Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A very rights filled day

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending two events with a strong focus on human rights. First I went to a speech by the Hon. Chris Bentley, Attorney General of Ontario, who discussed Ontario's legacy of protecting human rights, and the need to defend them against what he called (paraphrasing) "trends of the day", a thinly veiled shot at Tim Hudak's plan to endanger the rights of citizens. Bentley drew on the stories of such Ontario heroes as Hugh Burnett and other civil rights leaders who peacefully used the justice system to advance the cause of human rights in Ontario. Bentley drew a line between those who opposed Burnett's cause at the time and those who suggest scraping the human rights protections in Ontario. While openly stating that of course the human rights protection system in Ontario could be better, Bentley said it did important work, and that the rhetoric of those who would remove it, which is largely based around the idea that "nuisance" claims are brought toward the HRT's, is quite similar to those who opposed Burnett because he was, after all, challenging the status quo and creating a "nuisance". Bentley lamented the PC's drift towards challenging the position of human rights in Ontario, pointing out that it was PC Party, particularly under Leslie Frost, which implimented many groundbreaking rights laws and served as an ally to Burnett. Bentley also made a legalistic criticism of the Hudak's plan (without ever mentioning his name) to shovel everything into the court system, saying that in addition to HRT's having "specialist knowledge", and that it would solve nothing, as "nuisance" cases would still exist, before the courts, and would totally drown out real cases of discrimination and human rights abuses. Bentley challenged those who condemn the HRT's to "come clean" with why they really were opposed to the HRT's. Overall an interesting speech.

The second event I went to was a fascinating short-film festival focused on sex workers (most of the movies were made by, and starred sex workers). The films, and the discussion after, seeked to bust many of the myths around sex work, and in particular, the portrayal of sex work in the media. Many active and former sex workers gave commentary. The films and discussion shared many common points: sex work should be de-criminalized and treated as any normal form of work (a position I fully agree with, and I will be proud to vote for a sex work decriminalization policy being put forward by my good friend Lindsay Czitron at the upcoming OYL Summer Fling) as well as delivering pro-sex feminist positions on how sex work can be empowering for the workers involved, and that many anti-sex work laws are violations of human rights. It was an extremely enlightening event.

No comments: