'He would never have asked this question to a man': Victoria MP responds to controversial remark
VICTORIA -- Victoria MP Laurel Collins says that it was "shocking and infuriating" when Conservative MP Arnold Viersen asked her if she had ever considered sex work as an occupation during a House of Commons debate Tuesday.
The debate began following a Conservative motion that called for the House to review the parole board nomination process.
The decision in question was the 2019 parole release of Eustachio Gallese, 51, who was serving 15 years in prison for the murder of his wife in 2004. Last week, while on parole, he was arrested for the murder of a 22-year-old sex worker, Marylene Levesque, in Quebec.
During the debate, Collins suggested that it was important to listen to the voices of sex workers when discussing legislation about the industry, especially when it comes to personal safety.
"I was saying that we need to listen to the voices of the people who are impacted by violence and sexism and misogyny," Collins told CTV News Vancouver Island. "When it comes to sex work legislation, we need to listen to the voices of sex workers."
Before making an apology in the House of Commons, Viersen explained that he did not believe "any woman in this country" chose to become a sex worker, and that prostitution was an "inherently dangerous" trade that the government should work to eliminate.
Former Victoria city councillor Collins says that the language that Viersen used about sex workers goes against the government's goal to create a safe environment for all Canadian women.
"When people make denigrating comments about sex workers, when they encourage legislation that criminalizes things that create safety for sex workers, this kind of language, these kinds of comments contribute to the violence and the misogyny that exists in our society," she says.
"It was shocking and infuriating to hear the comments made by the member across the way."
Rachel Phillips, executive director of PEERS Victoria, a non-profit resource society for sex workers on the island, also disagrees with the Conservative MP’s views on the industry.
“I feel sorry for him,” she said. “It’s old school and not informed and he is a man making a comment about what it means to be a woman in the sex industry.”
“He should sit down with someone in the sex industry and then he would have a better understanding about what is going on.”
Soon after the debate, Viersen apologized to Collins.
"I'd like to apologize unreservedly for my comments towards the member from Victoria," he said.
Collins says that she appreciates the apology and hopes that the recent debate will draw attention to the issue.
"I hope that we don’t see any more of these kinds of comments and I hope that members across party lines will work together to have policies that fight the sexism, misogyny and violence against women that exist," she says. "If there is some small piece that brings attention to this issue then I’m glad people are paying attention."
"He would never have asked this question to a man and we need to do everything in our power to end violence against women."