconnected from the continuing effects that colonialism, racism and residential schools have had on Aboriginal communities. Their overrepresentation in prostitution cannot be separated from profound social and economic deprivation, systemic discrimination, social exclusion and deep-seated negative societal attitudes experienced by Aboriginal communities.
KIM PATE, Executive Director, The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (“CAEFS”):
CAEFS has a long-standing interest In Issues of the criminalization and incarceration of women who are prostituted. 17. A significant majority of the women with whom CAEFS works have been prostituted. Some have been prostituted on a regular basis for an extended period. Others are prostituted or sell their bodies intermittently. For many of the women CAEFS works with who are incarcerated at the federal level, prostitution is part of their history even if it is not the reason they are presently in jail. For women with whom CAEFS’ members work, who are incarcerated at the provincial/territorial level, prostitution is frequently both part of their history and the reason for their present incarceration. These women have usually engaged in the conduct that leads to their imprisonment due to poverty. Most were first prostituted at a young age, and many indicate that they engage in prostitution because of poverty. Even when prostitution is not the specific offence which lead to their incarceration, their offences are often prostitution-related (i.e. armed robbery or threats of violence which take place because they have not been paid by johns; drug-related offences). The women CAEFS works with repeatedly tell me that if they had other options, they would leave the sex trade. They return to the sex trade because they lack economic alternatives and lack supports to enable them to successfully exit the sex trade.
LEE LAKEMAN – member, The national Representative Committee, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
Prostitution is Violence Against Women
CASAC stands in solidarity with all those who are sexually exploited We believe in a world free from prostitution and all forms of sexual exploitation We declare that the prostitution system is profound ly sexist and racist. It is ba sed on the existing inequalities between men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, between countries of the north and south and racializedinequalities. We declare that the root cause of prostitution is the demand for women and children for sexual exploitation that is those men who see it as their unlimitable right to purchase and sexually exploit women and girls.
We declare that prostitution is usually the consequence of women living in economic and affective misery, as well as different forms of sexual violence and social and political inequalities. It is linked to the sexualization of young women and girls. It is therefore not a “choice” of work or a “right” to dispose of one’s body as one wishes.
We believe that sexually exploited women are drawn into a prostitution culture by buyers, procurers and traffickers over a period of time due to the violence of men, to poverty, to the terrible cycle of drug addiction, and to the precarious status of immigrants in this country.
We believe that sexual exploitation based on the commercialization of women’s bodies and is situated on a continuum that includes: pornography, prostitution, all forms of sexual vio lence (pedophilia), domestic and international sexual trafficking and sexual slavery.
We believe that the globalization of sexual trafficking feeds the sex industry’s constant demand for “new blood” and “exoticism”. It touches the life of millions of people, mostly women and girls from southern countries, Eastern Europe, but also within Canada.
We denounce the sex industry which in the context of globalization exploits the misery and the
vulnerability of the most fragile members of society and those made vulnerable due to war, armed conflicts and economics, social, political and environmental crises.
We reaffirm that the struggle against all the forms of sexual exploitation is an integral part of the battle for the respect of human rights, sexual equality, and the equality between all peoples.
DIANE MATTE – Coordinator, la Concertation des luttes contre I’exploitation sexuelle (“CLES”).
CLES has a particular interest in this appeal and specialized expertise on the issues relevant to this appeal because it is an organization that works specifically on issues of prostitution and provides a voice for women who have experienced prostitution.
CLES is a community organization composed of groups and individuals who are critical of the sex industry and the prostitution system. It brings together women who have experienced prostitution and others who are concerned about the sexual exploitation of women.
SUMMER RAIN BENTHAM – collective member, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.
Vancouver Rape Relief has an interest in this appeal because it raises issues relating to violence against women and women’s lack of security in the context of prostitution. VRRWS has been actively engaged on issues of violence and prostitution for decades.
The VRRWS collective has historically included and presently includes women who have been prostituted.
VRRWS’ services are available to all women who have experienced male violence. A significant number of women who seek VRRWS’ services are women and girls in prostitution. VRRWS regularly provides assistance to women and girls in prostitution who have been assaulted by johns, pimps or men pressuring them into prostitution. It provides assistance to women who are currently being prostituted, women who are trying to escape prostitution, and women who have been trafficked into prostitution. The kinds of front line supports that VRRWS provides to women and girls in prostitution include crisis line support, transitional housing, accompanying women to the police, and helping them find immediate relief when faced with a situation of violence.
DANIELE TESSIER – collective member Le Regroupement quebecois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions a caractere sexuel. (Regroupement des CALACS)
For over 30 years the Regroupement des CALACS has strived to respond to the needs of both women and teenage girls who are victims of sexual assault and sexual exploitation and Quebec communities that wish to prevent and organize to fight sexual violence. We believe that the eradication of sexual violence against women and teenage girls must rely simultaneously on three spheres of action: direct assistance services,
prevention/education and rights advocacy. This last dimension involves sensitizing the public and various political, social and legal bodies to the reality of sexual violence.
GHISLAINE SIROIS– Executive Director, Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (“AOcVF”).
The activities of AOcVF that aim at ending violence against women take into account the right of every woman to equality, liberty and security, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charier of Rights and Freedoms.
AOcVF has an interest in this appeal because the women we represent have experienced violence against women in different contexts, including prostitution. AOcVF believes that it can make a useful contribution to this appeal because of its expertise on and understanding of violence against women, as well as the specific vulnerabilities of the Francophone women we represent.