A New Low: MP Goguen's Rape Joke
This week the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee is examining bill C-36 - the Conservatives' prostitution legislation.
In December 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada - in the case of Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford - found many of Canada’s prostitution laws unconstitutional.
The old laws violated the constitutionally protected right to life, liberty and security of the person.
As I wrote last month the new legislation ignores the constitutional warnings expressed by the Supreme Court in Bedford - lipstick on a pig.
Yesterday Leo Russomanno and Anne London-Weinstein testified before the committee on bill C-36 on behalf of the Criminal Lawyers' Association - they were not supportive of the new bill:
The above analysis highlights serious constitutional concerns with respect to C-36. The changes in the legislation, namely, the criminalization of johns as well as the inflated legislative intent, amounts to window dressing. The effects of C-36 will be similar to those of its predecessor. Sex-workers will continue to be driven underground, away from public view and into the alleys and shadows, where they will face the same grave risks of violence as before. For this very reason, it is our position that the legislation deprives sex-workers of security of the person in an arbitrary and grossly disproportionate fashion, and the ban on communicating in public represents a violation of core freedom of expression which cannot be saved under s. 1.
Russomanno and London-Weinstein's full brief can be found over at the Third Branch site.
The testimony - from both legal experts and sex workers - was quite compelling.
Then my jaw dropped.
Conservative MP Robert Goguen - in response to Russomanno's argument that the bill could violate Charter guarantees of freedom of expression - asked a victim of a gang rape if she was "freely expressing yourself by being raped by three men".
Goguen can then be heard laughing.
In an excellent editorial in today's Globe and Mail Emmett Macfarlane (beating me to the punch) asks if that was this the most offensive question ever asked by an MP?
Offensive may be the most polite characterization of Goguen's straw man question.
It was simply the most disgusting thing that I have witnessed at a committee hearing.
Goguen is free to blindly toe the Conservative ideological line, he can ignore evidence, he can minimize the importance of Charter rights - in fact he frequently does all of these things - but surely there should be some line of decency and intellectual honesty.
That line is clearly in Goguen's rear view mirror.
In discussing the Charter Goduen did not engage in a debate with Russomanno - the legal expert. He instead chose - however hamfistedly - to score a cheap political point through a rape victim.
If Goguen has even a shred of decency he would resign from the committee.
If the Conservative Party was serious about eliminating re-victimization they would demand his resignation - or does the government think Goguen's comments appropriate?
It is a sad day when this is the level of intellectual rigor the Conservative bring to the table when examining important constitutional issues.
Bottom line - no amount of lip stick can justify Goguen's question.