A Conservative MP sparked controversy Monday after he clumsily asked a former sex worker about her rape by three men, seemingly to prove a political point.
The House of Commons justice committee is meeting all week to debate the Harper government's proposed prostitution legislation, which some sex workers argue could make their jobs more unsafe.
Former and current sex workers have been invited to express their views about Bill C-36, including Timea Nagy, a victim of human trafficking and founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services.
At one point Nagy, who supports the Tories' legislation, recounted being "raped for about an hour by three different men" at a massage parlour, CBC News reports.
The conversation later shifted to the constitutionality of the bill. Some sex workers believe Bill C-36 would limit their freedom of expression by making it illegal to communicate for the purpose of prostitution and prohibiting the advertisement of sexual services of others.
Some have suggested the bill violates section 2 (b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the fundamental freedom of "thought, belief, opinion and expression."
And seemingly out of the blue, Tory MP Robert Goguen asked Nagy if she would have felt her freedom of expression was infringed upon if police had rescued her during her horrific rape.
She didn't understand the question.
Watch the full exchange in the video below:
"You were describing a scenario where you were being raped, I believe, by three Russians," Goguen said.
"Let's suppose the police authorities would have broken in and rescued you. Would your freedom of expression have been in any way breached?"
"I don’t understand the question," Nagy replied, after a lengthy pause.
"What I'm saying is, you weren't freely expressing yourself by being raped by three men," he said. "If you were rescued, you wouldn't feel that your rights were violated. You don't get it. Okay."
"My answer is no," she replied, after another witness explained the question.
A few people in attendance took to Twitter to weigh in on the bizarre exchange.
Goguen asks Nagy whether her freedom of expression was compromised while she was being raped because holy crap what the hell. #c36— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) July 7, 2014
Goguen was trying to respond to the idea to a possible 2b Charter challenge and...wow. That was stupid.— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) July 7, 2014
I'm finding these Goguin questions to a former sex worker about her rape very uncomfortable. Using someone's rape to prove a political point— Lauren DH (@roseneath_rd) July 7, 2014
But many more expressed outrage once footage of the exchange was released later in the afternoon.
The phrase "new low" is used far too much in politics, but it applies perfectly to Goguen. Disgusting. He should apologize. Or resign.— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) July 7, 2014
Pretty sure there are some rape crisis centres that'd offer Goguen a course in how not to callously politicize a person's rape— Lauren DH (@roseneath_rd) July 7, 2014
"Hi. I'm Robert Goguen. I'm from the government. I'm here to ask you terrible questions about rape." #cdnpoli— R. Mowat (@robinmowat) July 7, 2014
Oy, Robert Goguen's question was remarkably stupid... http://t.co/hKorZypTaq— Jacob Roth (@jacobdroth) July 7, 2014
Justice Minister Peter MacKay told the committee earlier in the day he fully expects the bill will be challenged at the Supreme Court.
"As sure as night follows day, there will be challenges when new bills are presented," he said. "So we believe that the likelihood that it will be challenged is very real."
Yet, MacKay has hinted he is open to amending the legislation.
What do you think of Goguen's remarks? Tell us in the comments.
With files from The Canadian Press
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