Uphold the oppressed

Psalm 82:2-4  NIV

How long will you defend the unjust
 and show partiality to the wicked?  Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prostitution is often referred to as the world’s oldest profession.   Truthfully it is the world’s oldest form of oppression.

Prostituted people in Canada are seen as vulnerable by those who exploit them.   Prostitution is viewed by the average Canadian as a choice women make.  In actuality, 92% of prostituted women in Canada, if given a viable alternative to survive, would leave the ‘business’.   Most prostitutes feel that they have no other option to make ends meet.

Child sexual abuse, poverty, and homelessness are all huge risk factors for this form of exploitation.  If you are an Aboriginal woman in our country, the risk escalates dramatically.

In every way, prostituted people fit the description of those the psalmist tells us to defend.  There are few other groups as stigmatized, marginalized, and oppressed in Canada as prostituted people.  They count on our defense!

Being aware is the first step to “upholding the cause of the poor and oppressed”.

  • How much do you know about the realities of prostitution in your location?
  • Prayerfully ask God how you can be involved in defending dignity.
  • Can you challenge yourself to become more aware of the issue in the next few months?  Check out www.defenddignity.ca for resources.
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Partnership is the only way Part 2

As promised, my Evangelical Fellowship of Canada partner, Julia Beazley’s presentation at EFC’s PRESIDENT’S DAY,  on OCTOBER 18, 2012 follows as a guest blog post.

Good afternoon. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to share with you today about some of the important work we are engaged in at the Centre for Faith and Public Life. I work as a Policy Analyst in our Ottawa office, and in my role there, I get to research, write and speak on issues that relate to poverty and homelessness, prostitution and human trafficking.

Over the last few years, I have become passionately engaged in the challenge of addressing sexual exploitation here in Canada and abroad. The more I study, the more I understand that prostitution is part of a dangerous and tangled web. A web that includes human trafficking, massage parlours, strip clubs and pornography. You simply can’t dig very deeply into any one of these areas without stumbling into the others. In researching and networking, I have also had the amazing privilege of interacting with, and learning from a number of formerly prostituted women. Their experiences, their stories and their voices have helped inform and shape how we approach these issues. But more than that, they have changed me, and inspired a real sense of calling and passion to see things change.

A few years ago, at a President’s day gathering, we presented what Bruce referred to as a ‘green paper’ on prostitution, setting up our positioning on the issue. So just as I begin, I will revisit some of that positioning today.

A central message of the Bible is a call for God’s people to be compassionate, because God has been compassionate to us. In the Old Testament, this is evident in the call to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. In the New Testament, Jesus calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Our shared belief that God has created all people in His image, and loves each one compels us to both announce and to guard the fundamental dignity of each person. We understand that people should be treated as creatures with inherent worth, and  not as objects or playthings for another’s gratification or profit.

Prostitution exploits the vulnerable, violates human dignity, is an affront to equality between the sexes and is harmful to both the purchased and the purchaser, to communities and to society as a whole. It contributes to violence against women, and perpetuates the exploitation of those who are vulnerable because of economic circumstance, family breakdown, violence or racialization.

Prostitution is dehumanizing. It perpetuates the view that it’s acceptable for women – or for any person – to be considered the sexual property of another, or that it’s acceptable for any person to buy or sell another for any purpose. When we consent to others being treated as objects to be bought or sold as a means of pleasure or profit, we deny their personhood. The very existence of prostitution requires a class of people who are viewed as somehow ‘less than human’, and who are made available for use and abuse by others.

Our response to prostitution must discourage the practice, yes, but must be equally careful not speak or act in ways that further victimize those who are victims of abuse, extreme poverty and exploitation. The love of God calls us to respond to those who are prostituted and exploited with compassion and grace, not with judgment.

I love what the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 58, verse 6: “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused!”

God also reveals himself throughout the Bible as a God of justice, a God who hates injustice and who sees and hears the suffering of the oppressed. He commands his people to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17-18)

We are called to seek freedom for those who are held captive, to fight oppression, and to “do justice.” It is from this perspective that we engage on an issue that impacts our “neighbours” who are victims of sexual exploitation and in need of defending, empowerment, protection and compassionate support to find health, wellness and freedom from their circumstances.

We need to look at prevention, at the social conditions that drive individuals to prostitution or make them vulnerable to it. We also need to look at the societal problems that generate the attitudes and market for prostitution in the first place. And we need to come alongside and provide assistance to those who want out.

Prostitution is not, and has never been illegal in Canada. What we have currently is a kind of ‘quasi-criminal’ approach in which prostitution itself is legal, but virtually all activities surrounding it are not.

As you will know, a few years ago, in highly publicized case, three women – a dominatrix and two former prostitutes – challenged three provisions of our Criminal Code in Court, arguing that they violated section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees “life, liberty and security of the person.”

The three provisions in question related to keeping a common bawdy house or brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. In September 2010, Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that those three key elements of Canada’s prostitution laws were unconstitutional because they force prostituted women to choose between their freedom and their right to security, as guaranteed under the Charter.

The decision was appealed last summer by the federal and Ontario governments, and the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in late March.

Here, briefly is what they ruled. The Court gave the federal government twelve months to reform the Criminal Code provision against prostitutes operating out of brothels, massage parlours and other forms of common bawdy houses, agreeing with the lower court that, as written, it was unconstitutional.

The Court upheld the Communications provision, essentially leaving street prostitution untouched, writing that since the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled on that provision in 1990, it was essentially out of their reach.

And they redrafted the living on the avails of prostitution provision so that it will only apply under circumstances of exploitation, this time giving the government 30 days before the change in law would take effect.

Now all of this was couched in a refrain that echoed throughout the many pages of written decision that “In Canada, prostitution itself is legal. There is no law that prohibits a person from selling sex, and no law that prohibits another from buying it.”

We believe that this repetition sends a clear message to Parliament that if prostitution is to be illegal in Canada, then Parliament will have to rewrite the laws to make them clear, coherent and constitutional.

So where do things stand? The Federal Government has filed for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the case will likely be heard by the Supreme Court sometime in the next year. While we wait, the laws remain in effect in Ontario. It could be another year or two before a final ruling is made on the validity of our laws, and in the meantime, there appears to be some inconsistency in how the existing laws are being enforced across different jurisdictions.

We believe that while this challenge makes its way through the courts, the Canadian government should begin the work of crafting better, more just laws that will affirm the dignity and value of all Canadian women, and effectively combat sexual exploitation and prostitution. It is a defining moment in which they can choose to affirm that, as a nation, we will not tolerate the exploitation of some for the gratification of others.

The EFC does not agree with the Courts’ assertion that it is our laws that put women in danger, but we do agree that the status quo isn’t working. Our laws, as written, neither discourage prostitution nor protect women. I might argue that they don’t even really make sense.

But it’s not the laws that put women in danger. Eliminating them will do nothing to protect the most vulnerable, in fact, it could have the opposite effect, pushing the most desperate and least desirable further to the margins and into greater danger.

Moving prostitution indoors will not make women safer. Because it’s not the women’s location that puts them in danger, it’s the violent johns, pimps and traffickers who prey on them.  A friend of mine who is a survivor of prostitution once told me that there is danger wherever there are closed doors – whether it is behind car doors, hotel doors or home doors, where there is prostitution, there is violence.

So if location isn’t the problem, it’s illogical to think that simply moving prostituted women from one location to another will make them safer.

Complete decriminalization isn’t the answer. But neither is the status quo.

It’s time for Parliament to craft better, more just laws to effectively combat prostitution and sexual exploitation. Our laws should focus on those who exploit. There is no justice in laws that serve mainly to further victimize victims. There is no justice in normalizing and legitimizing abuse and exploitation. And there is simply no sense in trying to stop sex trafficking if we’re not going to take a good look at our prostitution laws.

Over the last year or so, the government has taken some strong positive steps in terms of addressing human trafficking. June, the government introduced The National Action Plan to combat human trafficking. The EFC was pleased to be part of the consultation process that led to its’ development, and it is clear reading through the plan that the stakeholders were heard.

MP Joy Smith’s bill C-310 received royal assent and became law in July 2012. This bill introduced extra-territorial jurisdiction to human trafficking offenses, so that Canadian citizens who offend abroad can be prosecuted here at home for their offences. It also enhanced the definition of exploitation in s. 279 of the Criminal Code by providing additional factors for the Court to consider when determining what constitutes exploitation.  These factors include used or threatened to use force or another form of coercion; used deception; or abused a position of trust, power or authority.

The EFC was actively involved in both of these efforts being realized. But we have consistently maintained that addressing our prostitution laws is a critical piece of the puzzle, because while trafficking of persons is broader than simply for sexual exploitation, most often, prostitution is the end point of human trafficking.

It has been demonstrated in countries where prostitution and brothels have been legalized that when legalization occurs, the sex industry and sex tourism expand, the demand for purchase of sexual services skyrockets, and this drives rates of sex trafficking up. This has been the case in the Netherlands, in Germany, in parts of Australia and in New Zealand, where both legal and illegal brothels are full of foreign women.

We must be unambiguous in defining prostitution as a form of violence, abuse and control of vulnerable women and children. We need to shift the focus of our laws in order to achieve the Criminal Code’s intended objective of preventing prostitution and its associated harms.

So what is the EFC doing to this end?

We will be seeking leave to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada when the challenge to our prostitution laws is brought to the nation’s highest court. We do not believe our existing laws are adequate or effective, but we will intervene from a position of believing that our existing laws are better than no laws, and must be upheld until Parliament writes better laws; we will argue that to decriminalize would be to fail to protect our women, and that decriminalization would be in direct opposition to the government’s efforts at fighting sex trafficking.

We have been working – and continue to work – in partnership with other organizations in pursuit of reform of Canada’s prostitution laws. The EFC is calling on the government to amend the Criminal Code to implement laws based on the legal and social framework of what is known as the Nordic Model of Law on Prostitution. This model, first enacted in Sweden, recognizes that the vast majority of prostituted persons are victims, and therefore focuses the punitive powers of the law on the purchasers and purveyors of sexual services – the johns, pimps and traffickers, while decriminalizing those who are being sold.

The sex trade operates according to simple market principles of supply and demand. As long as there is a demand for purchase of women’s bodies, there will be pimps, traffickers and organized crime ready and willing to guarantee a supply. Sweden recognized that in order to abolish the sex trade, they would need to focus their efforts on eliminating the demand for purchase of sexual services. They also understood that prostitution and human trafficking are intrinsically linked, with trafficking rings established to feed the demand for paid sex.

Individuals who pay for sex are subject to steep fines. Those who are prostituted are not charged, which facilitates their moving on from prostitution. This model also focuses on social structures and systems to ensure that women who want to exit prostitution have the resources and supports available to them to make this possible. This approach has proven quite successful in dramatically reducing prostitution and trafficking, and has been replicated in Norway, Iceland and is in various stages of consideration in France, Israel and Ireland.

The Swedish model is one of the most coherent and successful prostitution policy models ever developed. The key is its twin legislative objectives of criminalizing the purchaser of sexual services and providing support and resources to prostituted women. Support systems, rehabilitation services, reintegration and education are all critical to ensuring successful exit from prostitution.

It isn’t perfect, and there would be some unique challenges to its implementation in Canada, but it is the most effective, most just model out there.

We are networking, and seeking to build coalition with a range of like-minded groups and organizations, believing that our influence and impact are magnified when joined with others – even when, and maybe particularly when – some of those others are ones you might not expect .

And finally, we are building public awareness, because while changing laws and public policy is an uphill climb, I think perhaps the toughest battle on this front is in dismantling the harmful attitudes and mindsets in our society that create a culture where prostitution is accepted and the demand for it flourishes. How do we reframe this issue in a way that will cause people both inside and outside our church walls to think – and act – differently? How do we convince the church in Canada of the importance of her engagement in this issue – the whole of the issue, beginning with prevention, continuing with all of the ministry in between and including engagement in the public policy process?

A significant part of this work has been done in partnership with Defend Dignity, an amazing ministry of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to partner over the last year with my good friend Glendyne Gerrard in educating, informing and calling the church to action. Glendyne’s story personally, and that of Defend Dignity, which she is going to share with you in a few moments, is something I get really excited about. Glendyne and I have become acutely aware as we’ve gotten deeper into this battle that this thing we call sexual exploitation is – if you’ll allow me a bit of liberty – a significant principality in our society. But  within our churches, in our relationships with each other, in the ways we teach our children and engage in our communities, the way we do ministry and with the democratic tools at our disposal, we have all that is needed to begin to dismantle that ugly thing. To see freedom, and justice, and dignity restored and upheld. I trust that as Glendyne shares, your hearts will capture the excitement of what is possible.

Partnership is the best way

One of the greatest joys in my work is to partner with some wonderful people who are working on the same thing as me:   putting an end to the sexual exploitation of women and children in Canada.  Julia Beazley of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is one of these people.  Julia works as a policy analyst  in Ottawa, championing the needs of marginalized and oppressed people.  However, policy analyst doesn’t tell the full story.  She doesn’t just analyze policies; she is personally involved in the lives of the people she works to help.  Her up close and personal knowledge makes her a great analyst.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) hosts a day every year for the heads of all their partner denominations and organizations.  The day includes presentations on issues that affect evangelicals.  I had the wonderful privilege to present, along with my partner Julia, at this event.  The following was my part of the presentation.  Stay tuned for Julia’s presentation that will follow in this blog.

EFC

October 18, 2012

Thank you to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada for the privilege of standing before you today and for its partnership in this issue.  Since our relationship began a year and a half ago, it has been one of the great joys of my ministry years to work alongside high caliber people like Julia, Don and Bruce on behalf of exploited women and children.

I also say “thank you” to my denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.  The heritage of our family of churches is one of justice and compassion ministries and I’m grateful for this DNA running through my veins.

I am here today to tell you some of my story, the story of Defend Dignity and ultimately God’s story of his work in delivering the weak and the needy, rescuing them from oppression and violence here in our wonderful country of Canada.

I’m a middle aged, middle class, average woman living on an average street in Regina, SK.   I grew up in a great home, married a wonderful man and have three super kids, all grown and married now themselves.  I was never abused, had all my basic needs met as a child and was given all the opportunities and privileges of a white girl born in Canada.  Maybe except for skin color, I’m probably not unlike many of  you!

So, why have I decided to be involved in the issue of the abolition of prostitution?

My wake up call started about 15 years ago with my own quiet times with Scripture and the Holy Spirit.  Do you ever have those times when it seems as if the words were written just for you?  It often seemed to my eyes that many of the verses to do with justice were marked with a highlighter pen.  They started jumping off the pages right to my heart.  It seemed that God had a whole lot more interest in the poor, marginalized and oppressed than I did.  I knew I needed to change that.  I started to pray Micah 6:8, ….and what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk  humbly with your God.”  asking the Lord to reveal to me who it was he wanted me to show justice and mercy to.

Thinking I had lots to learn, I also started to read more books on justice like Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne,  and The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns.  I started to keep my eyes open for a way that I could get involved in making a difference here in Canada.   One day reading our local newspaper, I saw that our City Food Bank needed volunteers in their front office.  I decided it was time to get my feet wet and put some of my head knowledge into action and   I  figured there would be poor, marginalized and oppressed people at the Food Bank and I was right.  My job at the Food Bank was to register new clients and though it was not required, often they would pour out their stories of how they ended up needing our services.  It was there I met a prostitute for the first time.  I remember being surprised that she looked like any of the other many women who came through our doors.  I also remember being displeased with the other workers who were whispering about her as she walked away.  She was simply a woman in need.

Fast forward a couple years later, and I knew that I had to use all my influence – however small it was – to make a difference beyond just volunteering at the Food Bank.  At the same time this was going on with me, our C&MA family of churches was being called back to our roots of justice and compassion ministries and all of us in leadership were being encouraged to get involved in a justice issue.  All this time, I kept praying Micah 6:8 still feeling like there was more God was wanting of me.

Then I met Trisha Baptie through a mutual pastor friend in BC.  Trish is a former prostitute from Vancouver’s DTES with a winsome personality and an incredible story of tragedy and triumph.  Trisha worked with many of Robert Pickton’s victims.  You don’t hang around Trisha for long before you’re compelled to consider the realities around prostitution in Canada.

As I read through reports and stories she sent me, especially as they related to First Nations women, the Spirit convicted me personally that as a leader within our denomination this was an issue I needed to get involved in, that our Alliance churches needed to get involved in and Defend Dignity was birthed.

God had answered my prayer in response to Micah 6:8.  This is who I was to show justice and mercy to.  Be a voice for the women in prostitution here in Canada.

Psalm 82:3,4 says,

Defend the weak and the fatherless;

uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Rescue the weak and the needy;

deliver them from the hand of the wicked

A few weeks ago, I was standing on a street corner in my city of Regina in the neighborhood called North Central, talking to a young, cold, and hungry woman.    She was hoping to sell herself that night in order to make enough money to return to the city she came from to see her children again.   She had been robbed and the only recourse she felt she had to earn money was to sell herself.

After buying her dinner and hearing more of her story, I pled with her not to return to the street corner but allow us to drive her to the home she was staying in, praying with her before we dropped her off.

While a meal, a hug, a prayer and a ride home are something, it really felt like I was applying a tiny bandaid to a case of terminal cancer.

How is it that only 15 minutes away from my front door in a comfortable neighborhood, a woman sees herself as a commodity to be bought and sold because she has no other option?  How is it that our laws in Canada on this issue do not protect the most vulnerable and marginalized?  How is it that the global issue of human trafficking is gaining air time in our churches, but the same issue here in our own country receives little attention from evangelicals?

Part of my work to raise awareness in our churches across the country is to network with as many leaders of non profit organizations, researchers and government personnel working on the issue as I can.  These front line workers and educators are invited to participate in the Information Forums we are hosting in churches.  Defend Dignity has built bridges to these people in every province except the Atlantic region so far.  A few weeks ago in Winnipeg, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Diane Redsky who is the Project Chair for the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution in Canada.  I sat on the edge of my seat as she listed off the members of the task force, hoping I would hear the name of a church or faith based group that would be at that table.  It saddens me that I didn’t.  You see, I believe – and I know you do too – that Jesus is the hope of the world and the Church, empowered by the Spirit, is sent to penetrate the dark places.  We need to be part of the solution.

I am so grateful for the favor God is giving us as we dialogue with stake holders on the issue.  I am working with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, having met with the interim provincial Chief and the head of their Women’s Commission.  They seem eager to partner with us as they are fully aware of the magnitude of the problem with their women and children being the most victimized.

On October 30, I will have a meeting with the MB Justice Minister, a man who has championed the needs of sexually exploited women and children in his province.

These meetings and those we have had in partnership with EFC in Ottawa with MPs from different Parties are bringing good results.  As church people hear of this work, they are becoming engaged by writing letters and visiting their MPs and considering ways they can be part of the solution in their communities.

The Information Forums we host provide opportunities for people to actually write letters to their MPs at the end of the evening.  One of the MPs we met with on Parliament Hill in March admitted he was uninformed about prostitution realities and our laws until meeting with some of our Alliance people in his constituency office and then with us in his Ottawa office.  He has become convinced that Canada needs law reform and actually stood to his feet at the parliamentary breakfast hosted by Defend Dignity and EFC a few months later and encouraged his colleagues to get on board.   Our work of raising awareness in our churches is working.

Here’s our latest in a series of videos.  This one is about the Forums.

The Forums are gaining support and we hope you & the denomination that you represent can attend one of these Forums in the coming year.

We are currently producing a church tool kit which will provide further means to educate and engage our churches.

My prayer is that the evangelical organizations represented in the room today will join us in defending the dignity of every woman and child in Canada.  If we hope to convince parliament that Canada needs prostitution law reform, we need all of us to get involved.  The videos, website and all the resources we’ve produced are yours for the taking and using.  We have purposely made them as generic as possible so that people outside the C&MA can find them useful.

In my husband’s role as District Superintendent for our part of Canada, we get to travel to some faraway places like Nunavut way up north.  The 2nd largest town in Nunavut is Arviat, right on the shores of Hudson Bay where we have a growing Alliance congregation.   You can only fly, snowmobile, or dog sled into this community or when the ice is out for a few months of the year, take a barge.  It is a trip I will not soon forget. Visiting this church 2 years ago, I met one of many women in this town who are prostituted by family members.   You were introduced to her in the video you just saw by the name of Sarah.

Joanne and her sister, Sarah come from a poverty stricken home.  Joanne was taken from her parents earlier in her life by her grandmother, but Sarah lived with her mom and dad.  When her dad needed money, Sarah would be offered to people over the local CB radio.  People would pay for her to have sex with them, and her father would take the money.  Now that the father is dead, Joanne and Sarah’s younger brother has carried on the family tradition.  He sells his sisters over the local radio and if they refuse he gets angry and yells at them until they comply. Sarah had her new house destroyed by this brother.  Sarah and Joanne keep part of the money, but most of it still goes to their brother.

These stories and so many more like them call out to us as Christ followers.   Who will stand up for what is right if we don’t?  They call out to us as the church.  We cannot walk away.   Who will stand up for what is right if we don’t?  Would you consider what your denomination can do?  Will you join me and defend the dignity of the least of these?

Canada’s adult entertainment wages war on our youth

I am very grateful for the growing number of male colleagues that are joining in the fight to defend dignity.  Chris Smith, pastor of the Estevan Alliance Church in Saskatchewan and excellent communicator has this to say today in this guest blog which he gave me permission to post.  You can check out his blog here.

I have seen the monster and he is me

A couple of weeks ago a story broke in the media about a particularly offensive response to new government legislation aimed at curbing human trafficking in Canada. Apparently the gist of the story was that the government of Canada was no longer going to be extending visas for foreign workers entering into the adult entertainment industry (i.e. strippers, escorts, adult film actors, and (unofficially) prostitutes. The official reason given was that, “Canadians have told us they want us to put a stop to foreign workers entering Canada to work in businesses where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation,” wrote Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for the ministry of citizenship and immigration.
You can read up on the story in multiple news outlets – a quick Google search of AEAC recruitment visa will pull up pages of news articles on what’s been happening. The article that caught my attention was this one from Canada.com.
In reaction to the legislation that aims to curb their questionably legal source of labour, Tim Lambrinos, executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, responded by saying that they would be approaching foreign college and university students on student visas to fill the positions – advertising it as a great way to pay for tuition. His rationale was that ‘Exotic Dancer’ implies foreign – and that the market demanded beautiful foreign girls take off their clothes and dance on poles for men. It was then that the other shoe dropped. It was also revealed by the minister of citizenship of immigration that the adult entertainment sector would no longer be able to recruit any temporary foreign workers to work in their industry; citing statistics that demonstrate that perpetrators of human trafficking frequently lure young women away from home with promises of more germane employment only to trap them into the sex industry through a conflation of drugs, abuse and debt-slavery – an example being the story of Timea Nagy which is chronicled in this article in CNEWS on July 5.  Timea was lured to Canada with the promise of a summer job as a nanny – but when she arrived in Toronto she was informed that she owed her employer $3000 for travel expenses and would be forced to work off the debt as a stripper and sex worker (prostitute) or they would kill her family back home.
As shocking as this all is – so far this has all been set-up for the bombshell that was dropped last week. Growing increasingly frustrated with the government making it hard for them to do business, Mr. Lambrinos indicated that the AEAC would have no choice then, given the restraints placed upon them, to start recruiting workers for his industry at Canadian high school job fairs. Deliberately stoking the flames of public outrage he mused in the media,
“We’re reacting to the government … They’re saying we’re going to strip you of your workforce… The government is saying, indirectly, you need to get more aggressive and more proactive at recruiting locally… We’re not going to take it lying down.”
And with that shot across the bow the internet erupted in a mix of outrage and absurdity. Every reaction you could imagine started popping up in comment sections at the bottom of news articles, in Facebook discussions, in op-ed pieces sent into newspapers and in the blogosphere. Some thought that the government had gone too far in depriving the foreign workers of the protection that comes from a perpetually renewed visa, some thought that the AEAC had gone too far in talking about recruiting in high schools (keeping in mind of course that less than half of high school students will be 18 years old by the time they graduate across Canada) – but the most commonly heard type of comment of all was a variation on the theme, “If you come near my daughter I’ll kill you!
Now I would venture a guess that very few commenters meant that literally – this is Canada after all, we don’t generally behave that way – but the sentiment behind the puffed up rhetoric was frighteningly genuine. As a father now of a beautiful baby girl I cannot deny that my adrenaline started pumping at the thought of someone trying to recruit my little princess into the adult entertainment industry; how dare anyone treat her like that, how dare anyone expect that she is a commodity to be used and discarded for their perverted sense of pleasure. She is my daughter. She is precious, and perfect and worth far more than that. And I like all the other fathers imagining the consequences of that statement by the AEAC (and of course mothers too) was ready to cry for blood and ready to support any measures possible to keep these sickos away from our young women. After all, what sort of horrible person would subject our young women to this sort of predatory industry that uses them up and spits them out? What sort of person would stand by and do nothing while these women are recruited into a life of slavery (which is not too harsh a word – do some research on what happens to many of the women in this industry defenddignity.ca is a great place to start) while we stand on the sidelines and do nothing because they are pursuing a ‘legal’ career choice and the free-market needs their services?
The answer to that question was staring me in the mirror – it was me.
It was me, and you, and the overwhelming majority of Canadians who have turned a blind eye to the horrors of the sex trade in Canada for too long. It was we, who chose not to notice or respond when evidence of horrible crimes in human trafficking was brought to the media’s attention. It was we who didn’t seem to care when the news story was about foreign women being recruited into the adult entertainment industry but who became an angry mob complete with pitch-forks and torches when the spectre of our daughters being the next generation of strippers was raised. We are the guilty ones – and our anger and outrage at this publicity stunt by the AEAC betrays us.
God forgive us for so dehumanizing these women that we couldn’t muster the anger to rise to their defence when our society’s depravity was stealing away their youth, their innocence and their future. God forgive us for considering ourselves so much more important than them, and our daughters so much more precious than them. Every woman is someone’s daughter; every girl dancing on a pole, every teenager forced into prostitution, every young woman who is compelled – by violence, debt, drug-addiction or a lifetime of abuse and neglect – to take off her clothes so some man can dehumanize her with his eyes is someone’s daughter.  God forgive me for not doing anything to stop this.
I’m honestly shaken and disturbed by this self-realization and so today is just about me getting this off my chest. I’ve no applications for you today – no pithy three-step plans to make a difference – just a request that we stop living in ignorance. The world is a terribly messed up place – just because we can keep it out of our backyards doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible for what happens behind the fence.
Just my thoughts,
Chris

One by one

One by one by one.  That’s what it is going to take to win this.  We have to influence more people to get involved, even if it means just one at a time.  But, no one will get involved unless they are aware, unless they know about the realities faced by so many women, women in their own back yards in Canada.

That’s why I get up when the sky is still dark to fly on airplanes that leave way too early in the morning and get home way too late at night.   That’s why many people who are already way too busy volunteer even more in cities all across our country.  That’s why we host Forums to provide the public with facts on the issue of prostitution in Canada.

Networking in Edmonton

Edmonton Forum, May 11

York Police Detective Sargeant Henry DeRuiter

These Forums bring together a wide variety of people that are not often in the same room at the same time.  People who live and do life differently but on this one issue, they put aside all else and come together to inform and influence.  Law enforcers,  politicians,  front line workers, formerly exploited, pastors, analysts and learners.  They speak, they answer questions, they advise and they network.   All working to end this.  To abolish prostitution in Canada.

Toronto, June 8

Panel of ‘experts’

If you would like to see a Forum in your city, let us know.  We do most of the work.  You just come ready to learn how you can get involved in defending dignity for every woman in Canada.  Oh, and bring someone with you.

Does it work?

I’ve been encouraging, informing and even coaxing people to get involved in defending the dignity of every woman in Canada, especially those that cannot defend themselves.  One of the best ways to get involved is by doing something all of us have done at some point in our lives – write a letter.  Even little children write letters – maybe just to Santa Claus or to their Mommy on her birthday, but everyone has done it.  It’s an easy method of communication.  Now with the advent of computers and emails, it means our letters reach their destinations sooner, but it hasn’t changed what we say in our letters.  Letters are a great way to convey our thoughts, our questions, our emotions, our challenges.  And, once they are written down, they are here to stay – unless the receiver chooses to throw them away.  They become a record.

Would you sit down today and write a letter – yes, the old fashioned way – hand written?  And, yes, send it by Canada Post, even though it’s slower than email.  Would you put a stamp on the permanent record of what you think about Canada’s prostitution laws and the women we need to defend?

Your letter could change a life or two or maybe thousands.  Our government leaders need to know that average people like you and me want our prostitution laws changed.  They need to hear why they need changing and what they need to be changed to.  I’ll even make it simple for you.  Here’s a template you can use to help you formulate your words. http://storage.cloversites.com/christianmissionaryallianceincanada/documents/MP%20letter%20march,%202012.pdf

Does it work? 

I had the privilege of being on Parliament Hill in several offices of our Members of Parliament this past week.  One of those MPs has many engaged people in their riding that have sent copious letters advocating for the changes Canada needs.  His staff commented that “he realizes this is an issue he needs to pay attention to” because he sees that it matters to his constituents.  I left that office with a huge smile on my face. 

 Letters work!

The gift I need

Human trafficking and prostitution are the fastest growing criminal activity in the world next to the drug trade.  It takes all the profits of Google, Starbucks and Nike combined to add up to the profits made in selling human flesh.   The sad reality of our world is that it’s so easy to sell people because there is such a ready demand to purchase them.   The purchasers of sex give no thought to the needs of the ones they buy.  Not too far away in my city, a young mother needs diapers for her babe and turning a trick is the only way she knows to get what she needs for her child.  How can it be that here in Canada there is a steady line up of purchasers for someone like this?

How do we fix what’s gone so wrong with us?   Most days it feels like swimming against the current in a wide ocean of human depravity.  The problem is too big, the needs too great.

If it were not for the hope of the babe born so long ago in his own needy and unjust beginnings, the strong ocean currents would surely sweep over me.  Jesus left all that was rightfully his as God’s son to come and be with us.  To be in the middle of this mess of  injustice and pain.   He is here with her.  He dwells among us.  He shows us the way.

How silently,

how silently

the wondrous gift is given.

I would be silent now,

Lord,

and expectant…

   that I may receive

            the gift I need,

                    so I may become

                             the gift others need.

Guerillas of Grace   Ted Loder