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NWAC deeply concerned with Supreme Court Ruling on Bedford v. Canada

(Ottawa, ON) – Today, the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down Canada’s criminal laws against prostitution with respect to keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and street soliciting. The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is very disappointed with the decision as it fails to protect Aboriginal women and girls who are among the most vulnerable population in Canada.

NWAC intervened in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott as part of the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution.  The Women’s Coalition supports the Nordic Model of prostitution policy which uses public education to discourage prostitution; criminalizes pimping and purchase of sex; and provides real alternatives to prostitution for women. 

As part of the ruling, the Government of Canada has one year in which to respond with new legislation. NWAC hopes to participate in the discussion to ensure that the concerns and needs of Aboriginal women and girls in prostitution and trafficking are heard.

Aboriginal women are grossly overrepresented in prostitution and among the women who have been murdered in prostitution. It is not helpful to divide women in prostitution into those who “choose” and those who are “forced” into prostitution.  In most cases, Aboriginal women are recruited for prostitution as girls and/or feel they have no other option due to poverty and abuse.  It is the sex industry that encourages women to view prostitution as their chosen identity. 

With the legalization of prostitution, NWAC fears that Canada will become a key destination country for traffickers and pimps, and there will be a huge increase in the rates of sexual exploitation and sexualized violence among Aboriginal women and girls. NWAC President, Michèle Audette stated that “NWAC’s position is that prostitution exploits and increases the inequality of Aboriginal women and girls on the basis of their gender, race, age, disability and poverty.”  

The state has pushed Aboriginal women from one institution to another – residential schools, foster homes, group homes, and prisons, to name a few. NWAC refuses to accept brothels as the new official institution for Aboriginal women and girls and we refuse to accept that prostitution is the solution to addressing women’s poverty.

NWAC President, Michèle Audette stated “NWAC will continue to support and fight for the abolition of prostitution because our goal is to see the State use all measures necessary to provide for the basic needs, uphold human rights for all, and protect Aboriginal women and girls from male violence.” 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.

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 Nation, Métis and Canadian societies. As a national organization representing Aboriginal women since 1974, NWAC’s mandate is to achieve equality for all Aboriginal women in Canada.

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