It’s only Day 2 of the C36 hearings at the House of Commons Justice Committee in Ottawa, but the hearings around legislation that would “reduce demand for prostitution, deter participation and ultimately abolish it,” are already a study in insensitivity and condescension.
Conservative MP Robert Goguen, centre. Left: Conservative MP Bob Dechert as puzzled as the rest of us by the bizarre line of questioning.
Someone fetch me my soapbox, for I am angry!
Yesterday, New Brunswick Conservative MP Robert Goguen pointedly asked a former sex worker – a survivor of human trafficking – whether she thought her right to freedom of expression would have been violated if the police had rescued her during a violent gang-rape.
Parenthesis: the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three prostitution laws earlier this year, with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin finding that these laws violated sex workers’ constitutional rights to freedom of expression and to life, liberty, and security of the person. Resuming all regularly scheduled programming.
Timea Nagy, a survivor of human trafficking and the founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services, was testifying before the House of Commons committee about her experiences in the trenches of sex work. Nagy was trafficked from her native Hungary under the pretense of a nanny position in Canada, but once she arrived, she found herself working in a massage parlour. On her first day, Nagy was gang-raped for an hour by three young men.
Terrible story. Awful. And such courage, to speak up about what could only have been a horrific moment in her life.
Then this happened (full video available here):
Robert Goguen: You were describing a scenario where you were being raped, I believe, by three Russians. Let’s suppose the police authorities would have broken in and rescued you. Would your freedom of expression have been breached?”
Nagy indicated that she didn’t understand the question, that English is not her first language.
Goguen continues: “What I’m saying is you weren’t freely expressing yourself by being raped by three men.”
Another witness explained, in hushed tones.
“My answer is no,” Nagy said.
Was Goguen trying to be clever? Cutesy, as some Tweeps suggested? Because #Fail.
Pearls clutched so tightly, they are dangerously close to leaving a permanent, angry outline on my palms.
One might assume that this sort of vitriol would be reserved for sex workers on the other side of Bill C36 – those who are arguing that sex work is real work, and that sex workers are entitled to do their work safely.
Nagy and Goguen are actually in agreement: sex work is never a choice, it’s harmful to women, and Bill C36 must go forward to protect women.
And perhaps it’s precisely because Nagy and Goguen are on the same side of Bill C36 that he felt entitled to use her experience and to instrumentalize her traumatic experience to prove a political point.
In fact, Goguen was trying to stick it to another man, Leonardo S. Russomanno, who was at the hearings speaking on behalf of Canada’s Criminal Lawyers’ Association. Russomanno, you see, is arguing that C36 will fail to meet the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge because it will “drive sex workers underground and “utterly fails” to protect them.”
So, let’s review: a woman’s gang rape is fair game when it comes to politics, particularly when trying to undermine another man. Yep: talk about “sticking it to the man.”
Take a good look, Canada – that’s our government: an elected representative of the people who thinks it’s precious as fuck to talk about a gang-rape flippantly to earn some political capital, operating under a Justice Minister who is proposing a law that fails sex workers and may actually place them at greater risk.
One silver lining – the Twittersphere came out in droves to condemn Goguen’s comments:
Thank you, Internet. You have renewed my faith in Canada.
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