An ostensible exercise in modernity: law, religious intervention, and social science in the case of Bedford vs. Canada
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Drawing on Adele Clarke’s (2005) method of situational analysis as well insights from the social construction of social problems approach (Spector and Kitsuse 1977; Best 2008), symbolic interactionism (Prus 1999) and feminist approaches to power and situated knowledge (Collins 1990; Smart 1992; Haraway 1999; Comack 2006), this study examines how law, religion and science interact to construct an image of the Canadian sex trade in the case of Bedford v. Canada. Historically, prostitution has been debated in academic accounts, public forums and the Canadian courts. This debate resurfaced in Canadian courts in 2010, deploying a host of perceptions from religious groups, academics and the general public. Attending to sites of silence as well as latent power relations in the current debate, I examine the interactions between law, religion and science in the Bedford case. Emphasizing how novel precedent developments in the Canadian context as well as historical discourses are shaping actors’ constructions of the dangers associated with prostitution in Canada, I explore concepts such as “legal moralism”, “the risk of harm”, “expertise” and “advocacy” and how legal definitions of these concepts shape the terrain on which rights cases are negotiated in Canadian courts. Moreover, the present case study examines how legal fictions presenting the law as neutral and objective construct false binaries between lay and expert knowledge, masking the value-laden nature of Canadian rights cases.