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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:13 am 
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Montreal nixes topless breakfast servers
29 December 2011

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MONTREAL (UPI) -- After 11 years of serving breakfast by topless waitresses in see-through skirts, a restaurant has been ordered by the city of Montreal to require clothing.

The owner of the Restaurant Les Princesses d'Hochelaga, Raynald Morissette, told CTV News he has spent some $200,000 in legal fees since 2004 fighting the city order, but has decided to have the waitresses wear miniskirts and small vests instead.

The city originally argued the restaurant wasn't in an area zoned to "exhibit eroticism," The (Montreal) Gazette reported. In the midst of the legal zoning wrangling, the restaurant's liquor license was revoked in 2008 for serving alcohol without food, although it was restored this year, CTV said.

One waitress who asked not to be identified told the broadcaster since having to cover up, business and tips have fallen off. "Before, when it was topless service, we made more money because there were more customers, especially tourists," she said.

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Canada's prostitution laws struck down
March 27, 2012

TORONTO (UPI) -- The Canadian province of Ontario's Court of Appeal has ruled several elements of federal prostitution laws are unconstitutional.

A five-judge panel issued the ruling Monday in Toronto that will either force the federal government to appeal in the Supreme Court or redraft the existing laws in the Criminal Code, Postmedia News reported.

Prostitution is not illegal in Canada, although almost everything associated with it is, such as pimping and maintaining a brothel, or "bawdy house."

The appeals court deliberated for nine months after a week of testimony based on a challenge by three female sex trade workers. They alleged their constitutional right to safety was breached by prostitution laws that forbid them from working indoors or hiring bodyguards, the news agency said. The ruling technically means brothels are legal in Ontario until laws change or the highest court upholds the existing ones, the report said. While it was a provincial ruling, its effects have national ramifications.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was attending a nuclear policy summit in Seoul and told Postmedia his Conservative government would "examine the decision and decide what the next steps are." "We view prostitution as bad for society, and we view its effects as particularly harmful for our communities and for women, and particularly for vulnerable women," he said. "And so we will continue to oppose prostitution in Canada."

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:50 am 
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Ontario's top court legalizes brothels for safety
by CHARMAINE NORONHA
Monday, March 26, 2012

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Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford holds a whip as she leaves a news conference in Toronto, Monday, March 26, 2012, after the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled a ban on brothels puts prostitutes at risk and is therefore unconstitutional. Photo: The Canadian Press,Colin Perkel / AP

TORONTO (AP) — A ban on brothels puts prostitutes at risk and is unconstitutional, Ontario's top court ruled Monday, in a case that is expected to be appealed to Canada's top court and have ramifications for the country at large.

The Ontario Court of Appeal said sex workers should be allowed to work safely indoors.

"The world in which street prostitutes actually operate is a world of dark streets and barren, isolated, silent places," said the five-judge panel in their ruling. "It is a dangerous world, with always the risk of violence and even death."

The court in Canada's most populous province has given the government a year to rewrite the law if it chooses.

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Terri-Jean Bedford, left, is confronted in Toronto on Monday March 26, 2012 by Christine Barkhouse, right, an advocate for a group called Sex Trade 101, who disapproves the decision of the Ontario's Court of Appeal after the court struck down a ban on brothels, saying a ban on brothels puts prostitutes at risk and is unconstitutional. Photo: The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim / AP

Source: Seattle PI.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:16 am 
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Survey: 6 percent of Canadians prefer Internet to sex
May 9, 2012

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A stationary shop owner works on her computer next to an 'adult store' in Beijing on October 28, 2009. UPI/Stephen Shaver

TORONTO (UPI) -- A national survey of Canadian Internet users published Wednesday indicates 6 percent of them would rather give up regular sex than lose online access.

The Angus Reid survey conducted last month for Rogers Communications asked 1,010 smartphone users what they would be willing to sacrifice to maintain their Internet access. The results showed 34 percent would give up alcohol, 31 percent would go without chocolate and 27 percent would give up coffee rather than lose online access.

Aside from those willing to give up sex, 4 percent of respondents said they would rather give up daily bathing and 4 percent also said they would choose the Internet over personal contact with others, the release said.

Among regular online activities, 98 percent said they stayed in touch with family and friends, 97 percent said they regularly track news, 94 percent used the Internet for banking and financial management and 93 percent said the regularly research health issues and symptoms.

The survey had a 3.1 percent margin of error, the pollster said.

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:59 am 
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Canada museum kills masturbation video after outcry
May 16, 2012

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OTTAWA: Canada's federal science museum has removed an animated video showing youth masturbating from an upcoming sex exhibit following a public outcry.

(Reuters) - Canada's federal science museum has removed an animated video showing youth masturbating from an upcoming sex exhibit following a public outcry, a museum spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Canada Science and Technology Museum will open the "Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition" on Thursday as planned despite strong criticism from Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, who has called it an insult to taxpayers. But the facility has decided to remove the video and raise to 16 from 12 years the minimum age for unaccompanied children to tour the exhibit designed to answer questions youth have about sexuality.

"The museum has received a higher than expected amount of expressions of concerns from the public," spokesman Yves St-Onge said. "We take the feedback of our community seriously, and so we have carefully considered their suggestions, and taken appropriate action that we believe will best serve our audiences."

The show includes life-sized, full-frontal nude photos of males and females at various stages of life, and Canada's Sun newspapers have described a "climax room" showing animations of aroused genitals with a voice of a man describing an orgasm. In the exhibit, clinical sexologist Jamy Ryan discusses anal sex: "If you're comfortable with trying that activity, go ahead and do it. It could be fun for you. But if you're not, you don't really have to do it. It's not an obligation."

Moore spokesman James Maunder said it was clear the exhibit fell outside the museum's mandate of fostering scientific and technological literacy. "This content cannot be defended, and is insulting to taxpayers," he said.

Responding to criticism, St-Onge said: "The exhibition is designed to present information in a scientific, frank and accessible manner, an approach that the Canada Science and Technology Museum supports."

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Xavier Briand)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:08 am 
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Ontario passes pro-gay anti-bullying bill despite opposition from Catholic Church
by Edmund Broch
6 June 2012

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The Bill passed yesterday mandates that students, even in Catholic schools, be allowed to form Gay-Straight Alliances to counter bullying

The Canadian province of Ontario has passed a wide-ranging anti-bullying bill which mandates that students be allowed to form Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, including those run by the Catholic Church.

The state’s legislature passed Bill 13 easily by a 65 to 36 majority, and the Education Minister, Laurel Broten, said that it is expected to become law when students return to school this September.

Premier Dalton McGunity told reporters that this legislation would be accepted in all schools, despite opposition from the Catholic Church and its associated educational institutions. “There are values that transcend any one faith,” Mr McGuinty told Canadian newspapers, adding: “And if you talk to parents, they’ll tell you. They want their kids to be respected and accepted, they want their schools to be caring places, ideally we’d like to see them as a bit of an extension of the home in terms of the comfort level that our kids might enjoy inside their school.”

Ms Broten said that students and families in Catholic schools, as well as teachers working therein, had supported the measure.

However, trustees of Ontario Catholic School had asked provincial politicians not to pass an amendment to the bill which effectively stripped them of the power to prevent students from calling anti-homophobia clubs as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). The Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, said GSAs, as they existed in the US, were in direct conflict with Catholic teaching.

Another organisation, called Campaign Life Coalition, wanted the entire bill to be scrapped, saying it was a backdoor attempt to introduce a controversial sex education programme, and called on Catholics to use their constitutional protection of religious freedom to oppose the bill. Mary Ellen Douglas, spokesperson for the group, said in a statement: “Dalton McGuinty and those MPPs [i.e., Member of Provincial Parliament] who voted in favour of this legislation have declared war against faith communities and made all Canadians vulnerable,” adding, “They’ve now set a precedent which all Canadians should find alarming. The state interference in Catholic and public schools takes away fundamental rights and puts all Canadians at risk.”

The Tory leader Tim Hudak, and other Conservative MPPs all voted against the bill, the Toronto Sun reports, though they say the opposition is not on religious grounds, but that each school should be free to implement its own measures. That is countered by the New Democratic Party, which pushed for the legislation, whose leader, Cheri DiNovo, drew attention to a recent spate of high-profile teen suicides in the province due to homophobic bullying, and to similar incidents in the United States.

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:40 am 
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Canada getting rid of foreign strippers
July 5, 2012

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Last year, Canada's conservative government issued just a dozen new one-year work visas to foreign exotic dancers. UPI File Photo

OTTAWA (UPI) -- The head of Canada's Adult Entertainment Association may challenge a law barring strip clubs, massage parlors and escort services from hiring foreign workers.

The immigration law change announced Wednesday by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is intended to keep foreign workers out of the sex trade in Canada.

Last year, Canada's conservative government issued just a dozen new one-year work visas to foreign exotic dancers, The Globe & Mail reported Thursday. "The government cannot in good conscience continue to admit temporary foreign workers to work in businesses in sectors where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation," Kenney said in a speech in Calgary.

Finley said foreign temporary workers at strip clubs, escort services and massage parlors are at particularly high risk of being exploited and abused. A 2010 Royal Canadian Mounted Police report on human trafficking in Canada found Eastern European escort agencies in Montreal and Toronto were fronts for prostitution rings that lured women to Canada with a promise of a legitimate job.

The Toronto Star said strippers currently working in Canada can continue to work but their permits will not be renewed. An estimated 800 strippers in Canada have temporary work permits and an Immigration Canada spokesperson said 496 visas were issued to exotic dancers between 2006 and 2011.

"What happens to them now … has anyone thought about that," asked Adult Entertainment Association of Canada executive director Tim Lambrinos said Wednesday. He said the change would make life for the strippers more dangerous.

The Globe & Mail said Canada's strip-club industry plans to recruit international students to take the adult entertainment jobs when hundreds of dancers lose their right to work under the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:09 pm 
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Poll: Third of gay and trans Canadians in a same-sex marriage
by Stephen Gray
10 July 2012

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Support for marriage equality was highest among 35-44 year olds

A Canadian poll has suggested that 5 percent of the 34 million people living in Canada identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and that a third of those are in a gay marriage.

The Forum Research poll was commissioned by the National Post and conducted last month. Its 5 percent figure contrasts with the 2 percent found by the government’s official body, Statistics Canada in 2009. The National Post noted that respondents could have been wary of divulging information to the government’s survey.

Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research said: “Social scientists have never been able to pin down how many Canadians are LGBT, but we believe this is the best estimate to date. “This is something people want to know; they’re curious. And now is the time to measure it: people are less reluctant to answer the question, so we can actually ask it.”

10 percent of Canadians aged 18 to 34 identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender compared with only 2 percent of those over 65. The new survey finds widespread support for marriage equality between gay and straight couples, which became legal in Canada in 2005.

The National Post pointed out that lower-income Canadians were less likely to know an LGBT person or a person in a same-sex marriage. They were the least likely group to support same-sex marriage, but the most likely to be LGBT themselves.

Support for marriage equality was lowest in the mid-Canadian provinces and highest in the younger demographics. 68 percent of 18-34 year olds supported equal marriage while 795 percent of 35-44 year olds were in favour. 2 percent of 18-34 year olds said they were in a gay union while only 0.6 percent of 34-44 year olds were.

Politically, Conservatives were the least likely to support the law at 46 percent while Greens at 85 percent were the most likely. Women were more likely to say they were in a gay marriage, to say they had a family member in a gay marriage and to support the law on gay marriages than men. Same-sex marriages were most popular among the youngest and oldest age groups. 2.9 percent of 18-34 year olds and 2.4 percent of over 65s were in a same-sex marriage.

Forum Research used the Interactive Voice Response system to take responses. The IVR machine called 2,694 people at random, asking them yes/no questions they could answer with their telephone keypad.

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:51 pm 
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Canada high court lowers bar for HIV disclosure
5 October 2012

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Canada's Supreme Court decriminalized the non-disclosure of HIV status prior to sex where no realistic possibility of transmitting the potentially deadly virus exists.

AFP - Canada's Supreme Court on Friday decriminalized the non-disclosure of HIV status prior to sex where no realistic possibility of transmitting the potentially deadly virus exists.

The ruling clarifies a 1998 decision that set a threshold for criminality by requiring persons to tell partners of their HIV status before having sex with them or face possible charges of aggravated sexual assault, which carries a maximum life sentence.

In revisiting that decision, the court acknowledged medical advances that make it possible to manage the virus that causes AIDS with greater success. Health advocates argued that the law stigmatizes people living with HIV/AIDS. But prosecutors in two cases from Manitoba and Quebec provinces maintained that not disclosing one's HIV status deprives a partner of the basic right to make an informed decision about a sexual encounter.

"HIV is indisputably serious and life-threatening," the court said. "Although it can be controlled by medication, HIV remains an incurable chronic infection that if untreated, can result in death. Failure to disclose (HIV status) amounts to fraud where the complainant would not have consented had he or she known the accused was HIV-positive, and where sexual contact poses a significant risk of or causes actual serious bodily harm," it said.

However, if a person undergoing antiretroviral therapy has a low viral load at the time of intercourse and uses a condom, the risk of transmission and bodily harm is significantly reduced, it concluded. The justices considered a pair of cases in their decision: acquitting a Quebec woman of aggravated sexual assault for having intercourse while her viral load was undetectable, and restoring the convictions of a Winnipeg man for having sex with four women without a condom and without disclosing his HIV status.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:45 pm 
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Canadian court strikes down anti-prostitution laws
20 December 2013
By CHARMAINE NORONHA

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Terri-Jean Bedford talks to reporters at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa Friday morning, Dec. 20, 2013 after learning Canada's highest court struck down the country's prostitution laws in their entirety in a unanimous 9-0 ruling. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)

TORONTO (AP) -- Canada's highest court struck down the country's anti-prostitution laws Friday, a victory for sex workers who had argued that a ban on brothels and other measures made their profession more dangerous.

The ruling drew criticism from the conservative government and religious leaders.

The court, ruling in a case brought by three women in the sex trade, struck down all three of Canada's prostitution-related laws: bans on keeping a brothel, making a living from prostitution, and street soliciting. The ruling won't take effect immediately, however, because the court gave Parliament a year to respond with new legislation, and said the existing laws would remain in place until then. The decision threw the door open for a wide and complex debate on how Canada should regulate prostitution, which isn't in itself illegal in the country.

Robert Leckey, a law professor at McGill University, said the court found that the law did nothing to increase safety, but suggested in its ruling that more finely tailored rules might pass constitutional scrutiny in the future. "Some of the (current) provisions actually limit sex workers' ability to protect themselves," Leckey said.

The court found that Canada's prostitution laws violated the guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person. For instance, it said the law prohibiting people from making a living from prostitution is too broad. It is intended "to target pimps and the parasitic, exploitative conduct in which they engage," the ruling said. "The law, however, punishes everyone who lives on the avails of prostitution without distinguishing between those who exploit prostitutes and those who could increase the safety and security of prostitutes, for example, legitimate drivers, managers, or bodyguards."

Other countries around the world, particularly in Europe, are having similar debates. Earlier this month, France's lower house of parliament passed a bill that would decriminalize prostitutes and fine their customers. Some argue such laws empower prostitutes against their potential exploiters but others - including some prostitutes - say it only drives their practice further underground and makes it more dangerous.

Sex-trade workers in Canada stepped up their fight for safer working conditions following the serial killings of prostitutes by Robert Pickton in British Columbia. Pickton was convicted in 2007 of killing six women whose remains were found on his farm outside Vancouver. Years earlier, authorities had closed down a Vancouver house for sex workers that many had considered a safe haven just as the disappearance of several prostitutes began raising fears that a serial killer was prowling the streets.

The Supreme Court ruling upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling last year that, among other findings, struck down the ban on brothels on the grounds that it endangered sex workers by forcing them onto the streets. "I am shocked and amazed that sex work and the sex work laws that affect our lives on a daily basis will within a year not cause us harm anymore," said Amy Lebovitch, who brought the case along with Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government was "concerned" by the decision and is "exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable persons." Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing on behalf of the court, said Canada's social landscape has changed since 1990, when the Supreme Court upheld a ban on street solicitation. "These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not," she wrote. "They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not."

Don Hutchinson, vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a religious group that opposes the decriminalization of prostitution, warned that the ruling could lead to increased human trafficking and victimization of people. "I think we're going to see an increase in cross-border traffic for those hoping to access our brothels," Hutchinson said.

The last time Canada's Supreme Court considered the country's prostitution laws was in 1990, when it upheld a ban on street solicitation. The two women then on the high court dissented from the ruling. This time, all six men on the court justices sided with their three female colleagues. "The harms identified by the courts below are grossly disproportionate to the deterrence of community disruption that is the object of the law," McLachlin wrote. "Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes." The Supreme Court appeared to acknowledge the Pickton case in the ruling, saying: "A law that prevents street prostitutes from resorting to a safe haven such as Grandma's House while a suspected serial killer prowls the streets, is a law that has lost sight of its purpose."

Grandma's House was a safe house established to support street workers in Vancouver's drug and violence-riddled Downtown Eastside. Authorities considered the house a brothel and raided and closed it in 2000. The brothel charges were stayed four years later, but by then it was too late. Parliament could ask the Supreme Court for an extension on the effect of the ruling, if it has tabled legislation but can't meet the one-year deadline. The ruling told Parliament it needs to reshape the legal framework around prostitution.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:11 am 
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Canada: Gay theatre group forced to close after homophobic letters and petition
30th January 2014
by Nick Duffy

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The theatre has been forced to close indefinitely.

A gay theatre group has been forced to close its doors in Alberta after local residents sent homophobic letters to their landlord, called the police, and started a petition to get the theatre closed.

Theatre Outré, which “aims to explore the fringes of sexual norms and gender expectations”, had recently moved to a new premises, Bordello, in Lethbridge, Alberta.

The Theatre’s owners, Richie Wilcox, Jay Whitehead and Aaron Collier, said in a statement: “It is with great pain and sadness that Theatre Outré announces the closing of Bordello. “Unfortunately, in the span of just the past few days, ignorant and homophobic neighbouring tenants in the McFarland Building have made it clear in various ways that we are not welcome in their midst. Two hateful, hurtful and defamatory emails were sent to our landlord questioning our integrity based on moral grounds and challenging our co-existing alongside their businesses, including an insurance broker and a music school for children.”

According to the theatre, the issues residents raised include “exposure to homosexual lifestyles, ‘transsexual endorsement’, child molestation, rape, indecent exposure and acquiring STDs from the building’s toilets.” They have also been visited by the police, after complaints made by neighbours.

Dale Reimer, who opposes the theatre, told the Edmonton Sun: “I am not homophobic — I’m rooted in a faith which is Christianity, and to be homophobic would be the wrong approach on my part. To have this theatre situated right next to a children’s music education centre, through an adjoining wall, is not appropriate.”

A neighbour also complained to City Hall that the theatre should be reclassified an ‘adult theatre,’ meaning the venue has to remain closed indefinitely until approved by the city council.

The statement from the theatre group said: “This new definition of our space (which they were previously going to license as a ‘club’ with zero red tape) came about after the Mayor’s Office was notified and city hall employees visited our website. At Theatre Outré, we don’t know what the label ‘adult theatre’ means in respect to the work that we do.”

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 2:58 pm 
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Canada unveils new prostitution law
June 4, 2014

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Canada's attorney general unveiled a law Wednesday that makes it legal to sell sex to individuals but illegal to buy it, after the high court struck down an anti-prostitution law (AFP Photo/David Mcnew)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada's attorney general unveiled a law Wednesday that makes it legal to sell sex to individuals but illegal to buy it, after the high court struck down an anti-prostitution law.

The new law switches the focus of criminal charges from sellers of sex to potential buyers, and prohibits advertising sexual services.

"We're targeting Johns and pimps, those that treat sexual services as a commodity," Justice Minister and Attorney General Peter MacKay. He said the measure will endeavor to protect communities as well as vulnerable people, "and recognizes the inherent dangers associated with prostitution."

Under the law, penalties will range from a $1,000 fine to 14 years in prison. The Supreme Court in December struck down key provisions of the original law that effectively criminalized prostitution, saying that they endangered prostitutes. But the high court stayed its unanimous decision for one year to allow Parliament to consider whether or not to impose other limits on where and how prostitution may be conducted.

The legal challenge was brought by three sex workers who argued that Canada's restrictions on prostitution -- criminalizing keeping a brothel, living off prostitution or soliciting sex in public -- put their safety at risk. The three Toronto women -- Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott -- argued that prohibiting brothels, for example, endangered prostitutes by forcing them to seek customers on street corners.

The law, they said, had also prevented them from taking safety measures such as hiring security guards or screening potential clients in an effort to protect themselves from violence. They called for the right to open brothels to provide a safer environment for prostitutes.

A lower court found the measures, aimed largely at curbing nuisance crimes linked to prostitution, to be "arbitrary, overbroad or grossly disproportionate," and indeed put sex workers at risk. The top court agreed, saying the curbs infringe on prostitutes' "constitutional right to security of the person."

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 3:28 pm 
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A Maple Syrup Mecca for Iran’s Gays
By Nina Strochlic
10 August 2014

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With generous social benefits, a welcoming attitude, and a thriving support community, Toronto has emerged as the unofficial capital for gay Iranian refugees.

When Ali escaped Iran and arrived in Turkey in 2012, he had already decided where he wanted the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to place him. “I told them I’m choosing Canada because I’m going to go to university [and] Canada is cheaper than U.S.; Australia is too far; and in some states in America gay marriage is not allowed and never will be allowed — so I don’t want to go to a country where they don’t give me my rights.”

Ali (not his real name) picked Toronto because he heard it was big and easier to find work. The 27-year-old arrived there at the end of May 2014 and spent 10 days in refugee housing before moving into his own apartment and logging onto Grindr to connect with others in the LGBT community — an ease of networking he never would have in his homeland. Before long, Ali began dating a Syrian man he met via the dating app and they plan to move in together soon.

In the past few years, Toronto has emerged as the mecca of Iranian gays in exile. Hosting both the second-largest Iranian population outside Iran and a reputation as LGBT-friendly, Iranians fleeing persecution in their native country have built a budding community in a city some call “Tehranto.”

Iran, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be gay. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death, and members of the LGBT community go to great lengths to evade police detection. Even arranging a small get-together with a few friends takes precise planning because suspicious gatherings could land attendees in jail with charges of moral corruption and prostitution. An untold number of gay Iranians, like Ali, tire of the harassment, fear and hiding, and leave Iran permanently.

Ali is one of an increasing number of LGBT Iranian refugees who have sought out the Canadian metropolis for a better life, opting not to relocate to the United States due in part to the comparative lack of rights and protections for gay citizens and a dearth of social services.

“All of Toronto is a gay village,” says Arsham Parsi, executive director of the Toronto-based Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR). Like-minded Iranian refugees have been settling down in the center of the city’s scene, in the well-known “gay village” of Church and Wellesley — a downtown area described by an online guide as “world famous for its homo-rific nightlife, inclusive community center and fabulous restaurants.” Many incoming Iranians are already well versed in the neighborhood before landing thanks to a vibrant online community of message boards and recommendations for refugees.

The city is nothing if not proud. This year, Toronto’s city magazine put “Because We’re a Beacon for Gay Refugees” as one of the top 10 reason to love the city. And last year, in a scene that would have given former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an aneurysm, a towering Iranian in a tube top, black skirt, heels, and neon pink wig proudly waved an Iranian flag to guide the group of marchers in Toronto’s gay pride parade. The city even has a gay-friendly mosque.

Its openness has been a point of pride for politicians. In 2012, Canada estimated it was bringing in 100 LGBT Iranians a year (a small sliver of the 5,403 government-sponsored refugees brought in that year). "Canada has indicated to the United Nations that we are ready to accept anyone, if they're a gay Iranian refugee," former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said.

Parsi believes he can trace the origins of Toronto’s growing reputation. When he first arrived in 2006, he only knew two or three others in his predicament. “It wasn’t a sense of community,” he remembers. Already an activist in the Iranian LGBT expat world, the assistance he offered fellow refugees began attracting those filling out applications in Turkey. Now he says, he has helped to bring more than 100 LGBT Iranians to Toronto.

“Now you can start your life,” he tells new arrivals over a welcome lunch of chelo kabab, Iran’s national dish of saffron rice and meat skewers.

Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees operates in the tradition of its 19th century namesake that shepherded African-American slaves to freedom. Since launching in 2008, Parsi says IRQR has assisted nearly 1,000 LGBT Iranian refugees with the process of getting asylum, encouraging them to push for placement in his adopted country.

For refugees who struggle to make ends met with small government stipends, Canada’s socialized health care and public education are a vital safety net. And for LGBT exiles who have long kept their sexuality under wraps, tolerant Canada is seen as better than its southern neighbor to build a new, open life.

“Life for LGBT in Canada is totally different than life for LGBT in the U.S.,” says Parsi. In a PEW poll last year, Canada came in as the third most accepting country in the world for LGBT people, while the U.S. lagged 10 notches below.

When Parsi was applying for refugee status himself, he told the agency of his relatives in Los Angeles, typically a surefire way to be placed there. “I told them I’d never been [to the U.S.], but I’m a gay activist so send me somewhere I can live as LGBT.” They sent him to Canada.

The amount of refugees taken in by the United States dwarfs that of Canada, but case workers and refugees alike are aware that tolerance is higher up north than in the U.S., where battles for gay rights are still bitterly divisive. Same-sex marriage has been federally recognized by Canada, while laws in the U.S. — where many states still ban it — is more volatile.

Earlier this year, as the U.S. debated a number of state laws that would allow businesses to refuse service to patrons based on sexual orientation, exiled Iranians smelled hints of their homeland. “For me, this is unacceptable, this is going back to the past,” an LGBT refugee living in Pennsylvania told The Daily Beast at the time.

Of course, few countries treat homosexuals as poorly as Iran. Just last week, Iran carried out public executions of two “miscreants” for the crime of sodomy. An official local report dubbed them “immoral villains,” and wrote that justice had been carried out in order for people to “feel peace and promotion of security in society.” It’s unclear if sexual orientation was justification for the execution, but Iranian activists say they believe the government is trying to send a warning message.

Filmmaker Rick Flynn remembers hearing a similar story in the news when he was struggling to come out as a gay teenager in the U.S. “It made me think while I’m here worrying about social pressures, gay teenagers in Iran worry about being killed.” Compelled to shed light on their struggles, Flynn has spent the past two years working on a documentary called Golf Alpha Yankee, which follows gay refugees leaving Iran and seeking asylum abroad. He spent months in Turkey following two subjects as they battled a state of limbo in a country that is, while safer than Iran, not welcoming to gays. The movie title is homage to the code one character came up with to describe himself because the word “gay” is too dangerous to use in Iran. The film, which is waiting on the cash flow from a current Kickstarter campaign to finish production, should be released for next spring’s festival season.

Flynn likens the journey of gay Iranians refugees to “eternal purgatory.” First is the trip to Turkey, which easy to get to from Iran with a passport. Then begins the long process of registering with UNHCR in the capital of Ankara, and being assigned to a town where they must remain as their application is processed. Refugees are barred from working, so many find under-the-table jobs that offer little pay and poor conditions. Their biggest fear, though, is becoming targets yet again. Turkey has been criticized for not doing enough to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees, placing them in small villages where their presence is obvious.

“Most people who say they’re gay are accepted and given resettlement,” Flynn says. “From what everyone has told me it’s the quickest way, because the group at the most risk in Turkey are gay people.”

This has created a ripple of distrust within the refugee agencies — because being gay can be advantageous for expedited asylum, there’s a concern that someone may fabricate their sexual status to move ahead. “It’s bizarre, the way they have to prove themselves,” says Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director of the FCJ Refugee Center, which assists with the process from Toronto. “Some [officials] they say, ‘You don’t look gay to me,’ or ‘You don’t look that feminine to me.’ How do you prove you're gay?”

Rico-Martinez says a growing number of LGBT refugees are coming to Canada, but there are still major issues with the process in Turkey, where officials may hold their own prejudices or not have an understanding of LGBT issues. “Basically it’s a roulette,” he says refugees tell him of the interview process. “When you manage to get to someone who says ‘Yes, I understand, welcome,’ you have passed at least nine or 10 people along the way.”

By the time they are assigned a country — either the U.S., Canada, or Australia — and can pick a city, it could be years since when they left Iran. For some, it’s all worth it when their International Organization for Migration plane touches down on the tarmac of an accepting city like Toronto.

Hamed Jabbari, a 31-year-old gay refugee from Tabriz, was immediately impressed with the diversity in Toronto when arrived in mid-July. He surfed the web and pored over articles before settling on Toronto to be his new home because he felt he could live without the fear that followed him in Iran. This was exacerbated by two years in Turkey where he says, “the only option is to live underground and survive.”

He’s sold on Toronto: spending the weekends with other gay Iranians in the gay village district, going to coffee shops and restaurants, and says he’s “100 percent” ready to recommend the city to friends waiting in Turkey. “I am so happy because it was my dream to be somewhere no one bothered me and cared ... how I live, and I think I can get that life and freedom in Toronto,” he says.

But, even in a city like Toronto that boasts a bevy of support groups specifically for LGBT refugees — everything from grassroots to government-funded to church-hosted — building a life from scratch is grueling. Iranians struggle to find steady employment and battle loneliness, thousands of miles from their friends and family with little hope of ever being able to return. Now Jabbari is eager to get involved with the community of LGBT Iranians, and pitch in for the people still in the uncertain situation he endured.

But for some, even the struggles of resettlement aren’t enough to draw them into the LGBT community in their new city.

A number of incoming gay Iranians want nothing to do with their fellow countrymen and reminders of the society they fled from. Whereas other refugee groups stick together, LGBT individuals sometimes isolate themselves with distrust and paranoia, says Ariel Shidlo, a psychologist specializing in LGBT refugee mental health. With Iranians in particular, he says, there is “a lot with strong internalized homophobia and a lot of other psychological issues that create barriers from reaching out and really accessing the community resources.”

Both of the central characters of Flynn’s documentary, Golf Alpha Yankee, say they have chosen to have no contact with other gay refugees.

“I've had so much trouble with Iranian gay people gossiping, being judgmental, fooling around with my life. … As a gay refugee from Iran, I already have so many things going on on my mind. I don't want to struggle with those things too,” one of them, Reza (not his real name), writes in an email. “There are many gay Iranians here in Toronto. I just don't like the way they are living. They restrict themselves to just the iranian [sic] community, and not the rest of toronto. [sic] For me, it's important to forget that painful time in my life. I have goals. I have to move on. And like some other people too, it's easier for me to do that with a new life, with new people, without other Iranian gays.”

Ali has also eschewed the Iranian LGBT population and instead has a group of LGBT refugee friends from other countries. After Turkey, where the culture of gay Iranians was toxic, he says he promised himself he would never make friends with the community in Canada. “I’m homophobic about homosexuals, I’m really scared of them. I don’t know why,” he says, and then asks, “You know when you have really bad experience with some people you just want to stay away from them?”

But Ali’s newfound freedom is making him bold in his personal life. He recently came out to his sister, who told him it was she loved him no matter what. Now he’s looking forward to moving into an apartment with his new romantic interest and no fear of draconian punishment that haunted him Iran.

Meanwhile, Jabbari is waiting for his boyfriend, whom he met during his last months in Turkey, to finish the refugee process and join him. It could still be more than a year before he’s cleared to come, but Jabbari is already planning a life together for them in Toronto. “Of course I want us to live together,” he says. “And, who knows, maybe we’ll get married.”

Source: The Daily Beast.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:02 pm 
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Gay Canadians still face an inequality which may surprise you
11th August 2014
by Joseph Patrick McCormick

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The Commonwealth Games drew attention to human rights violations against LGBT people in many member nations, but it may surprise you to know that Canada, known for having taken steps forward for LGBT equality, still discriminates against its gay citizens.

In Canada, the federal age of consent is 16, for anal intercourse outside of marriage, the age of consent is 18.

Canada also criminalises anal intercourse if more than two people are present, unlike other forms of sexual activity where no such restriction applies. The law affects couples both straight and gay, however indirectly discriminates against same-sex couples, as a gay male couple cannot have vaginal sex.

Jonathan Cooper, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, a legal organisation which fights for fundamental human rights around the world, told PinkNews: “It’s extraordinary that a country so committed in principle to equality still maintains on its statute books an unequal age of consent – a law that criminalises gay men. Canada should be a country we can all look to for global leadership on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and therefore all its laws must reflect its own Charter of Rights and Constitution, which protects against discrimination and enshrines equality for all citizens. Equality works. Societies that are premised on equality are stronger, richer and happier. As a priority, Canada should remove this egregious anomaly that sends out a message that gay men in Canada are less equal than everyone else.”

The unequal age of consent law has been deemed unconstitutional by five provincial courts. These decisions, however, are only binding in those provinces. The Federal Parliament has failed to repeal the relevant statutory provisions despite these decisions. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec all declared the unequal age of consent to be unconstitutional. Despite that technically, the federal age of consent for anal sex is 16 for married couples, in the provinces where there is an unequal age of consent, it is not possible to marry until the age of 18. The age of consent was raised from 14 to 16 back in 2006. Same-sex marriage was introduced in Canada in 2005.

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2015 10:25 pm 
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Topless protest in Canada urges women to 'bare with us'
August 1, 2015

WATERLOO, Ontario (AP) -- Dozens of topless women - and men - attended a "Bare With Us" rally Saturday meant to educate the public about women's right to go shirtless if they choose.

The rally and march were organized by three sisters who were stopped by a police officer for biking topless a week ago. Local media reports said people were waving banners and wearing body paint with messages including "everyone has the right to NOT be harassed" and "Bare With Us! They're just boobs!"

Musician Alysha Brilla said she and her sisters were not wearing shirts while cycling in Kitchener, Ontario, on July 24 when a male police officer drove up beside them and told them to cover up because it is the law. Brilla said she told the officer he was wrong and that when she started filming the interaction on her cellphone, the officer said he had only wanted to check if the women had proper bells and lights on their bicycles.

Ontario women have had the right to go topless in public since 1996. A similar incident in June garnered headlines after an 8-year-old was told by city staff in Guelph, Ontario, to cover up while she was in a wading pool wearing only a swim bottom.

Source: AP

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