Terri-Jean Bedford kicked out of prostitution bill hearing
Sex worker who won Supreme Court challenge claims to know of federal politicians who use prostitutes
Retired dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford was escorted by security out of a Senate committee meeting after refusing to heed the chair's warning that her allotted speaking time had run out — but not before threatening to make politicians "forget about Mike Duffy."
The woman who won a Supreme Court challenge to Canada's prostitution laws told committee members that the government's proposal to criminalize buyers of sex would "make Canada the laughingstock of the world."
And she issued a veiled threat.
"If this law passes, I'm going to make you guys forget about (suspended senator) Mike Duffy. Because I got more information and proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at. I promise."
Bedford was invited along with other witnesses to share her thoughts on the Conservative government's response to last spring's landmark Supreme Court decision.
But, less than halfway through a question and answer portion, Bedford was admonished by Senator Bob Runciman, the committee chair, for exceeding her allotted time for a response and she responded angrily.
"You've given lots of other people lots of time. I have 30 years of your abusive laws, so I should be allowed at least an extra five minutes to talk about it."
"You pet everybody else on the back, but when you know I've got a bombshell to deliver you want to try to avoid me at all costs," Bedford said.
When Bedford tried again to make a point about the costs of her legal battle, Runciman adjourned the meeting and security escorted her out.
Outside East Block, surrounded by reporters, she reiterated her opposition to the government's proposed prostitution bill rewrite.
"They're on the attack against strong, independent women who can think for themselves," she said.
Asked whether she knew of any current MPs or senators who use sex workers, Bedford said, "What do you think?"
"I'm not going to answer any more stupid questions."
Bedford later issued a statement in which she apologized for losing her temper.
"I was barely able to read my speech because I was so angry at the government for parading victims with repeated irrelevant information and then organizations who were shilling for government handouts on which they are dependent," she said.
"The shameful use of victims by the government in this process, and their disregard for life by ignoring court findings, refusing to listen to their own legal staff and refusing to answer questions from legitimate sources made me snap."
She added that she's already heard that some people "are sympathetic to the points that I made," and even her outburst.
"The truth will win out," she concluded.
'Fundamentally flawed bill'
Bedford, one of the three applicants behind the legal challenge that brought down Canada's prostitution laws last December, was testifying before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on Wednesday afternoon.
Her co-appellant, Valerie Scott, also appeared before the committee on Wednesday, although not as part of the same witness panel. Scott is the legal co-ordinator for Sex Professionals of Canada.
Although Scott and Amy Lebovitch, who was also part of the challenge, testified before the House justice committee in July, Bedford did not.
She did, however, follow those hearings closely, according to her blog, and predicts that the proposed law will ultimately fail in court, even after it was amended to narrow the ban on public communications to cover only areas in the vicinity of schoolyards, daycares and playgrounds.
"Changes to or removal of clauses from a fundamentally flawed bill are irrelevant," she wrote in July.
"It is flawed in its intent. It will be flawed in its implementation. It is flawed as to whether it is itself legal or constitutional. It is flawed in that it will make things worse for women. Its passage will be a victory for human traffickers and organized crime."
Another court challenge could take years
It could take up to a decade to get a final Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the government's prostitution bill, according to criminal defence lawyer Graeme Hamilton.
Hamilton was one of several lawyers to testify before the Senate committee Wednesday morning.
He pointed out that the Bedford case required 25,000 pages of evidence, and predicted that it could take several years to collect a similar dossier to challenge the new law, if passed.
The estimate came during an exchange with Liberal Senator George Baker, who also quizzed justice officials about the constitutionality of the bill.
Senators heard from a panel of former sex workers turned anti-prostitution activists, several of whom shared their personal stories of what, by their accounts, amounted to under-age sex slavery.
Although strongly supportive of the bill, the "survivors," as they call themselves, have also called for further amendments to remove all provisions that would criminalize sex workers themselves.
The hearings are scheduled to wrap up on Thursday afternoon.
The bill is currently awaiting final House approval, and is expected to be officially referred to the Senate later this fall.
The full list of witnesses scheduled to testify on Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Canada v. Bedford) on Wednesday:
- Casandra Diamond, Director (BridgeNorth)
- Graeme Hamilton, Representative (Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers)
- Leo Russomanno, Member and Criminal Defence Counsel (Criminal Lawyers' Association)
- Megan Walker, Executive Director (London Abused Women's Centre)
- Nana Yanful, Representative (Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers)
- Larissa Crack, Founder, Director (Northern Women's Connection)
- Natasha Falle, Founder (Sextrade 101)
- Cheryl Link, Assistant Director (Northern Women's Connection)
- Diane Matte, Coordinator (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 Coordinator (EVE (Formerly Exploited Voices now Educating))
- Georgialee Lang, Lawyer (As an individual)
- Valerie Scott, Legal Coordinator (Sex Professionals of Canada)