THE BODY POLITIC March 1984, No. 101. Chris Bearchell

p. 9.

The Fraser Committee: Scouting for a consensus — or a cover?

Appointed by Justice Minister Mark MacGuigan last June 23 and chaired by Vancouver lawyer Paul Fraser, the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution has been touring the country since December, trying to determine what, if any, national consensus exists on the two issues.


In the midst of the Toronto hearings in early February. MacGuigan announced an entire package of proposed revisions to the Criminal Code, among them greater controls on pornography and prostitution. The laws governing prostitution will be tightened up by making anyone who offers — in a public place — to buy or sell sex liable to prosecution. Theoretically, this will make prostitutes' customers as culpable as prostitutes. And by defining cars as public places, the law will enable police to lay charges for soliciting or other acts that occur in them.

The obscenity section of the Code will be revised so that any thing, including videotapes, can be obscene, so that there need not be a connection between sex and violence for an offence to occur — violence alone could be enough to convict — and so that the definition of the term "obscenity" is expanded to forbid representing people in a "degrading" manner. The Fraser Committee says it does not expect the proposed revisions to affect its mandate in any way.

So far, discussion at the committee's hearings has centred around the agenda established in their Issues Paper, which discusses options for treatment of the two concerns in the Criminal Code. The paper has been condemned as homophobic and anti-sex by the Toronto gay organization the Right To Privacy Committee in its brief to the committee. "The issue paper makes no distinction between sex and sexism," the brief says. "It is the conflation of these issues which is homophobic because it assumes that the organization of sexual life in Canada is uniform and that in every instance it has a heterosexual patriarchal character."


The Fraser Committee's tour winds up in April and its final report is expected before the end of 1984.