Conservative Backbench MP to Reform Prostitution Laws Targeting Customers, Not Prostitutes

Joy Smith, a Conservative MP from Winnipeg, is a backbencher whose previous private member's bill gave Canada mandatory minimum sentences for child traffickers. She is on track to do it again. Her new bill, prepared for the fall session, proposes to rewrite Canada's prostituion laws to make criminals the people who pay for sex, and not the prostitutes themselves.

"It will target the market, plain and simple," she said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg. "We need laws that make people responsible for buying and selling children." Smith then quickly noted that the bill is not directed only at those who buy and sell children for sex, but will target all buyers and pimps.

A parliamentary committee in 2005 found that the status quo for Canada's prostitution laws isn't working. Since then, the decriminalization lobby has strenghened, among them Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, the sex trade workers who went to court in Ontario, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Sex Workers Against Violence Society, and Pivot Legal Society.

"Libby Davies considers it (prostitution) an industry. I consider it a crime," said Smith, noting that Davies also voted against the child trafficking bill even though the majority of New Democrats, including leader Jack Layton, voted for it.

Smith sees her bill as a first step toward abolishing the sex trade and establishing a version of the "Nordic model." The Nordic model involves a public education program aimed at making it socially unacceptable to buy any sexual services, as well as a wide range of social services that address the reality that poverty and desperation often drives women and children into the sex trade.

Smith said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews support her bill.