Charles Adler calls Member of Parliament who fights sex trafficking “trash”

By Jonathon Van Maren

Every so often, Canada’s progressives in the media remind us that despite their claims of being purveyors of compassion, they are in reality just small and hateful men incapable of understanding complex issues. A prime example of this is radio host Charles Adler, who had a minor meltdown this week over an exchange between Alberta MP Arnold Viersen and NDP MP Laurel Collins of BC.

After a speech about the horrors of sex trafficking and the responsibility of government to intervene on behalf of the victims by Viersen, Collins responded by asking Viersen “to consider listening to the voices of sex workers. Sex workers are saying that sex work is work.” She then went on to criticize Bill C-36, which criminalizes the purchasing of sex in order to target pimps and johns.

Viersen responded: “Mr. Speaker, I would respond to that by asking the honorable member across the way if it is an area of work that she has considered and if that is an appropriate—” here he was interrupted by indignant shouts—”I think this makes the point. I do not think any woman in this country ever chooses this as a job. This is something women are trafficked into and something we have to work hard to end in Canada. Prostitution in Canada is inherently dangerous, and we must work hard to ensure that all Canadians have a safe place to live in this country. We do not want to see our women and girls forced into prostitution.”

Opposition MPs erupted, demanding an apology (which Viersen gave), and the media picked up the story and ran with it. Twitter blew up. Ironically, the outrage precisely proved Viersen’s point: After all, if sex work is just work as Collins claimed, why would it be so offensive to ask someone if they’d ever considered it? If being a prostitute is much like being a florist, or a lawyer, or a construction worker, why should people be so angry at Viersen’s question? Anyone who thinks about it for longer than thirty seconds knows: It is because prostitution is not like other work. Even those who do not accept this position intellectually understand that instinctually.

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3 thoughts on “Charles Adler calls Member of Parliament who fights sex trafficking “trash”

  1. Sam says:

    Jonathan, I’m afraid that you and I have to disagree here. You asked a fundamental question but then ducked it .

    You asked why the NDP and the MP was outraged at the suggestion that she choose sex work for herself, then stated the answer was “obvious” and almost immediately linked sex work to violence against women.

    Don’t get me wrong – I would never personally consider sex work or engage such services. However, the logic doesn’t flow.

    The balance of your column contains pleas from various sex trafficked women to reduce demand for sexual services. My heart bleeds for these women and human trafficking is one of the most reprehensible facets of our modern world. However, I don’t think that reducing demand through bans is a practical means of solving the issue.

    Sex work, and prostitution in particular, has an alternate name that illustrates the issue perfectly – “the world’s oldest profession”. Prostitution and sex work has historically been a permanent presence – it is recorded in literal stone at Pompeii.

    I am confident in stating that a ban on purchase or sale of sex services will not reduce demand for those services. If it did, then the sex trade would have ended shortly after 1867, when the sale of sexual services was prohibited.

    From your article, it doesn’t seem like banning the sale or the purchase has ended the sex trade. Instead, prohibition has pushed it underground into an unregulated, dangerous mess. Prostitutes don’t get to screen Johns, there is no security available to sex workers and abusive men looking for a vulnerable woman know that. Ironically, this was why the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on sale of sexual services in the Bedford case.

    And here is where your logical issue arises. Sex work is stigmatized, as it attracts the more desperate in society and has a low reputation. It is not in any was “making a point” (to quote Viersen) to play off stigma in an attempt to outline how dangerous sex work is.

    My thoughts on the danger issue – Viersen can’t complain of danger and stigma while creating the conditions of danger through implementing a ban on purchase after a ban on sale was struck down. Viersen can’t use stigma as a stand in for danger. Viersen logically can’t use danger to implement yet another useless ban.

    Now, to round back up to the beginning of the story, Viersen clumsily used the stigma of sex work as a stand in for danger. The problem is that this is a red herring and, to make it worse, he smeared a fellow MP, rightly having to apologize thereafter.

    There are always at least two sides to a story and sex work is no different. Yes, there are trafficked women and the conditions allowing that should absolutely be wiped away. But there are also sex workers that choose the “world’s oldest profession” and they have voices too.

    Perhaps, just maybe, it would be possible to reflect reality. Perhaps, Canada could legalize sex work within brothels, providing security, etc. The linchpin would be to actually regulate the industry. Sex workers required to have STI tests, no sex work on the streets, inspections of brothels to ensure compliance with the regime and that no women are trafficked, etc.

    Is it perfect? No. However, repeating something that hasn’t worked in 153 years is insanity. It is time for a new approach.

    • Jonathon Van Maren says:

      Take a look at the Nordic model. That has proven to work over and over again, which is precisely why the Conservatives passed it. Your confidence is misplaced, as many countries using this model have seen great success. Brothels, on the other hand, have not worked–especially not when you consider the Red Light districts of the Netherlands (each booth is equipped with a panic button due to the frequency of violence–over 60% of the prostitutes report being sexually assaulted.)

      I think “sex work” is stigmatized for a reason, and should be. And there was no smear–simply a logical question following from the premises put forward by the NDP MP.

      • Sam says:

        I looked into it and it seems that Wikipedia does report positive numbers, albeit with the cautionary that the policy pushed the prostitution “market” underground so that accurate numbers are difficult to report.

        I’m a little surprised by the numbers and will withhold judgement, as I believe in facts and logic; however, I think better research methods have to be developed as a survey asking for participation in illegal activity will never capture the full illegal activity.

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