Timea Nagy, an advocate for women forced into prostitution, says she wasn't offended by a Conservative MP's questions at a committee meeting Monday, when he compared her gang rape to the importance of freedom of expression.
Nagy, who told MPs on the House justice committee about her experience being trafficked into prostitution, said Wednesday that Conservative MP Robert Goguen's question was awkward, but that she's faced much harder questions in the past.
Liberal justice critic Sean Casey, however, said Goguen should be taken off the justice committee and removed as parliamentary secretary to the justice minister for the line of questioning.
Goguen didn't respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday and his office didn't respond to a voicemail left on Wednesday. Reached at the committee room, he refused to be interviewed by CBC News.
The committee is studying the government's proposed prostitution legislation, bill C-36.
On Monday, Goguen tried to focus Nagy on statements made by another witness who criticized the bill. A spokesman for the Criminal Lawyers Association had said he was concerned the draft law doesn't comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Goguen referred Nagy, who supports C-36, to her previous testimony about being trafficked and gang raped at a massage parlour.
"You were describing a scenario where you were being raped, I believe, by three Russians. Let's suppose the police authorities would have broken in and rescued you. Would your freedom of expression have been breached?" Goguen asked Nagy.
Nagy told reporters Wednesday that she expected the questions to be tough.
"I've been speaking on my personal experience for the last four years and I knew that I'm going to become a witness in the House of Commons, which I believe is a political setting, so I was fully aware that politicians will be asking me questions about the legislation," she said.
"Mr. Goguen is being accused of politicizing this issue for his own agenda and my comment to that is that I signed up to be a witness on a very tough topic.... Unfortunately, while we are out there trying to make Mr. Goguen [out to be] this absolutely insensitive human being, I would like to just point out that I have been asked way worse questions and I've been revictimized way worse by the media and by other MP leaders in the past."
Casey said Nagy's understanding doesn't diminish the importance of Goguen's comments.
"His comments were nothing short of appalling," he said Wednesday.
"It's a blight on us as parliamentarians. It reflects very badly on him. I think the fact that two days have passed without any sort of an admonishment, any sort of action from the minister, or the prime minister or Mr. Goguen himself, makes it worse."
Goguen tried to apologize privately
Casey said Goguen should have apologized right away for using a horrifying situation to score political points.
"This reflects very badly on the minister [Justice Minister Peter MacKay], it reflects very badly, very badly on the government, and honestly I think it reflects very badly on us as committee members, to treat witnesses like that," Casey said.
"There need to be serious sanctions taken and removal as parliamentary secretary. Removal from the committee are at a minimum what should be done, separate and apart from a heartfelt, genuine apology, which is going to be pretty hard to make 48 hours later."
Robert Hooper, who appeared at the committee with Nagy on behalf of her organization, Walk With Me Canada Victim Services, said he, Nagy and Goguen had a conference call on Tuesday where Goguen started to apologize. But Hooper said Nagy stopped Goguen because she didn't feel an apology was necessary.
Nagy said freedom of expression is irrelevant where people are forced into prostitution.
"The very state of being forced into prostitution means one's most basic freedoms are completely stripped away," she said.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Goguen remains a member of the committee.
"Ms. Nagy supports C-36 and we call on the opposition to do the same. Following her testimony, Ms. Nagy continues to support the bill," Jason MacDonald said in an email to CBC News.
Lauren Dobson-Hughes, president of Planned Parenthood Ottawa and a former NDP staffer, was one of the people who initially reacted on Twitter to Goguen's questions.
She said it's important that Nagy is comfortable with the question, since "as a survivor, she's the person who comes first."
For others, their gut reaction was that it was a troubling question, she said.
"I thought her bravery coming in front of committee to tell the world what she experienced was courageous, and more courage than I would have. But I also think that other people have gut reactions and we just differ," she said.
"The awkwardness of trying to make a quick political point ... to poke at a previous witness" seemed to be what bothered people, Dobson-Hughes said.
"The MP's approach to a rape survivor is not how I would ever approach a rape survivor as a [Planned Parenthood] counsellor and it's not how I would ever expect our staff or volunteers to talk to a rape survivor."