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Julia Beazley: Protecting People in Person and in Policy

Julia Beazley, Director of Public Policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, tells the story of the survivors, church communities, and policy makers who advocated to instate Bill C-36 into law. Chris and Julia also talk about the responsibility to stop treating people in vulnerable circumstances like the problem and address the systemic problems that make people vulnerable. 

The following is a transcript of Season 4 Episode 2 of the Do Justice podcast.  It has been lightly edited for clarity.  Listen and subscribe on your favourite listening app.  

Chris: Well Hello friends and welcome to another episode of Do Justice. I'm your host Chris Orme, and it's my privilege to be here today, with our new friend, my new friend: Julia Beazley. Julia is the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's Director of Public Policy. Now she's been with the EFC since 1999 working mainly on issues of domestic and global poverty, homelessness, and more recently all forms of sexual exploitation, including prostitution, pornography, and human trafficking. A lot of the advocacy work that Julia has been involved with culminated in the passing of Bill C-36. We're going to talk more about that.Welcome, Julia, thanks for joining us today. 

Julia: Great to be here. 

Chris: I'm excited for this conversation. I'm looking forward to learning a lot, but before we dive into what is going to be potentially, you know, these are going to be some heavy conversations, or at least some heavy subject matter. So it's probably on us to say you know there could be some triggering stories. There could be some triggering content in this episode. And so that's just for you to be aware of as our listeners.

But before we dive into that, tell us: how did you get into this work? How did you start engaging in advocacy? And tell us a little bit more about who you are, like what kind of a person gets into this stuff?

Julia: It probably says something about my personality that I always panic when someone says “Who are you? Tell me about yourself.” And so as you said in the intro I've been with the EFC since about 1999. I first started as an administrative research role. At the time it wasn't really my plan to stay. I had finished an undergraduate degree in biology and psych and was trying to figure out what was next. And so I was fairly certain that I was going to continue in biology, but I had started working—through the church I attended at the time—I’d started working with youth and older adults who are homeless.

And that just kind of turned everything upside down. And developing relationships with and kind of learning to journey alongside folks who were experiencing homelessness really changed me.

And I say it ignited a new passion in me that didn't involve wolves or whales or bats—though you should know I remain very passionate about those things—but this was a new passion for justice. And I had also, in that time, really come to value the EFC.

There was this careful, thoughtful constructive voice, and I really appreciated the way they engaged and communicated. So around that time, our president said he wanted to figure out how the EFC could engage more intentionally on issues of poverty and homelessness. How could we work to bring deeper reflection around how we think and speak about these issues within the Evangelical community? How can we better support the ministries that are doing the work? And that kind of sealed it. So, here I am. Almost 23 years later. And while those issues don't get kind of the sharp focus I would like these days—it's just a capacity thing—there is a real through line from poverty and homelessness, issues of sexual exploitation.

So people who are experiencing poverty or homelessness, young people who are in government care, who are aging out of care but have nowhere to go, are very very vulnerable to exploitation.And of course, you know what we often hear called “survival sex” is pretty common for people experiencing homelessness. So, while the EFC itself has a long history of concern for those who are exploited when it comes to my own involvement, it was all these interconnections: poverty and homelessness which sort of lead to trafficking, which led to prostitution which led to pornography. And those kind of interconnected issues have really shaped my work over the years.

Chris: Yeah. Wow. Well, was there a time or an incident or an event or a person—I mean it  could be anything— was there like a light bulb moment for you? Maybe it was like a Holy Spirit/light bulb/something external. Something happened where you're like “okay, I'm dedicating my life to this.” Can you pinpoint that moment or was it a series of moments?

Julia: you know in my role I get to work on all kinds of issues, but but these this sort of bucket of issues of sexual exploitation is really kind of my passion and the place that I really like to spend my time. I think it was sort of a progression. So we had started to engage on the issue of trafficking. Around the time the Olympics happened out West, because it was just something that was coming on people's radar. They were starting to understand what it was. And so we started to work on that. And of course, it's not hard to become passionate about fighting trafficking.

But when our when that court challenge happened of our old prostitution laws, we started to really work more intentionally on the issue of prostitution, and I guess really dig into it and really start to look at these different kinds of sexual exploitation, how they're interconnected, what they look like what drives them, reallystarted to grow that passion in me. And and I think probably the most influential thing was that as we sort of did that work and started our own advocacy and engagement, we started to partner with survivors.

And, their impact, their stories and experiences, their voices, really shaped and informs how we talk about these issues, how we approach them, how we understand them. So I think probably there's sort of this progression of deepening interest and awareness and passion, but really I think it is that experience of getting to learn from and getting to now and developing amazing relationship and friendship with some of these remarkable women: that that was probably the thing that really sort of cemented that interest and passion and commitment in me.

Chris: Yeah, relationships are always— they're transformative. I know that in the work I do, too, you hang out with someone, you break bread with someone, you have a coffee with someone, you look into their eyes—it’s transformative right? And you know this season on the podcast we've really been focused on the idea of moving from a charitable or a philanthropic mindset  along that continuum, to advocacy.

But I want to start with the charitable side of things. Can you tell us what it what it looks like to help people practically— from that charity angle— to escape prostitution, or even human trafficking? For example the Center for Public Dialogue within the CRC is partnered with Restoration Second Stage Homes and that provides transitional housing for women. Why is the hands-on important?We'll start there first.

Julia: It is so important. And, it looks like so many other things. I know Restorations—so direct partnerships like you guys have with Restorations is essential.There are so many excellent ministries and organizations across—well, I know we're not all in the same country—but out there that deserve our support, and that need our support. And so that's just vital. I mean that that can look like volunteering. It can look like financial support. It can look like providing resources. There's all kinds of great little ministries that may not be quite ready to establish a home but they do like emergency response packages that a church will gather stuff together and then they develop relationship with victim services and their local police department. There's all kinds of ways that people can engage practically, from something simpler like that that anybody can do. And it makes such a difference and impact in the lives of people who are in exploitation or just getting out.

Churches can come alongside women who are trying to exit. That is one of the stories of a friend of mine. She had a church say, we will pay your first and last month's rent, and that is what gave her the space, the room she needed to take steps to exit. So there's all those kinds of things that are so important, the EFC doesn't—we don't engage in direct care for those who are exploited. We work in close partnership with lots of organizations who do. We work with survivors and survivor-lead organizations and just this broad sort of a collaboration that stretches not just across our country but sometimes, in some of those partnerships, around the world.So our work focuses kind of in two directions, mainly. There is the public policy or advocacy work, which your organization knows well. So this is to help government understand for example the realities of prostitution and trafficking, or the harms of pornography and then to call for work towards better laws and policies.

The other is the work of awareness-raising education and equipping; so that's helping the evangelical community in particular, to understand those same things, and give them the resources and tools they need to engage and kind of partner with us in that advocacy work. So, we've done all kinds of parliamentary hearings and meetings and worked with partners and survivors to hold informational events for MPs on these issues. It’s been a real focus of the last ten years in particular, of our work.

So that's the kind of the help that we offer, an organization like the EFC. It's that broad collaboration. I think that's probably one of my favorite parts of the job, is this working in broad coalition toward the elimination of all forms of sexual exploitation. So, that is coalition with other faith groups, with survivors and survivor-led organizations, women's organizations, frontline service providers: it's a long list because we know that it's a big issue, right?

And it's multifaceted. And if we want to really affect change we need all of these perspectives and all these different angles.

Chris: a lot of moving parts. 

Julia: yeah, for sure. So, the ways we come alongside and help are in listening intently, learning from the experiences and stories of survivors and of those who interact most closely with them, collaborating. We try to join our voices with, and whenever possible, amplify the voices of survivors and those who work closely with them.

So I guess our help is trying to do whatever we can to make sure their voices and experiences inform what we do, make sure that that learning and understanding translates out into the evangelical community and that it's brought into all of those advocacy, public-policy type discussions we have.

Chris: I want to move into that but I think the movement that I think I'm picking up here—and I see it a lot in in some of the other advocacy pieces or long term development work that you know, i tend to be more involved in with me know my work in World Renew but like—we talk about like relief. And we talk about development. When we're talking about Restoration Second Stage Homes, that's an immediate relief to stabilize the situation, so that we can get to the big systemic things. But if we don't stabilize it first, we can't get to the systemic things. So I think the question is how do you protect people in the short term, but also look for policy change and systemic solutions so that people are not trapped in prostitution? Yeah. How do we—you know, if you could just solve that for us right here, right now that would be fantastic, Julia. 

Julia: you know, it really goes both ways. The way you said that is absolutely correct, but it's also right the other way right. Like how do we get ahead of this and figure out what's driving it so that we're not always just trying to do that immediate relief, right? So you know one of the things I have learned is that—I would say there's probably very little that is actually short term, when it comes to exiting and healing from sexual exploitation. The trauma is significant, the push and pull factors that are at play are significant and it takes time, often several attempts for most individuals to fully exit. And of course the considerations are different depending on whether the individual is trafficked, what is the level of involvement of a third party like a pimp or a trafficker, which makes different safety issues. So it's very very complicated. I'm afraid there's no simple answer to that blanket question. But of course, we already talked about how poverty is a significant driver.So, yes, those immediate needs—if you don't have any other means to put a roof over your head to feed your kids to meet your basic needs, it's very very hard to walk away.

So yeah, there's immediate needs: safe shelter or even better housing, income supports to meet basic needs. All of that stuff is essential in the immediate term and churches can—I think there's a huge role that churches can play in meeting a lot of those needs.

But for us, again, we look at that bigger picture. So what does this whole system of exploitation look like and how do we work to dismantle that? So one of the things that became really clear early on in our work, our research, our learning from survivors, is that none of these pieces exist in isolation. So prostitution, trafficking, pornography: they're all part of the same system.

And so we wanted to look at the big picture. What do these different pieces look like? How are they interconnected? Just kind of get a sense of what all of that is and I think you will know this if you work, you know, the kind of work you do: good policy development, especially on a really complex issue like sexual exploitation, means you have to take that big picture view. You have to try to understand how all of the puzzle pieces fit together and interact. So we need laws and policies that not just deal effectively with the crime of exploitation, or that make sure there are financial supports and services and things available to victims, but that take into account the why. Why does this happen? What is it that's driving exploitation? What are the things that make people especially vulnerable and how do we get upstream of those things, so that we're not our focus isn't kind of only ever on rescue?

Chris: Right. 

Julia: So, When it comes to sexual exploitation, the big why—there's lots of ‘why’s but the big why for all of it—is the demand for paid sexual services. Without it, there wouldn't be prostitution and without prostitution, there wouldn't be sex trafficking.

So there's different things that come into play, but it is the demand for paid sex that funnels women into prostitution and fuels sex trafficking. So if we're serious about stopping it we have to focus on ending that demand. So some of that is laws that are very focused on that which we have currently, but there's also like this whole other public education piece that needs to happen to start changing those mindsets that let us accept that in the first place. That's a big big piece that we haven't, as a country, done well yet. Although there's lots of organizations out there working hard on that.

Chris: Let's, let's go there then. Let's go into the systemic or political piece. give us an overview of the way the political system works, in Canada—this is a Canadian specific conversation—and how prostitution law in Canada was challenged. And then what ultimately ended up happening because, I mean, if we end our conversation here, everybody's like, “Wow, that is a huge, huge issue. Hokey Dinah, like it's this giant thing. How do we even begin?” But we've seen movement. We've seen some change. So, tell us about that. How did you enter into that arena? What ended up happening?

Julia: Okay, I don't know where to start, because one kind of leads to the other here but... So around the time we started engaging on trafficking, it was an offence added to our criminal code. So that piece was kind of in the works, right? Our government was starting to recognize that this was a crime that needed to be specifically dealt with. We'd signed on to the Palermo protocol which is a fantastic thing. So we were involved in those pieces.

And then, when our—I think it was somewhere around 2009—our old prostitution laws were challenged by three women in Ontario—actually I prefer to say they were challenged by a lawyer who recruited three women to sort of be his public face but anyway—they argued that there were three provisions—so the one related to keeping a common body house or a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of— they argued that those three provisions violated Section seven of the charter which guarantees “life, liberty, and security of the person.”

So, our previous laws—It’s a little bit complicated but probably the simplest way to say it was prostitution itself was not illegal. But everything around it was. So, a lower court ruled that yes they were unconstitutional because they forced prostituted women to choose between their freedom and security. And then this case eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada where it was heard, I think it was around 2013.

So, the EFC acted as an intervener before the court, in that case. We didn't intervene because we thought the laws were particularly effective. At this point we were kind of well into our journey of learning and looking at different approaches and models and trying to figure out what is the best most coherent policy. We kind of already knew what we wanted to see happen and that what we had was not it. But it was really important that the laws be upheld until Parliament can write better ones because otherwise we would have decriminalization which would just be open season on women. So we didn't want that to happen.

So we argued that prostitution is a practice that arises from the historical subordination of women, the historical assumed right of men to buy an exchange women as objects for sexual use, that it's a disgraceful assault on human dignity, and that these limitations on freedom and security were justifiable because of the link to human trafficking, the direct connection between prostitution and human trafficking.

So, the lower court did find that these provisions were unconstitutional. Essentially they said, the objectives of the old law were to prevent community disruption and public nuisance. And so they looked at that and they said okay well that is overbroad and grossly disproportionate, when you look at the impact of the law versus the objective. So they found that they were grossly disproportionate to those objectives.

And then they suspended the ruling for a year to give Parliament time to act if they wanted to. So sometimes the court will do that; they'll sort of toss things back to Parliament and say, “Okay, this is really yours to fix you have a year to do that. If you don't, then our ruling will stand.”

Chris: I just want to go back to that for one second, because that happened so fast: community nuisance? What? Can you say that part again? Because here's what comes into my mind; I'm thinking of like “well that's like a ball hockey restriction. You know, don't play ball hockey on the street, that's community nuisance.”

Nothing about vulnerability? Nothing about protecting? 

Julia: No, no.

Chris: Okay.

Julia: Which is why we didn't—our laws had it backwards. The entire focus of the old laws was on the prostituted women or the prostituted person as basically a source of public nuisance, community disruption, being on the streets and all that stuff. And there was also one about public health.So, it was just all flipped, right? All of the focus—and this was also true in the prosecution of it—it was always the prostituted who were carrying the brunt of this.

Which is just backwards. Because when you understand those vulnerabilities, it doesn't make sense to criminalize people who are already so vulnerable and marginalized and victimized in most cases, because that just creates further barriers to them to trying to exit and trying to get out and do different things

Chris: Well it assumes the illusion of choice, right? And there was in many of these, none, no choice. 

Julia: yeah that is a—we're going to end up going back and forth here—but that is a huge—we're kind of there again, in terms of debating this. So in 2014, we worked so hard with so many other organizations to have the legislation passed that we have now. So the Protection of Communities and Exploited Ac, it was so important because it flipped that old model around. It took a big picture view of prostitution. It challenge this—I mean we have all heard it said I don't know how many times that “prostitution has always been, it will always be, you'll never get rid of it”—what was so great about this legislation was it said no, this is not inevitable in our society. And we don't have to accept this as normal.

So, the framing of the bill—we couldn't have been more excited about how the whole thing was packaged because it recognized that prostitution was inherently exploitive and dangerous. That prostitution violates human dignity and equality between the sexes. That things like poverty, addiction, mental illness, racialization and so on, were key factors for individuals entering prostitution. It says that right in the bill which was amazing. And most significantly, the preamble speaks directly to the importance of denouncing and prohibiting the purchase of sex, because that's what creates the demand for prostitution.

So this is just such a—we didn't get it exactly what we would have hoped, but it was pretty darn close. And it was so important because now we were saying, it is now illegal in Canada for the first time to buy or attempt to buy sex, but those who are sold are given immunity. So prostitution is illegal. But those who were prostituted are given immunity from prosecution, except under a very very narrow range of circumstances.So it was just such an important shift in how our country addresses prostitution. 

Chris: Yeah, and for people of faith, you know I can understand. I mean I think some would hop on supporting this because like simply from a moral perspective. But it's so much more than that. This kind of advocacy actually gives us an opportunity to live into our calling to be with, in solidarity, with the marginalized, with the oppressed, with the person who has ben taken advantage of. Like, there's not a much more Jesus-y thing you can do, then do that.

I want to move into—you were doing this advocacy and you work with a lot of impacted people. You work with a lot of partners. We talked a little bit before we started recording this episode about the people involved. What did it look like? give us a story of someone who came on board, and was just activated through this. Because I think that's a good place for us to kind of end this episode, because I think there are a lot of folks who are sitting on the sidelines, not because that's where they choose to be but they're looking for that on ramp. They're looking for that activation piece like, “Okay, this is my thing I'm getting in.” Can you tell us a story about someone who had that kind of movement? I know you got one.

Julia: so I'm going to try and tell all kinds of stories so you see the different degrees. Yeah, sure when, when the court case happened—the lower court decision happened—and we knew that the laws were being challenged, I was contacted by someone who worked within the Christian missionary Alliance who has become one of my dearest friends and we've been toiling together in this for, gosh, a lot of years now.

But at the time, she was starting a ministry within the Christian Missionary Alliance that was focused on sexual exploitation. she had had her own conversations with survivors and, you know, like we said earlier that just sparked a passion in her to do something. And so she reached out and we started to work together and partner together and meet with MPs, and write letters and do different events. And I don't want to intimidate people because Glendine is—she's like a giant in the advocacy world now. She is so good at what she does.

So, I mean if people want to become a Glendine, she's a brilliant example to follow. Defend Dignity does amazing amazing work. But, along the way, one of the things we did early on, we partnered with Defend Dignity in holding information forums in churches across the country. Small towns, big cities. And it's interesting what you just said about how this fits with following Jesus. When we first started, there was some work to be done in kind of shifting how people in the church thought about prostitution. And it's not that people were intentionally thinking about it in a backwards sort of way, but it was just the way everybody thought about it. It's how our laws thought about it. It's how everybody thought about it, that the prostituted person was the problem; we needed to deal with them, rather than dealing with the problem of prostitution. And so, we would have these information forums and churches, we would always have a survivor, come and tell her story and people got it. They understood. And so we had people in churches all across the country who were activated, to varying degrees. So some of them wrote letters. They made phone calls to their MPs. They would have in person meetings with their MPs. Sometimes groups of pastors would have meetings with MPs. So this was so instrumental in actually getting those laws passed, I think, because we had this incredible community mobilization that really supported the work that our organizations and so many others were doing to call for this change in how our country addressed prostitution. 

And then out of that, there were all kinds of other ministries that popped up. Groups of people in churches would say, okay, what can we do locally here to either—well, quite often they're doing both. They're doing that direct service to people who are being exploited or sometimes they're doing advocacy also. So there's all these stories of people who—again you know we talk about story and how important that is, but once you kind of—it's impossible not to be changed when you really listen to the stories of people who have experienced exploitation.

But there's just so many wonderful stories across the country of people who became activated, as you say, after learning and understanding and then engaging in varying degrees of advocacy.

Chris: It's awesome. It's great to be together today, Julia, we're gonna land this plane but before we do, where can people keep up with the work that you're doing and where can people get ahold of you and kind of find out the amazing work that you're doing?

Julia: Sure, so they can follow the EFC. Our website is And we have weekly updates that you can sign up for. We have social media that you can follow. And we do want people to tune in now. So we are—I'll try not to take this too much longer but our laws are being challenged on a couple of fronts now. So, when they were passed, there was kind of a five year review that was built in that's long overdue. And we know there has been an ongoing and significant push to go the opposite direction and go for full decriminalization. So there's kind of a push in Parliament for that, or a push on Parliament, for that maybe I should say.

And there's also we're heading back into the courts. So, a challenge—I mean there've been several challenges but there's one coming up that was launched again in Ontario, and it's challenging all six provisions of the legislation. And it's a much broader challenge, so it's not just Section 7, but it's other sections of the Charter. So there are lots of us who are watching that very closely and considering how we might get involved as interveners or whatever as that moves forward. So I would say, follow us. Follow Defend Dignity. Defend Dignity always has all kinds of great action items that people can take if they're interested in starting out somewhere on advocacy on sexual exploitation issues. So it would be wonderful if people will kind of tune in, in the coming months and look for ways as we kind of figure out what are the best next steps as we move forward. It would be great if people would join us again because it made such a difference last time.

Chris: You're on the front line of a lot of these conversations. And I imagine it's not always the easiest. How can we be praying for you, as we move forward and as you move forward over the next little while?

Julia: Yeah, I mean, pray for—I welcome your prayers, especially for wisdom. Like I just said, we're trying to discern what do we do when. What's the most strategic thing? How do we do this best? So we're kind of considering all those things, but if I could really ask your listeners to pray for the survivor leaders.When PCEPA was passed it was, so much of their lives and stories and experiences were poured into making that happen. And it costs them. There's a huge cost to reliving and sharing. And the idea that “now we're gonna have to do this again, we're going to have to fight now to keep these laws in place...” I think that that it takes an emotional toll on all of us, but especially on the survivor leaders who just—they're gonna have to do this over again whether that's in Parliament, or in the courts. So, I don't know: strength, encouragement, perseverance, good health. All of these things for all of us as we kind of head into whatever’s next and figure out how best to fight to keep these laws in place.

Chris: We’ll pray for all and we’ll make sure that we put those links in the description of this episode. Folks, our guest today has been Juila Beazley. She’s the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Director of Public Policy. Julia, thanks for being with us today.

Julia: Thanks so much for having me, Chris.


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