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A police-patrolled brothel

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By striking down all laws that limited the practice of prostitution in Canada, this week, Judge Susan Himel, of the Ontario Superior Court, was doing what all our liberal judges believe themselves to have both right and duty to do. Rather than decide cases on the basis of existing law, they imagine their job is to override and rewrite that law, on the basis of what feels most “politically correct” to them. Parliament is then expected to rubber-stamp their decisions, in the name of “democracy.”

The growth of this judicial tyranny has been well documented in Rory Leishman’s book, Against Judicial Activism: The Decline of Freedom and Democracy in Canada (McGill-Queen’s, 2006). I cannot condense such a book into a paragraph, and so I refer my reader to that narrative, with its notes and references, for the full background. Suffice to say, we are now in Year 29 of Canada’s “post-constitutional” regime, dating from a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which stealthily overthrew our previous legislative and judicial order.

(Leishman himself, an intelligent and reasonable writer, and an extremely thorough researcher, consistently willing to chapter-and-verse every factual assertion, was a columnist of long standing in The London Free Press. He quit two weeks ago in protest over “politically correct” editorial censorship, in a case that should have drawn the attention and alarm of journalists right across Canada.)

In the case of prostitution, a Gordian knot of considerable complexity was cut, with three hacks of the judicial scimitar. For as supporters of the decision are eager to remind, prostitution itself (receiving money for sex) has never been, in the strictest technical sense, against the law in Canada—or almost anywhere else, for that matter. On the other hand, almost everything visibly associated with the trade was illegal.

Behind this curious arrangement was many centuries of a kind of wisdom that children of the last two generations have been educated out of appreciating. Our ancestors knew that prostitution was wrong, but reasoned that no law could be framed against it that would not drip with unintended consequences. Practically, they grasped that prostitution is the nexus of the underground, libertine, “wild side” culture that will exist in any metropolis, a little beyond the reach of the law. Only a puritanical and totalitarian regime could hope to stamp it out entirely; and it would certainly not succeed.

The “red light district,” that would spontaneously appear within any growing town (and has done, since time out of mind), provided an important valve, releasing the pressures that accumulate in polite or, if you will, “bourgeois society.” It was a place where a certain sort of person could go, to take a holiday from respectability: the urban “wild west.” Traditionally, police would not hesitate to bust a brothel, or arrest a soliciting hooker, outside the red light district. The laws against “lewd conduct” gave them all the power they needed in the “decent” neighbourhoods.

But if such things were happening inside the red light district, they looked the other way. What happened in there was out of sight and mind to respectable society. They did not go in there except for the most urgent and irresistible reasons, and then only “after the fact.”

The flip side of this will be apparent. The young man, or young woman, or any others who went into the district, were putting themselves beyond police protection. He knew exactly what he was doing; and so did she. A citizen might have a “right” to police protection, but inside the red light district, that right was waived. This arrangement was already overthrown by previous revisions of the laws surrounding prostitution. On the (unspoken) feminist principle that women can do no wrong, and men can do no right, they were revised to give the police an active role in arresting pimps, protectors, and johns, while effectively “enshrining” the woman’s right to practise as a “sex worker.” And such laws as those against operating a common bawdy house were anyway thrown into confusion, as the lines between red light districts and respectable society were “progressively” erased.

There are many dimensions of this, including the gradual redefinition of “free speech,” so that it is now understood to protect pornography and solicitation, but not necessarily political or religious debate. In so many other supporting ways, the traditional moral order has been turned “progressively” upside down, through the campaigns of various ideological activists.

The reasoning behind Judge Himel’s ruling on Tuesday was typical. The feminists having effectively enshrined a woman’s (or by extension, anyone’s) right to be a prostitute in the constellation of Charter-guaranteed prerogatives, we are now obliged to provide comprehensive police protection for this activity. And not only in putative red light districts, but everywhere. This makes our whole country into a police-patrolled brothel.

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