two Days in June
Are our laws on prostitution and
It was an unusual day. On the steps of the Supreme Court were two groups, mostly women with banners and plac- ards. One group wore blue T-shirts, the other wore red.
One group decried the victimization of women and
youth in prostitution. Canada should prosecute the johns
and the pimps instead, they lamented.
The other group’s red T-shirts were emblazoned with the
word “whore” (using a familiar Coke-style font). Canada’s
laws on prostitution are outdated, they lamented – it’s none of
the government’s business if someone wants to be a “whore.”
Presenters from all sides reminded us prostitution isn’t
illegal in Canada, although many activities associated with
it are. Clearly Parliament’s aim in the past was to restrict
prostitution. The questions asked that day were: Do current
laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms Are they
causing more harm than good?
Some, like those in the red shirts, see the laws as constraints, as chains inhibiting their freedom to make money
by selling sex.
Others, like those in blue (and the EFC), say we need
laws to protect the vulnerable. Studies suggest 90 per cent
of prostitutes would prefer to do something else but feel
trapped. They would not be better protected if Canada were
to decriminalize prostitution-related activities.
Such a step would be regressive, not progressive. In the
trajectory of recent history in the West – from the abolition of slavery to the development of employment laws to
universal condemnation of human trafficking – each stage
involved rejecting practices that subjugate and exploit.
Selling sex should not be an industry, sex should not be
commercialized and people commodified, and youth and
women should not be exploited.
The day before the hearing, the Government of Quebec
Together for influence, impact and identity
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
Evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the EFC has provided a
national forum for Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical
principles in life and society. Visit us at www.theEFC.ca.
announced it plans to permit euthanasia in limited circumstances. It contends euthanasia is a form of medical
treatment – hence a provincial and not a federal matter
– and the Criminal Code sanctions on euthanasia should
not apply to medical treatment.
Historically Canadian laws have drawn a bright line affirming it’s wrong to kill another person. This is consistent
with the sixth commandment. Tracing back to the Hippocratic oath, medicine is committed to “do no harm,” and
our healthcare system defaults to the preservation of life,
not the hastening of death.
Groups representing people with disabilities are particularly wary of attempts to amend the laws. They see legalization as a direct threat.
In the early 1990s the EFC intervened along with the
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to argue our laws
on euthanasia affirm the sanctity of human life. And the
Supreme Court of Canada agreed.
Yet a growing number of people today see laws against
physician-assisted death and euthanasia as chains that limit
their freedom to die as they wish.
Psalm 2 has a verse that now leaps off the page for me:
“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
Usually such language in Scripture refers to the liberation offered by the gospel. But in Psalm 2 the “chains and shackles”
refer to the decrees of God the kings want to break. They
seek freedom in rejecting God’s law.
Are our laws restricting euthanasia and prostitution
shackles on our freedom? Or are they good news to the
vulnerable who would otherwise be exploited?
Relief from bondage or oppression is not found in the
absence of law, but in good laws. Years ago the Law Reform
Commission of Canada wrote, “In truth the Criminal law is
a moral system. It may be crude, it may have its faults, it may
be rough and ready, but basically is it a system of applied
morality and justice” (Report No. 3, 1976, p. 16).
These issues are emotionally charged because they drive
to the foundational principles that sustain our “system of
applied morality and justice.” These issues raise profound
questions about how life is to be valued and stewarded, what
it means to uphold or violate the dignity of others, and when
we agree to limit our freedom for the well-being of others.
The debates ahead will be vigorous. We should not shun
them, but engage with wisdom and respect so we all will come
to understand the comfort and security of good laws. Ft
BRuCE J. ClEMEngER is president of The Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. read more of his columns
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