Open Letter to Stephen Collis organizer of SFU conference State of Extraction

Dear Mr. Collis,

The Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution is appalled by the decision taken by Simon Fraser University to cancel the keynote presentation by Chris Hedges at the State of Extraction Conference on March 27.

We understand SFU to be an academic institution that strives to have a reputation for confronting controversy, for promoting intellectual debate and for supporting progressive thinking. It is a betrayal of the students who attend SFU and alumni, particularly those of colour and those who must struggle to overcome multiple barriers to secure an education in a liberal arts institution, that you would choose to censor Mr. Hedges' voice.  It is an important time in Canada as we struggle to maintain our rights to freedom of speech and association – these principles are vital to those of us engaged in the struggle to make progressive social change.

It is particularly alarming as the decision was made based on Mr. Hedges’ correct analysis of the one of the impacts of imperialism and colonialism - the entrenchment of the exploitation of women in prostitution.

Prostitution depends upon and feeds the disparities of class, race, and gender. The vast majority of women in prostitution are poor and racialized. Prostitution sexualizes racism. It panders to male (and white) entitlement. Imperialist practice has inextricably paired resource extraction with prostitution as evidenced by the experiences of women in the Philippines, Nigeria, and China. The sale of Asian women for sex from massage parlours in towns across Canada has not enhanced human rights for Asian women, nor has the practice engendered deeper respect for us in the workplace, in public spaces, or school.

Mr. Hedges consulted with Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution over several weeks in the process of writing this one short (albeit important) article. We appreciate that he decided to bring attention to the impact of imperialist policy on Asian women. His article opens a door to better-informed discussion about the breadth and depth of colonial violence on racialized women.

The decision to cancel Mr. Hedges’ presentation reveals SFU as an institution that accepts complicity with the systems of imperialism and colonialism that prop up the exploitation of women.  We urge you to reverse the decision and ask Mr. Hedges to deliver the keynote address. His analysis is valuable and worth hearing, even if some disagree with him.

Sincerely,

Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution

March 12, 2015