Being versus Doing

Too often the essence of who we are is wrapped up in what we do, such that people rely on an individual’s occupation as a judge of one’s character. She is a doctor, he is a teacher, she is a writer, he is a lawyer…. But do these roles truly define who a person is?


What a person does can tie quite closely to tangible things that society deems ‘successful’ and valuable. But is that all there is to life? The next promotion, the next award, the next publication, the next… Imparting such a definition to one’s own being (or character) seems like a life of never ending pressure to prove oneself. Moreover, a heavy emphasis on accomplishments places the definition and control of our identity in the fate of a fickle pressure-driven society to prove self-worth. The more one attempts to prove self-worth to another individual or entity, the more likely one will lose him or her -self in the process. So much so that one forgets the authentic self, and life in itself becomes empty.


It is easy to fall into this trap. After all, society predicates self-image on quantifiable and tangible actions or deeds. But what if we were to live ‘counter-culturally’, by starting with a paradigm shift in our own minds? Such that we view what is of importance and of value through a different lens so that our being is preserved or perhaps even revived or reborn? When we ask ourselves what do we want to be, our answers should no longer be dependent on what we do, but rather in relation to our character – Who am I? How do I want to live this life? How do I be true to myself inside and out?


Instead of focusing on the tangible ‘do-ings’ that defines our lives, we start focusing on the intangible ‘be-ings’. When we have the courage to be honest with ourselves and be who we are meant to be, we begin to come to terms with who we are. We being to understand what we want to be, and the testimony of our character is found not in what we do, but rather in the lives of others whom we interact with and nurture relationships with. Remarks from friends, family or strangers stating that we are considerate, kind, loving, appreciative, funny…become the testimony of who we are, not a piece of paper from a university, job promotion, or trophy. Are not the fondest memories of times when we are honest and authentic in our relationship with others and ourselves? When we don’t have to pretend to be something that we’re not by carrying out behaviours and actions that inhibit our true being from shining through?


Being sets us free from the pressure of doing. Is it not easier to be generous than to prove one’s generosity? An identity tied up in society’s expectations will always be conditional and will enslave us in an endless cycle of proving, failing, and proving again. In essence, we become addicted to what society values, while our deepest needs go unfulfilled. When we start to look at ourselves from the inside out, versus the outside in, our frame of mind changes and we start living through being versus doing. Then the pressure is off and we can be who we are truly meant to be – authentic beings on the inside and out.

A Step in the Right Direction – Bill C36 passes third reading

This week, Bill C36, the amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code on prostitution-related offenses, passed third reading in the Senate and requires royal assent to become law. It is likely that Bill C36 will become law by December, given the one-year deadline that was imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada when it struck down the three prostitution-related provisions of: a) Keeping a common bawdy-house; b) Living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person; c) Communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

There is some controversy as to whether the revised prostitution-related law will be subject to another constitutional challenge. Recently Benjamin Perrin made a contribution in the Globe and Mail stating that whether Bill C36 is constitutional depends on “how effectively it is implemented and when a case is brought forward.” (Click here for article) Although Perrin brings up a few valid points in his contribution to the Globe and Mail, whether a law is constitutional depends not on how well it is implemented and the cases brought forward using the law in question, but on whether the law violates specific rights and freedoms that are outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the three aforementioned prostitution-related provisions because they viewed them to have arbitrary, overbroad and/or grossly disproportionate deprivations to the specific right to security. The implementation of the new law and further research on how it impacts the multifaceted nature of prostitution will provide good information to law enforcement, government, academia and the general public interested in the issue. Moreover, the data gathered from monitoring the implementation of the new law and cases brought forward could potentially serve as evidence to either side of a future constitutional challenge. But whether the new law is constitutional hinges on whether sex worker advocates (or others) are able to make a case that the new law (or components of the new law) violates specific rights and freedoms outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedom. If a convincing case can be made for a constitutional challenge, then the courts could very well hear a challenge of the revised prostitution-related law, regardless of how well the law is being implemented and what cases involving the law in question are brought forward.

But at the end of the day, it is safe to say that both sides agree that prostitutes should not be criminalized for selling sex, regardless of the reasons why they do so. Moreover, it may also be safe to say that violence and exploitative circumstances prostitutes face mostly stem from the demand side of the sex trade. As such, Bill C36 is a step in the right direction as it decriminalizes those who prostitute and criminalizes the purchasers of sex. The Government of Canada has also committed $20 Million to be put towards initiatives and programs that facilitate those who desire to exit sex trade, thereby allowing vulnerable individuals a viable alternative to the violence and exploitation they may face in the sex trade.

One of the sweet paradoxes of life

Red leave by lakeCan applying linear thinking to our problems truly inspire us to live a better life, or find our purpose, or establish better relationships or recover from our brokenness?

We often find ourselves locked in a world of formulaic rule. If I do X and Y, then Z will happen. If I don’t do A, then B won’t happen. Translate this into the medium of self-help and we get, reflect and write down your struggles and your thoughts, or reflect and write down how you got to where you are today, identify any patterns that emerge, address those patterns, then you will see change in your life. If the key to solving the struggles in life involved a linear sequence of actions, wouldn’t all our problems be solved?


Underlying our linear thinking is control. We want to be in control. After all, we have to be in control in order to turn our lives around don’t we? However, control goes hand in hand with pressure. If something isn’t working in our lives, we actually start to exert more control over the situation and the more control we exert, the more pressure we feel and the more pressure feel…chaos sets in.

However, when linear thinking does work for a few individuals, they take pride in how a simple formula changed their lives, but that pride is also rooted in control. What happens when circumstances change and the formula no longer works? Moreover, what about the discouragement, guilt, and despair others feel when the same formula does not work in their own lives?

So what can a person do? Relinquish control and live life passively, taking thing as they come and go? This may work for a while, but it is not sustainable. Could it be about living in the moment? Despite the suffering and struggles that one is going through, live in the moment, be willing to embrace the dark nights as they come, and admitting that “I am powerless over my situation and my live has become unmanageable.” In doing so, the control is released from the situation and the pressure also lifts. This does not mean that control is turned over to someone else. Instead, a different perspective is obtained – a perspective about oneself that helps provide some clarity and freedom.

The struggles and adversities we face in life are not signs of weaknesses, instead they can be (and perhaps should be) regarded as times of self-growth. Too often we find ourselves wanting to be at point B. Therefore, exerting more control and throwing everything we have on the situation to find what is needed for point A to be complete, so that we can advance to point B. However, what if we don’t need to complete point A? What if all that is needed is an enlightened perspective of one’s own self? Perhaps in doing so, point B becomes insignificant because one gains something much more – truth about self. In growing and learning more about oneself, the emptiness can disappear and hope can be restored. Getting to know yourself deeper may afford you with the freedom and purpose you are searching for. In doing so, everything else begins to fall into place without you even being in control of how it happened, but where things fall you find contentment – and therein lies one of the sweet paradoxes of life.

Proposed legislation in Canada on the issue of prostitution – Bill C36

Prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment. In Canada, prostitution is not illegal. However, there are activities related to the sex trade that are offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada. Such activities include:

  • Keeping a common bawdy-house (also known as a brothel) (Section 210)
  • Knowingly transporting another person to a common bawdy-house (Section 211)
  • Procuring and living on the avails of prostitution (Section 212)
  • Communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution (Section 213)

In 2009, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott (sex trade workers in Canada) undertook the issue of arguing that Canada’s laws regarding prostitution-related activities were unconstitutional. Alan Young, professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, represented the sex trade workers in court, and specifically made the case that the following sections of the Criminal Code of Canada violated sex workers constitutional right to freedom and security:

  • Keeping a common bawdy-house (Section 210)
  • Living on the avails of prostitution (Section 212(1)(c))
  • Communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution (Section 213(1)(c))

In September 2010, Justice Susan Himel issued her decision to strike down Sections 210, 212(1)(c) and 213(1)(c). The Attorney General of Canada and Attorney General of Ontario appealed the decision. The appeals court upheld the ruling of Justice Himel on Sections 210 and 212(1)(c), however disagreed with her ruling on Section 213(1)(c). The case was eventually brought to the highest court in Canada to be heard. In Dec 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada found all three sections (Section 210, 212(1)(c) and 213(1)(c)) of the Criminal Code to be unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court gave the Canadian Government 1 year to create a legislative response (create new law(s)) in line with the ruling). In March 2014, the Department of Justice issued a public consultation on prostitution-related offences in Canada with the intent of creating new legislation that would accommodate views held by Canadians. From this public consultation Bill C-36 was introduced in Parliament on June 4, 2014. Bill C-36 is currently in the second reading stage.

The objective of Bill C-36 is to reduce the demand for prostitution by discouraging the entry into prostitution and deterring participation in prostitution, with the ultimate endpoint of abolishing it so that the harms of the practice no longer exist. Bill C-36 views prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that negatively impacts women and girls, and therefore criminalizes those who purchase sex, while protecting those who sell sex.

Bill C-36 proposes to criminalize:

  1. The purchase of sexual services for consideration or communicating in any place for the purpose of purchasing sexual services
  2. Advertising the sale of sexual services in print media or advertisement on websites
  3. The receipt of financial and/or material benefit from the prostitution of others in exploitative circumstances (which includes exploitative participation in business activities involving prostitution where third parties profit). Exploitative circumstances would include the use of threats, violence, intimidation, coercion, abuse of trust, power or authority, and the provision of intoxicating substances
  4. The purchase of sexual services, but not the sale of sexual services. Those who sell their own sexual services will be treated as victims who need support and assistance
  5. The procurement of sexual services, where procurement constitutes persuading or causing a person to offer sexual services; to recruit, hold, conceal, or harbour a person to offer sexual services; and to exercise control, direct or influence the movement of a person for the purpose of facilitating the purchase of sexual services
  6. Communicating for the purposes of selling sexual services in public places, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a place were persons under the age of 18 are reasonable expected to be present and therefore could be exposed to the correspondence.

The proposed bill ultimately provides focus to law enforcement to direct attention to purchasers of sexual services, as well as on third parties who exploit individuals to sell sexual services. As such, Bill C-36 does not prevent those who choose to sell sex from doing so in fixed indoor locations, or hiring bodyguards or drivers, who may enhance their safety.

Such proposed legislation to criminalize the demand-side of prostitution is not unique to Canada, as many other countries currently have such legislation in place, i.e. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland and France.

Further information regarding Bill C-36 can be found by accessing the following links: