Canada: MP Describes Pornhub, MindGeek Hearings as a 'Dysfunctional Circus'

Canada: MP Describes Pornhub, MindGeek Hearings as a 'Dysfunctional Circus'

OTTAWA — Members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics of Canada’s House of Commons are now expressing concern about the committee’s treatment of witnesses during their hearings targeting MindGeek and Pornhub, after sex worker advocates who tried to speak to the committee on April 19 shared their negative experiences.

According to a report today by The Canadian Press, MPs are reacting to the criticism by saying that they are now “open to changing the way witnesses are treated at committees.”

“Sexual violence survivors and advocates say they felt angered and, in some cases, re-victimized when telling their personal stories in those meetings,” the news outlet wrote.

MP Charlie Angus said “he believes a ‘dysfunctional circus atmosphere’ has taken hold at a number of committees, where MPs are often more interested in political posturing than trying to remain on topic and respectful while hearing from witnesses.”

A Botched Hearing 'Re-victimizing' Sex Workers

On April 19, after public pressure over the anti-sex work slant of several weeks of hearings chaired by Alberta Conservative Chris Warkentin that foregrounded the views of religiously-inspired U.S. anti-porn activists and liability lawyers, the committee finally invited Jennifer Clamen from the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform; Sandra Wesley, executive director of Stella; and Melissa Lukings, a University of New Brunswick legal scholar and sex worker.

Clamen’s lucid presentation was marred by interruptions concerning what Warkentin described as “technical difficulties with the audio.”

MP Arnold Viersen (Conservative, Alberta), who has been the mouthpiece for the U.S. religious anti-porn lobby Exodus Cry during the hearings, refused to engage with the witnesses and instead launched into a tirade against adult businesses drawn from an article by Nicholas Kristof for the New York Times.

Viersen also refused to address the pointed criticism of Kristof’s methodology and obsessions offered by Stella’s Sandra Wesley.

Meanwhile, Lukings' presentation was cut off abruptly and the meeting was adjourned several minutes early.

“Witnesses sharing stories and expertise on how vulnerable sex workers could be negatively affected by the federal government moving to regulate content on pornography websites say there were shocked by how MPs cut the meeting short after more than 40 minutes of partisan bickering,” reported The Canadian Press.

'An American Culture War Against Pornography'

"These women who came to give their point of view, they left, I think, very disrespected," Angus told The Canadian Press.

Shortly after the Pornhub study was launched, Angus alleged the MPs were inundated with requests to testify from "representatives of the porn industry and the sex trade" alongside "people with ties to religious groups that are anti-pornography activists."

The Canadian Press noted Angus also alleged that “some MPs have even received threats of violence from people who [he] believes are part of what he calls an ‘American culture war against pornography.’”

However, until April 19, Angus himself had been the staunchest ally of his supposed ideological rival Viersen at the hearings, making a spectacle of his outrage, vilifying MindGeek at every opportunity and even providing their business address in what social media critics of Angus interpreted as a call to some kind of direct action.

A week before the sex workers advocates were finally invited, Angus stated that MindGeek CEO Feras Antoon, a Canadian national, was building a house in an area of Montreal he called “Mafiaville,” a name that originated in right-wing British tabloids sensationalizing this story.

The house was recently destroyed by a massive fire in what the authorities suspect to be arson.

'A False Gesture'

Sex work scholar and activist Melissa Lukings called the April 19 hearing “a false gesture.”

"Inviting us was a false gesture," Lukings told The Canadian Press. "Every possible obstacle was in place. They didn't even follow the standard procedure for notice, which would have allowed for briefs to be submitted and translated ahead of time.”

In contrast to the April 19 debacle, chairperson Warkentin had invited anti-porn mouthpiece Laila Mickelwait, from U.S. religious group Exodus Cry, on February 19 and ceded the last part of that hearing for her to freestyle, even acknowledging that it was an unconventional way to end the meeting with "an open discussion."

XBIZ contacted Warkentin's office about the Mickelwait appearance but did not receive a reply from the MP's office.

At that hearing, Angus openly mocked the accused MindGeek executives for sending a letter to the committee members pointing out Mickelwait’s religious activism with Exodus Cry, and her work alongside controversial anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice crusader Benjamin Nolot.

Angus then helped Mickelwait allege she was a victim of “gaslighting.”

Last week, Arnold Viersen — who represents an Alberta district with no serious sex trafficking issue, although most of his Parliamentary work is focused on platforming U.S.-originated views on the subject — expressed his solidarity with Angus on Twitter and explicitly said that they had acted as allies during the hearings.

Main image: MP Charlie Angus at the second Pornhub/MindGeek hearing on February 5.

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