A Montreal escort who bills himself as a "quality companion for ladies" will be the first male sex worker to testify on the government's bill to revamp Canada's prostitution laws when he appears before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee this week.
Maxime Durocher is to appear Thursday, the last of three days of hearings, alongside Tyler Megarry, a street worker with Rezo, an Montreal organization that works with male sex workers.
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The Supreme Court struck down Canada's prostitution laws last year and gave the government until the end of the year to pass a new, Charter-compliant law. Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced bill C-36 in May.
The Senate is conducting a special pre-study of the bill, which was reviewed by a Commons committee in July but has yet to be passed by the House.
Durocher acknowledged that, as a male sex worker with an exclusively female client base, he's "a bit privileged" compared with some of his colleagues.
"I don't face as much prejudice, so it's easier for me to be accepted and go before the committee," he told CBC News.
It also puts his experience squarely at odds with the narrative put forward by some supporters of the bill.
"Most of the time, when we're talking about [Bill] C-36, its proponents say that it's to protect women," he said. "I'm a male sex worker with female clients, which sort of goes against that."
In fact, he said, to criminalize his clients would do the opposite.
"These are sweet women, they wouldn't hurt a fly, and they need some help in their life," he told CBC News.
"I'm there to give them whatever they need. Because of [criminalization of clients], maybe I'd lose some of them, and they might lose the ability to contact someone to help them out in that area."
By driving away "nice clients," he said, he fears the new laws will leave "only the worst" ones, "those who are more inclined towards aggression and who aren't seeking out an escort for general benefits, but more for a twisted way of having control."
"We want to be protected against them, and it's going to be those clients who are left, because we're going to still operate, but underground," he said. "We won't seek out law enforcement, because we'll want to protect our good clients who are still seeking us out."
Durocher said he's also hoping he'll be able to tap into one concern dear to the hearts of Conservative voters, namely, government spending.
"What the Conservative electorate doesn't realize is that actually, it's going to cost them a lot more money," he said, both in law enforcement and possibly a return battle to the Supreme Court.
Bedford, Scott on witness list
After the Commons hearings in July, MPs voted in favour of a government amendment to narrow the initially sweeping ban on "public communications" by sex workers to cover such activities only within the vicinity of schools, playgrounds and daycare centres.
Senators begin Tuesday with a two-hour question-and-answer session with MacKay and senior officials.
Senators will also hear from legal experts, academics and advocacy groups from both the pro-legalization and abolitionist sides of the debate.
Many appeared before MPs in July, including anti-trafficking activist Timea E. Nagy, who was the target of a particularly awkward question from Conservative MP Robert Goguen about her experience while employed in the sex trade.
Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott, two of the three Supreme Court appellants whose legal success triggered the introduction of the bill, are also expected to return. Both have been harshly critical of the move to recriminalize aspects of the sex trade, particularly related to the marketing and purchase of sexual services.
"Bad laws serve us up on a silver platter to sexual predators," Scott told MPs during the last round of hearings.
At least one senator seems to be open to considering that criticism.
Senator concerned bill won't keep sex workers safe
While Independent Senator Jean-Claude Rivest said he hasn't yet read all the briefs submitted in advance of the hearings, he did follow the debate at the House committee.
That left him unconvinced the new law addresses the safety of sex workers, the issue at the heart of the Supreme Court ruling in Bedford.
"I always understood from the Supreme Court decision that the main issue on this matter is the security of the girls or guys who are involved in these sexual activities," he told CBC News.
"I'm concerned that many groups have already said before the House of Commons and the media that the bill will increase the risk and the stress on the security of the people involved.
"I will try to understand if the government is aware that the security of the girls and so on are being threatened," he said. "That's my main concern."
Conservative Senator Denise Batters said she wants to hear what witnesses say about the amendment related to public communication.
"There was quite a bit of focus [on that provision] prior to that happening, with many of the witnesses talking about how it was too broad, and that sort of thing, so I'm anxious to see some of those people who previously had that point of view will react to [the change]," she told CBC News.
"I come from Saskatchewan and have lived all my life here, and almost all my life in Regina, so I certainly see this issue as one where we need this proposed legislation to protect our communities, because women and children and those at risk of being exploited and drawn into prostitution need to be protected from the dangers that are associated with prostitution," including violence, drugs and organized crime, she said.
Batters said the committee could hold additional hearings later this fall. It's not clear whether the Senate committee will look at making further amendments.
Draft list of witnesses for next week's Senate hearings:
- Justice Minister Peter MacKay
- Michèle Audette, president (Native Women’s Association of Canada)
- Teresa Edwards, director of International Affairs and Human Rights (NWAC)
- Robert Hooper, chair, board of directors (Walk With Me Canada)
- Timea E. Nagy, founder and Front-Line Victim care worker (Walk With Me Canada)
- Kim Pate, executive director (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
- Julia Beazley, policy analyst (The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada)
- Suzanne Jay, member (Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution)
- K. Brian McConaghy, director, Ratanak International (As an individual)
- Katrina Pacey, litigation director (Pivot Legal Society)
- Kerry Porth, chair, board of directors (Pivot Legal Society)
- Stephanie Claivaz-Loranger, senior policy analyst (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network)
- Glendene Grant, founder (Mothers Against Trafficking Humans (M.A.T.H ))
- Ed Smith (as an individual)
- Linda Smith (as an individual)
- Witnesses to follow (Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers)
- Casandra Diamond, director (BridgeNorth)
- Anne London-Weinstein, director, board of directors (Criminal Lawyers' Association)
- Leo Russomanno, member and criminal defence counsel (Criminal Lawyers' Association)
- Larissa Crack, founder, director (Northern Women's Connection)
- Natasha Falle, founder (Sextrade 101)
- Cheryl Link, assistant director (Northern Women's Connection)
- Diane Matte, co-ordinator (Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle)
- Bridget Perrier, co-founder, First Nations educator (Sextrade 101)
- Terri-Jean Bedford, respondent/appellant on cross-appeal, Canada v. Bedford (as an individual)
- Janine Benedet, associate professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia (as an individual)
- Frances Mahon, lawyer, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP (as an individual)
- Gwendoline Allison, lawyer, Foy Allison Law Group (as an individual)
- Trisha Baptie, community engagement co-ordinator (EVE (Formerly Exploited Voices now Educating))
- Valerie Scott, legal co-ordinator (Sex Professionals of Canada)
- Georgialee Lang, lawyer (as an individual)
- Megan Walker, executive director (London Abused Women's Centre)
- Other witness to follow (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres)
- Chris Bruckert, professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa (as an individual)
- Keira Smith-Tague, front line anti-violence worker (Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter)
- Lisa Steacy, representative (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres)
- Other witnesses to follow
- Anna-Aude Caouette, spokesperson (Stella, l'Amie de Maimie)
- Nicole Matte, vice-vhair, board of directors (Maggie’s - Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project)
- Jean McDonald, executive director (Maggie's - Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project)
- Other witnesses to follow
- Chris Atchison, research associate, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria (as an individual)
- Maxime Durocher, escort for women (As an individual)
- Konstadia Spooner, representative (Coalition Of Body Rub Parlours of the Greater Toronto Area)