The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is one of Canada’s National Aboriginal organizations and is generally viewed as the national voice representing Aboriginal women in Canada. It spoke on the recent Canadian court ruling:
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is disappointed with the Ontario Court of Appeal Decision, which declared the Criminal Code provision restricting “common bawdy houses” unconstitutional. This means that johns cannot be criminalized if found purchasing sex in a brothel. The court also found that “living on the avails” of prostitution should apply only in “circumstances of exploitation” which, of course, is difficult to prove and may put Aboriginal women in prostitution at continued risk.
The communication laws have been upheld, which means that there would be no separation between buyers and sellers. Prostituted women working the street can still be criminalized just like the men. “This aspect of the decision is quite disappointing”, says President Jeannette Corbiere Lavell of the Native Women’s Association. She stated, “Aboriginal women in prostitution should not be viewed in the same way as the buyer.” NWAC’s position has been to protect and support Aboriginal women. However, by legalizing brothels, women in prostitution can be hurt. Legalizing brothels and escort services will only help to empower traffickers/pimps and continue to put women at risk of violence, while making it more difficult to exit, or report any harm they experience.
Any measure that denies an already vulnerable person the opportunity to protect herself from serious physical violence, including assault, rape and murder, involves a grave infringement of that individual’s security of the person. If women are criminalized for communication they are not able to call on the state/police to protect them from male violence. These are the very factors that NWAC is concerned about. Women’s safety should a priority and a right, but unfortunately, the Court has just denied those in the industry that right. The case will inevitably be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and a final decision will not likely be made for at least a year, if not longer. The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nations, Métis and Canadian societies. NWAC is an aggregate of thirteen native women’s organizations from across Canada and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974.
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