Conservative MP apologizes after asking NDP MP whether she's 'considered' sex work

A Conservative MP has apologized after he asked an NDP MP whether she's considered sex work as part of a debate in the House of Commons about the Parole Board of Canada.

Arnold Viersen said he did not mean to question Laurel Collins' reputation

Conservative MP Arnold Viersen apologized after asking a New Democrat MP whether she'd ever "considered" sex work. (House of Commons video screengrab)

A Conservative MP has apologized for asking an NDP MP whether she's "considered" sex work during a debate in the House of Commons about the Parole Board of Canada.

Earlier today, the members were debating a Conservative motion asking the House to "condemn the decision of the Parole Board of Canada that led to a young woman's death by an inmate during day parole in January of this year."

Questions are being asked about the federal parole system in the wake of the death of Marylène Levesque, who allegedly was killed by a convicted murderer out on day parole.

Levesque was a sex worker, according to Radio-Canada sources. Her alleged killer, Eustachio Gallese, had been allowed to meet women "only for the purpose of responding to [his] sexual needs," since he was granted day parole in March 2019, according to parole board documents.

Watch: Viersen asks NDP MP if she's 'considered' sex work

Viersen asks NDP MP if she has 'considered' sex work

3 years ago
Duration 2:06
Alberta Conservative Arnold Viersen was debating his party's Opposition day motion Tuesday afternoon

Both the federal Correctional Service agency and the Parole Board of Canada are investigating the factors involved in Levesque's death in a hotel room in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy last month.

After Arnold Viersen addressed the House, B.C. NDP MP Laurel Collins asked the Alberta MP to consider listening to the voices of sex workers.

"Sex workers are saying that sex work is work," she said.

"I would respond to that by asking the honourable member across the way if it is an area of work that she has considered" said Viersen, trailing off as other MPs heckle him and one member yells "shame."

"Mr. Speaker, I think this makes the point. I do not think any woman in this country chooses this job. This is something that they are trafficked into. This is something that we have to work hard to end in Canada."

NDP MP Jack Harris then rose in the house on a point of order, calling out Viersen's language.

"I think that that's insulting and unparliamentary, notwithstanding the fact that the honourable member recognized that the sex workers, who are in great danger in this country, are in fact workers," he said.

Viersen, who represents Peace River-Westlock, said he did not mean to question Collin's reputation.

'So wrong and so hurtful:' Singh

"What I do want to say is the very fact that I must tread delicately on makes my point, I think, about the nature of the prostitution," he said.

After the Speaker rose to warn MPs to control their language and avoid "provoking disorder," Viersen apologized.

"I would like to apologize unreservedly for my comments towards the member for Victoria," he said.

Collins tweeted that she was "glad" Viersen apologized — then asked him to extend that apology to all women.

"Denigrating sex work [and] criminalizing the very things that would keep sex workers safe contribute to increased violence," she tweeted.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the discussions should have been about the safety and security of sex workers.

"Given the horrible and heinous murder of a sex worker so recently, to make light of something like that shows a massive lack of judgment," he said after question period on Tuesday.

"On top of that, to apply that same misogyny to a colleague, it's just so wrong and so hurtful."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?