An open letter to Peter MacKay regarding his proposed restrictions on prostitution

An open letter to Peter MacKay, Member of Parliament for Central Nova:

(“response” below)

I am alarmed by Bill C-36, your proposed prostitution legislation, and would encourage you to scrap it and start over. “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons”, an act keeping with this government’s convention of naming acts by what people want rather than what they do, is a laudable objective, but you can reduce human enslavement and trafficking without effectively prohibiting prostitution1, which you are in fact doing, given that you would have communication, advertising, and purchasing all banned.

With regards to prostitution, you use the word ‘inherent’ frequently, saying things like “inherent harms of prostitution.” Inasmuch as inherent means “existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute”, what, exactly, are these? I am especially eager for you to enumerate dangers related to prostitution itself that are indivisible from prostitution, not just ones that stem from the legal climate that has held sway until now.

Instead of ‘inherent’, it would be nice if you would use the more precise words ‘innate’ or ‘intrinsic’ because then we would know you’re talking about attributes indivisible from the thing itself. For example, if we’re talking about alcohol prohibition, a hangover is an innate and intrinsic harm, while getting gunned down by the mob is an extrinsic harm – though, in the wrong legal regime, perhaps a ‘characteristic’ one.2

I believe sexual rights are far more important than alcohol rights – sexuality is baked into us and our countless predecessors, while alcohol is a relatively recent discovery and can be lived without, which is not to say it should be prohibited. Yet comparing our attitudes to sex and alcohol may help expose the inconsistencies in our thinking.

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  1. I’ve decided that I’m not going to use the word “prostitute” very often. It makes as much sense as calling a gay man a “sodomist”. But I enjoyed using the word unflinchingly and unabashedly. I’d do it again if it serves the purpose of provoking bullies like Peter MacKay.

    Lezlie Lowe, Chronicle-Herald“Defusing the landmines of language”

  2. Some definitions of ‘inherent’ do suggest that it means a permanent and inseparable element – for example, To me, it merely means to be closely connected with, but not necessarily inseparable. I could be out on a limb here. And here’s what might be a better discussion of this basket of words. That James Champlin Fernald seems like he knows what he’s talking about.