The Conservative MP for Peace River–Westlock, Arnold Viersen, has issued an apology to Laurel Collins, New Democrat MP for Victoria, for comments he made in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Collins had been advocating for the safety of sex workers during Opposition Day.
“I would ask the Honourable member to consider listening to the voices of sex workers. Sex workers are saying that sex work is work,” said Collins in her statement.
“I also ask the Honourable member if he considers the Harper government’s decision to implement Bill 36, which criminalized the work environments, the establishments, that sex workers go to feel safe.”
The bill received Royal Assent in 2014, and despite the objective to protect sex workers, it criminalized measures in place to allow them to conduct work safely.
“It criminalizes [sex workers’] ability to hire security if he acknowledges that this is a factor in this death and many others,” said Collins.
Collins also referred to the brutal murder of Marylene Levesque, a sex worker who was allegedly killed by a 51-year-old convicted killer in a Quebec City hotel on January 22, 2020.
Viersen responded by asking Collins a question that was met with uproar from the House.
“I would respond to that by asking the Honourable member if it’s an area of work that she has considered,” said Viersen.
“I don’t think any woman in this country ever chooses this as a job. This is something they are trafficked into,” he went on to say.
Viersen later tweeted that he issued an apology in the House to Collins for the comments he made during the debate, but he did not apologize for the comments towards sex workers.
Collins responded by inviting him to extend the apology to all women.
I’m glad @ArnoldViersen apologized to me, but I invite him to extend his apology to all women. Denigrating sex work & criminalizing the very things that would keep sex workers safe contribute to increased violence. #SexWorkIsWork https://t.co/rTMExXdoy4
— Laurel Collins (@Laurel_BC) February 4, 2020
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced in the House last week that he hopes for justice to be brought to Levesque through an investigation into her death.
“A criminal investigation into the incident will be conducted independently by the Quebec Police Service, and the Chair of the parole board and the Commissioner of Corrections will conduct an extensive review,” to look at all of the circumstances that lead to her murder, said Blair.
Watch the full video of the exchange between Vierson and Collins below:
Completely inappropriate comment, Mr. Viersen. pic.twitter.com/MgOHLJpa7b
— Jeff Jedras (@jeffjedras) February 4, 2020