On October 16, 2014, The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy was presented to Cherry Smiley. Her activism and work for Indigenous women and girls and against the sex industry is foundational, in terms of the feminist movement and the work of women across the world to end prostitution. In her talk, “Freedom as controversy: Indigenous women and girls and the abolition of prostitution” (featured in the video below), Smiley says, “Prostitution is a gendered system — an act of male violence against women and girls that both reinforces and expresses patriarchy, colonialism, racism, and capitalism.”
My work has been shaped so deeply by Smiley’s knowledge, analysis, and activism — I quite literally would not do what I do, had I not met her. She has taught me so much about the history of colonialism in Canada, how that history connects to the ongoing exploitation and abuse of Indigenous women and girls today, and how to approach the issue of prostitution in a responsible way, as a feminist, an ally, and a settler.
It is my great honour to call her my sister.
(Categorised as ‘Sex industry survivors’ for the speech by Trisha Baptie, and ‘Male allies’ for the speech by Michael Markwick, both included in this video.)