Prostitutes suffer with ‘sinister’ law, says Osgoode prof

The streets are not safe for prostitutes, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 7. Yet the streets are where Canada’s laws force them to work. While prostitution is legal in this country, nearly everything surrounding the activity is criminalized, particularly where the service can be provided: Not indoors, not in one’s home and not under a roof shared with a spouse, partner or bodyguard, any of whom can be charged with living off the avails.

That catch-22 is at the heart of a constitutional challenge which finally opened Tuesday before Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel, and largely on the efforts of students from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

“The law is contributing to lack of safety and the harm women face,” said Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “The laws today operate as a sinister contradiction.”

Young is arguing the motion on behalf of his client, notorious – and endlessly waggish – Toronto dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford.

At issue are sections dealing with keeping a bawdy house, living off the avails and communicating for the purpose of prostitution, all of which is forbidden.

“Is it a vice? Is it a virtue?” Young mused, as he launched into oratory that, in this venue, often sounds like a filibuster. “The applicants don’t even call into question Parliament’s right to criminalize prostitution. We’re questioning how they’ve done it.

“This is not a challenge about morality. That’s not relevant for the purposes of this hearing. Our challenge relates to the means chosen to achieve an objective.”

“I’m here representing the intelligent, independent and well-informed sex worker,” said Young.

  • Women who have worked the risky sex trade have launched a constitutional challenge against Canada’s prostitution laws, arguing that decriminalizing some elements will make it safer for them to work, despite opposition from the federal and Ontario government alongside Christian and women’s rights groups, wrote the National Post Oct. 7.

“This case is not about a constitutional right to be a prostitute,” said Alan Young, who is representing the women, in his opening remarks to Justice Susan Himel, of the Superior Court of Ontario, yesterday in Toronto. It is about depriving them of security and liberty, he said.

Young, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor who has headed a volunteer project to improve working conditions of sex trade workers, called the laws a “sinister contradiction” since they were designed to get women off the streets, while criminally charging them if they conduct their business indoors.

“We’re not here to argue whether there should be prostitution or not. We’re saying, it’s here, it’s legal and the government cannot put people in harm’s way through their laws,” he said. “We know people have gone missing, in Vancouver, in Winnipeg, in Calgary. There are hundreds of them. And so it’s a sinister contradiction to tell people you can’t move inside when that may be the only place where you can protect yourself from a predator.”

  • Under the current laws, prostitution itself is not illegal, reported CBC News on “The National” Oct. 6. They just outlaw everything surrounding the sex trade. Communicating with potential customers outside on the street is against the law but so is dealing with a customer inside a home. Law professor Alan Young is arguing the constitutional challenge.

"You can’t tell people get off the street and not move inside. That’s a contradiction right there," said Young.

  • Young also spoke about the case on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Oct. 6 and mention of his role in the case was made on Global TV and Sun Television’s A Channel Oct. 6.

Blame your brain for fat gain

Lately, overeating has been blamed on everything from our interactions with friends and family to our genes to an evolutionary glitch, wrote Maclean’s in a story about new research that says fat goes to our brains in its Oct. 12 issue. “On every level you can find contributors,” says Caroline Davis, an obesity expert, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, and researcher for the University Health Network in Toronto. “And I don’t think one is more important than the other.” There is even a push to have compulsive overeating recognized as a brain disorder like drug addiction, wrote Maclean’s.

There may be another, historical explanation for why we overeat, says Davis: it’s programmed inside us. As “humans we evolved to eat beyond our caloric needs because we have always been uncertain of our food resources – they’ve been intermittent or seasonal,” she explains. What’s more, we evolved to prefer sugar because it signalled to us that a plant, for example, wasn’t poisonous, says Davis. In other words, we may eat more than we need, especially sugar, because we haven’t yet shed these ancient survival mechanisms.

There is a growing appreciation for just how hard it is not to overeat, says Davis. She and a colleague published a review of the science on compulsive overeating in the May issue of the journal Appetite, and recommended it be considered an addiction disorder similar to substance dependence. She says there is “compelling” evidence in animals that sugar is addictive, and that “it works on our brain in a very similar way that the opiates do, like heroin or morphine.” Basically, our reward pathways are activated, and that gives us a boost, which is pleasurable.

“If it’s not a disorder, then it doesn’t have to be treated,” says Davis. “But I think most would agree that compulsive eating, because of its high correlation with obesity, is not a desirable state.”

Hockey took her from Port Elgin to York

Since the summer of 1997, quite a few girls have been through the Saugeen Maitland Lightnings hockey system, wrote Port Elgin’s Shoreline Beacon Oct. 6. The teams decided to try to find out where some of the girls continued with their hockey skills and the list is as follows:

From the Saugeen Maitland Midget AA team of 2005-2006: Shalena Dale – York University Lions (2006-2007).

On air

  • The launch of York University’s Safe Speech poster campaign was reported on 680News Radio Oct. 6.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics and astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about NASA’s latest mission to the moon on CTV News Oct. 6.