Madame deSade

front book cover Terri-Jean Bedford is one of Canada's most notorious citizens—but few know her under that name. As Madame de Sade, however, she is Canada's most famous dominatrix, a well-known public figure. These are her long-awaited memoirs.

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October 6, 2010

It has been just over a week since the Canadian judicial decision striking down our laws restricting prostitution, a legal occupation. I am one of the three plaintiffs. The proceedings lasted almost 3 years, with thousands of pages of evidence, many weeks of closed testimony from dozens of experts and 9 days of public argument. The 131 page decision took the judge almost a year to prepare. But the federal government announced an appeal within hours of its release.

Politics, not prostitution, is the world's oldest profession. It was in all probability the Prime Minister, without even having the time to read the decision, who decided to appeal it. His justice minister is a transient name and face between cabinet shuffles. His party never draws a breath unless he signs off first. It must have been the Prime Ministers decision.

The appeal process may take years. If the government wins each appeal, prostitution will remain legal yet the law will criminalize those who are involved. The Prime Minister will have preserved a status quo that nobody understands, few obey, that is rewarding organized crime, that responds to stiffer penalties with more recruits and that puts the vulnerable at risk. All this while he has a comprehensive constitutional judicial ruling as proof that the laws need to change. I am not even talking about which direction that change should take. I am simply talking about Parliament finally getting around to making decisions.

The people want Parliament to act. If the status quo remains intact, Canada will become a laughing stock. The polls on this that I have read or heard reports about generally indicate that 75% of the people asked approved of the judges decision. The rest are split between not approving and having no position. Almost everyone dislikes the status quo, whatever their views on prostitution. Some charges have already been dropped.

I have also read and listened very carefully to the views of those who were opposed to the judges action in striking down the laws. To me it seemed that few of those people have read the decision. And if they did read it they failed to tell their readers or listeners that every objection to striking the laws that we have heard these last days received a detailed analysis in the decision. The judge explained why the current laws are wrong no matter what your values or your views on prostitution.

The judge relied on proof. The government legal team, despite their vast budget, did not have the evidence that the laws were constitutional. Professor Young and his team of students and experts had the evidence that the laws were unconstitutional. I think that we all understand that the word unconstitutional is a code-word for wrong.

Those who think that a judge should not have been the one to decide the issue of whether the laws are constitutional should remember that the Prime Minister has just enlisted more judges via appeal. He had the alternative of not doing so and instead taking his position before Parliament and the people. I am not as concerned about what the specifics of his position may turn out to be, as I am about his willingness to keep things the way they are - even as an interim measure. That is bad government.

Terri-Jean Bedford
2010.09.28 - Historic Court Case

Canada's prostitution laws were struck down in Ontario on September 28, 2010. In a 131 page decision the judge said, "I declare that the bawdy-house provision, the living on the avails of prostitution provision, and the communication provision... are unconstitutional... and to strike the word 'prostitution' from the definition of 'common bawdy-house'". The judge also said that the laws, "... are not in accord with the principals of fundamental justice and must be struck down".

For almost three years two other plaintiffs and I have been in proceedings in court in a constitutional challenge to the present prostitution and bawdy-house legislation. There were dozens of expert witnesses during many weeks of sittings behind closed doors. It is seen as a landmark Canadian case. Canadian law professor Alan Young, one of the finest Canadians and lawyers alive, mounted this massive court battle with the assistance of his team of dedicated law students.

The public part of the trial, covering about 9 days, was held late in 2009. This was open to the public and was widely covered by the media. Judge Susan Himel spent a year on the decision. It was released September 28, 2010. The government, before even having time to read the decision, announced that they would appeal. The existing laws, under the decision, were to remain intact for 30 days, but we agreed to another 30 days as a courtesy. The government went to court on November 22 to seek an extension of the stay. The court agreed to an extension until April 29, with the intention that the appeal be expedited. So where we stand on December 4, 2010, is that the prostitution laws fall on April 29, 2011 if the government does not succeed at appeal by that date or if no appeal is heard. It is possible that other motions will be heard before April 29.


Holding her riding crop high, Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford hails her historic court victory striking down key provisions of Canada's prostitution laws.

" It's like emancipation day for sex-trade workers "

Case Background

Terri-Jean Bedford is Madame de Sade, the Bondage Bungalow DominatrixI am a plaintiff in a court test of Canada's bawdy-house laws. This law suit against the Federal Government has been proceeding for almost three years. The decision was released on September 28th, 2010. Professor Alan Young, a very prominent Canadian lawyer and Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall York University, heads the legal team for the three plaintiffs. The case was heard by Judge Susan Himel of the Ontario superior Court.

It is not unlawful to work as a prostitute, yet the accompanying criminal prohibitions make it virtually impossible to pursue this lawful trade in a safe and secure environment. The court action challenged some sections of the Criminal Code: Sections 210 (bawdy house), Section 212 (1)(j) (living on the avails) and Section 213(1)(c) (communication for the purpose).

The bawdy house prohibition denies the sex-trade worker a safe haven for pursuing this lawful trade and the living on the avails provision prevents the sex-trade worker from hiring the services of a manager, driver, bodyguard, etc. We are all aware of the many prostitutes who have been murdered or have disappeared in recent years throughout Canada.

The Safety Argument was brought under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was argued that the law is too arbitrary since the harms to society caused by the law distinctly outweigh benefits to society gained by the law. We presented many witnesses and other evidence to support this argument. It is often referred to as the "Safe Haven Initiative". Court case details about the Safe Haven Initiative can be found by clicking here.

The present constitutional challenge is unique from a technical legal perspective in a number of ways, including the two following facts. Previously no empirical evidence concerning the operation of these laws was introduced into court. Secondly, the laws were previously challenged on the basis of economic liberty, vagueness and freedom of expression.

Since the previous decisions the Supreme Court of Canada has not been apprised of numerous studies commissioned by the Federal Department of Justice in 1987, and the Report of the Federal/Provincial Working Group on Prostitution in 1998. These studies documented the ineffectiveness of the current laws in achieving their stated purpose and suggest that the Supreme Court may have ruled differently in the past if this evidence had been available.

Overturning the law will allow sex-trade workers to come off the streets and operate safely from private property under the full protection of the law. It will end this discrimination against women.

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bondage bungalow hotel head mistress madame desade
Canada's anti-prostitution laws, Criminal code provisions
Canadian constitutional rights and freedoms, constitutional challenge and appeal
adult sex industry, professional sex workers, safety, dignity, respect
© 2012 Terri-Jean Bedford, Toronto Canada