London, Ontario city council candidate Paul Pesach Gray just published a blog post in support of Bill C-36 that is aimed at suppressing prostitution by targeting “johns and pimps.” That isn’t particularly newsworthy, but it became relevant to me when he decided to quote me (out of context) and attack me as “un-compassionate and short-sighted.”
Let’s read what Mr. Gray wrote.
According to sex trade activist and opponent of Bill C-36 Emi Koyama, in War on Terror & War on Trafficking:
Many more (sex trade workers) cannot get or keep other jobs because of mental health issues, addictions, criminal record, immigration status, or discrimination (and a severe lack of social resources to help them with these issues).
Basically, what Koyama is saying is that prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from mental health issues, addiction, discrimination (which must be proven on a case by case basis) and people who might stand to be deported from Canada, or at the very least must clarify their immigration status but haven’t done so for reasons unknown.
Why doesn’t Ms. Koyama and others who share her opinion put more energy into improving the social resources which they say are lacking so severely? Why defer to the “soft bigotry of low expectations”?
First of all, he is wrong to describe me as an “opponent of Bill C-36.” I have not taken a position on the bill at all, as I am not familiar with the Canadian situation and do not want to speak over our Canadian friends that the law would impact, though I am aware that many Canadian progressives, (intersectional) feminists, and sex worker activists and allies oppose the bill. Mr. Gray needs to dialogue with members of Canadian society who oppose the bill, rather than quoting an American who has not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 (until now, that is).
Mr. Gray summarizes my quote as “prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from” various social and economic circumstances that diminish their ability to find other sources of income. The quote comes from a blog post which was later included in the booklet he mentions.
Here is the concluding paragraph of the blog post/article:
In short, “end demand” campaign is harmful to women because it diminishes their bargaining power, forcing them to do more for less money, with more dangerous johns, under less safe environments. We cannot criminalise our way out of the current situation; we must address social and economic concerns with solutions that aim at achieving social and economic justice. We can begin to do so by funding affordable housing, childcare, treatment programs on-demand (instead of many months’ wait list), and education and job training programs, instead of more jail beds or police cars or some “class” for the johns to take.
I think it is clear that I am in fact arguing that we must “put more energy into improving the social resources which they are lacking so severely,” as Mr. Gray says, rather than merely accepting the status quo, as Mr. Gray alleges.
Even after (supposedly) reading my article, however, Mr. Gray does not respond to my argument that “end demand” strategy is harmful to women; he simply ignores my main argument, or the fact that I have not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 until now, and quotes me out of context to paint opponents of Bill C-36 as “un-compassionate and short-sighted,” when in reality he is the one promoting un-compassionate and short-sighted approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.
I don’t know much about Canadian politics, but this kind of intellectual dishonesty (more than any political disagreements) would put me off as a voter if he were running for an office in my city.
I received the following email from Mr. Gray’s campaign manager.
Dear Emi Koyama:
Paul is sincerely sorry for mischaracterizing your work and important message.
He is currently in the processes of removing your name from the post and is putting together a public statement of apology to you.
Basically, Paul had received the information he posted to the web from this source: http://www.themanitoban.com/2014/07/bill-c-36-endangers-sex-workers/20149/
In the future, Paul plans to do further research and even contact those he quotes.
Again, Paul is sorry and will publish the public apology/retraction by the end of today.
Sent from my iPhone
Brian Moskowitz: Campaign Manager
Ward 4 City Council Candidate:
Paul Pesach Gray
Thank you, Mr. Gray, for acknowledging the mistake. So it appears that Mr. Gray saw my quote second-hand in a University of Manitoba student newspaper, and did not do further research to find out the context (and assumed the worst).
Given that, I realize now that calling Mr. Gray’s writing “intellectual dishonesty” was a bit too harsh. However, it was intellectually lazy for sure, and I appreciate his retraction.
Mr. Gray issued a public apology over his mischaracterisation of my work. Thank you for your prompt response!
Meanwhile, a pro-criminalization activist insists that it was okay for Mr. Gray to defame me because I “align with the ‘sex work’ lobby,” whatever that is.