NDP supporters demand Canada’s progressive party be accountable to women

Three white men decide the fate of marginalized women across Canada. (The Liberals’ Bill Morneau, the Greens’ Chris Tolley, and the NDP’s Craig Scott. Image/Jonathan Goldsbie/Now Toronto)

Open Letter to the Federal New Democratic Party

Dear NDP Candidates:

We are writing to you as feminists, progressives, and longtime supporters of the NDP. We are deeply disappointed to learn that Craig Scott, the NDP incumbent in Toronto-Danforth, recently stated that, if elected, the NDP plans to repeal Bill C-36, Canada’s new prostitution legislation. We are surprised to hear the NDP has taken a position on this considering a number of NDP MPs/candidates have outlined their support for Bill C-36. This was particularly shocking as Thomas Mulcair recently called for a national strategy on men’s violence against women with a commitment to support and work with women’s shelters and anti-violence organizations. Repealing Bill C-36 is at odds with any commitment to ending violence against women.

Bill C-36 was created after broad consultation and input from survivors of prostitution, experts, advocates, front line workers, members of the police services, and women’s organizations working with prostituted women and girls. There was overwhelming support for legislation that punished those who exploited and abused women (pimps and sex buyers) while ensuring prostituted women would be supported and not criminalized. The legislation was created specifically to address systems of power that subjugate women based on sex, race, and class in Canada. The language in Bill C-36 was explicit in saying that prostitution is an industry that targets marginalized women and named the perpetrators as men. As longtime feminists and progressives, we supported Bill C-36 and the new laws passed last year. As people invested in the creation of an equitable society, free from violence, we are firm in our opposition to the sex industry and in support of the women and girls who are exploited and abused within it. We want prostituted women to have access to the services and supports they need to make real choices in their lives.

This new legislation makes it very clear: Canada, as a nation, will not accept the purchasing of women’s bodies for sex. Women and girls are not commodities to be bought and sold. Canadian women deserve more choices for survival than prostitution. They deserve to be able to survive and thrive without having to turn to the sex industry. This is a progressive position. This is a position that supports women’s human rights. This is a position that supports equality. This is a position we expect progressive parties — parties that claim to care about and value Canadian women — to support.

We are longtime supporters of the NDP, but will not be voting for a party that wants Canada to be a country that accepts the exploitation of women by men who purchase sex. We want to see a party that is willing to support a true version of the Nordic Model in Canada, complete with vast social supports and exit strategies. We want to see sufficient funding for exiting services and we want to see police services respect the new laws and crack down on johns, accordingly. We had hoped our progressive representatives would take a leadership role on this rather than reject such a groundbreaking, well-informed law. Does Canada want to be seen as a leader on the issue of women’s rights? Or as a failure? If the NDP is really serious about ending men’s violence against women, it must take a stand against the sex industry.

We are aware there is disagreement within the party on the legislation. We are also aware the NDP membership has not debated or voted on the legislation because it was pulled from the convention floor in 2013.

In 2006, Irene Mathyssen, in her role as women’s critic for the NDP, co-chaired the multi-party Status of Women committee on trafficking in persons. The committee tabled its report, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada (2007) which recognized prostitution as men’s violence against women and linked prostitution with sex trafficking due to the demand of men to exploit women and girls. The committee recommended decriminalizing prostituted women and criminalizing those responsible for the exploitation of women and girls — sex buyers and pimps. We are therefore shocked that in light of the above, an elected NDP MP has taken it upon himself to define the position of the party.

We find ourselves at an impasse this election. We are unwilling to cast a ballot for a party that supports the commodification of women’s bodies, but also want to continue to be able to support Canada’s progressive party. Show us women matter to the NDP. We ask that you let us know — clearly and publicly — where the NDP stands on the issue of exploitation, men’s violence against women and specifically Bill C-36. Can we count on you to support the rights of all women to live free from sexual exploitation?

Many thanks,


Aneliese Fragoso, Vancouver, BC

Betty Qi, Stouffville ON

Bob Belyea, Queensville, NS

Brian Cross, Vancouver,  BC

Caitlin Donnelly, Vancouver, BC.

Celia Nord, Lee Creek, BC

Cherry Smiley, Montreal, QC

Chris McDowell, Vancouver, BC

Colleen Glynn, Richmond, BC

Courtney Belyea U.E., Fall River, NS

D. Klaric, Toronto, ON

Dawn Kuehn, Kelowna, BC

Debbie Hickey, Meaford, ON

Diana Boston, Vancouver, BC

Drena McCormack, Powell River, BC

Dr. Erin Graham, Vancouver, BC

Dr. Michael Markwick, Vancouver, BC

Drena McCormack, Powell River, BC

Dwight Denton, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Elaine Grisé, Montreal, QC

Elizabeth Pickett, Whitby, ON

Elizabeth Sheehy, Ottawa, ON

Emily Monaghan, Vancouver BC

Fawn Sewell, Edmonton, AB

Fraser Needham, Saskatoon, SK

Gabrielle Trudelle, Guelph, ON

Georgina Fiddler, Edmonton, AB

Grace Bowers, Edmonton, AB

Graham Doll, Port Coquitlam, BC

Hayley McPhail, Halifax, NS

Heather Black, Toronto, ON

Jean Charles Bernard, Strathroy, Ontario

Jennifer White, London, ON

Jindi Mehat, Vancouver, BC

Johanna te Boekhorst, Chilliwack, BC

Johanne Heppell, Plaisance, QC

Karrie Payne Calgary, AB

Keri Patterson, London, ON

Krista Sawchuk, London, ON

Kyle Farquharson, Vancouver, BC

Kylee Nixon, Edmonton, AB

Laura Miles, Coquitlam, BC

Leah Harwood, Toronto, ON

Lisa Steacy, Vancouver, BC

Lynette Bondarchuk, Edmonton, AB

Madeleine Andrews, Vancouver, BC

Margaret McCarroll, London, Ontario

Marie Michaud, Vaudreuil, QC

Martin Dufresne, Montreal, QC

Marv Wheale, Vancouver, BC

Mary Fowles, Vancouver, BC

Mary-Lee Bouma, Vancouver, BC

Megan Babb, Denman Island, BC

Megan Walker, London, ON

Meghan Murphy, Vancouver, BC

Melena Pelly, Antigonish, NS

Morgan Westcott, Vancouver, BC

Natasha Falle, London, ON

Orla Hegarty, St. Vincent’s, NL

Paula Schmidt, Vernon, BC

Rachel Goodine, Victoria, BC

Rachel Regina, Haliburton, ON

Rachel Rose Anthony, Vancouver, BC

Reece Sellin, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Rhonda Epp, Edmonton, AB

Rob Langford, Montreal, QC

Rosemary Fisher-Lang, Vancouver, BC

Samantha Grey, Vancouver BC

Sara Hall, Bracebridge, ON

Sarah M. Mah, Vancouver, BC

Shelly Belyea, Fall River, NS

Sher Morris, Vernon, BC

Shirley Gillett, Toronto ON

Stephen Moss, Fredericton, NB

Steven McSween, Mount Uniacke, NS

Susan Boyd, Vancouver, BC

Susan Smyth, Vancouver, BC

Tamara Gorin, Port Coquitlam, BC

Thora Broughton, Ottawa, ON

Tom Gallos, Vancouver, BC

Tracey Houston, Montreal, QC

Trish Oliver, Toronto, ON

Trisha Baptie, Vancouver, BC

Trisha Wilson-Singer, Mississauga, ON

Vanessa Fraser, Guelph, ON

Virginia Howard, Mississippi Mills, ON

Winnie Small, Sarnia, ON

Yolande Clark, Queenstown, NB

Zoe Blunt, Victoria, B.C.


To sign on to this letter, please send your full name, city, and province to info[at]feministcurrent[dot]com

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.