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Key Anti-Prostitution Laws Struck Down By Ontario Court

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didn't see a topic posted on this yet. probably not something harper is wanting to deal with right now.


Last Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | 10:26 PM ET

An Ontario court has thrown out key provisions of Canada's anti-prostitution laws in response to a constitutional challenge by a Toronto dominatrix and two prostitutes in 2009.

Ontario's Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday the Criminal Code provisions relating to prostitution contribute to the danger faced by sex-trade workers.

In her ruling, Justice Susan Himel said it now falls to Parliament to "fashion corrective action."

"It is my view that in the meantime these unconstitutional provisions should be of no force and effect, particularly given the seriousness of the charter violations," Himel wrote.

"However, I also recognize that a consequence of this decision may be that unlicensed brothels may be operated, and in a way that may not be in the public interest."

The judge suspended the effect of the decision for 30 days. It does not affect provisions dealing with people under 18.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Rona Ambrose, minister for the status of women, both said the government is concerned about the decision and "is seriously considering an appeal."

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch had argued that prohibitions on keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution and living on the avails of the trade force them from the safety of their homes to face violence on the streets.

The women asked the court to declare legal restrictions on their activities a violation of charter rights of security of the person and freedom of expression.

The women and their lawyer, Alan Young, held a news conference Tuesday afternoon and expressed elation.

"It's like emancipation day for sex-trade workers," said Bedford, adding the ball is now in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's court. "The federal government must now take a stand and clarify what is legal and not legal between consenting adults in private."

Scott called it an amazing victory, saying the decision lessens the risk of violence for sex workers.

"We don't have to worry about being raped and robbed and murdered," she said. "This decision means that sex workers can now pick up the phone, and call the police and report a bad client. This means that we no longer have to be afraid, that we can work with the appropriate authorities."

Moreover, sex workers can set up guilds and associations, health standards, workers' compensation programs, as well as pay income tax. "We want to be good citizens and it's time, now we finally can," said Scott.

Young handled the case mostly free with the help of 20 of his law students. They were up against nearly a dozen government lawyers.

"Personally, I am overjoyed because this is a great David and Goliath story. Sex-trade workers are disenfranchised and disempowered, and no one has listened to them for 30, 40 years," Young said.

Ontario AG considers appeal

The case does not solve the problems related to prostitution, he said.

"That's for your government to take care. Courts just clean up bad laws."

"So what's happened is that there's still going to be many people on the streets and many survival sex workers who are motivated by drugs and sometimes exploited by very bad men. That's not going to change," Young added.

"Here's what changed. Women who have the ability, the wherewithal and the resources and the good judgment to know that moving indoors will protect them now have that legal option. They do not have to weigh their safety versus compliance with the law."

A spokesman for Ontario's attorney general said the office will be reviewing the decision carefully and will consult federal colleagues regarding a potential appeal.

"Ontario intervened and argued that the prostitution provisions of the Criminal Code are constitutional and valid and designed to prevent individuals, and particularly young people, from being drawn into prostitution, to protect our communities from the negative impacts of street prostitution and to ensure that those who control, coerce or abuse prostitutes are held accountable for their actions," said the statement from the Ontario attorney general's office.

The government had argued that striking down the provisions without enacting something else in their place would "pose a danger to the public."

'Shocking and horrific'

Some conservative groups such as REAL Women of Canada, which had intervener status in the case, argued that decriminalizing prostitution may make Canada a haven for human trafficking and that prostitution is harmful to the women involved in it.

While prostitution is technically legal, virtually every activity associated with it is not. The Criminal Code prohibits communication for the purpose of prostitution. It also prohibits keeping a common bawdy house for the purpose of prostitution.

Those laws enacted in 1985 were an attempt to deal with the public nuisance created by streetwalkers. They failed to recognize the alternative — allowing women to work more safely indoors — was prohibited.

The ban on bawdy houses is an indictable offence that carries stiffer sanctions, including jail time and potential forfeiture of a woman's home, while the ban on communication for prostitution purposes is usually a summary offence that at most leads to fines.

The provisions prevent sex-trade workers from properly screening clients, hiring security or working in the comfort and safety of their own homes or brothels, Young said.

Young cited statistics behind the "shocking and horrific" stories of women who work the streets, along with research that was not available when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the communication ban in 1990.

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The Hutt decision in 1978 by the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a car was not a public place for the purposes of solicitation. That opened up the whole issue of street prostitution as it was virtually impossible for the police to get convictions until the Criminal Code was amended a number of years later.


As noted in this link reporting the recent decision:

Although prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada, almost everything associated with it is, a situation that was once described as “bizarre” by a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada.


Madame Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court today released her decision in the challenge to Canada's prostitution laws launched by sex trade worker Terri-Jean Bradford.

"By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance."

-- Madame Justice Susan Himel

Madame Justice Himel's ruling strikes down those sections of the Criminal Code:

* keeping a common bawdy house (s.210(1)), communication for the purposes of prostitution (s.213(1)©), and

* living on the avails of prostitution (s.212(1)(j)), all on the basis that the laws unnecessarily endanger prostitutes working on the street.

The Crown is moving for a stay of the ruling, to allow the law to stand until Parliament can address the situation with amendments to the Code.

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Meanwhile, we continue to turn a blind eye towards those who sleep around with their bosses and other powerful people for that raise or promotion, yet we stigmatize, criminalize and crucify those who apply their trade directly and openly on the street. (Both sex for money and exactly the same in principle.)

What a bunch of hypocrites we are. I think even Joe and Jane Yuppie who support these anti-prostitution laws have skeletons in their closet on this.

Here's an old discussion on the matter...


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It's not illegal to prostitute yourself.

It is illegal to solicite(advertise), live off the avails (be a pimp), or run a bawdy house (whore house). Well at least it was until recently.

The escort agencies were always a grey area. Technically you are paying for "the date", and any sex you may agree to pay for later is a private arrangement between you and the woman and, in theory, has nothing to do with the escort agency.

Quite frankly repealing these laws is not going to help anyone. The women most at risk have always been the ones standing on shady street corners because of drugs, mental health, poor family life, etc.... Legalizing pimping and whore houses is not going to help these women.

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It's not in the undergroun or the shadows. It's in fact perfectly legal as it is.

With the invention of the internet and sites like craigslist, I really don't think we need whorehouses anymroe either.

I've heard all this "in the shadows" stuff etc... a million times before. I just don't think changing laws is going to help desperate women on corners downtown. I think the only difference we will see is that escort agencies and craigslist adds will now explicitely advertise sex, whereas before they just advertised "dates".

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i'm sorry, but no it's not. And that's a very narrow minded view of the situation. the act itself is not legal, but every single action around it is. By saying the act of prostitution is legal, but living off of the profits from it is not already makes the act illegal. never mind not allowing it to happen in the same place twice or any of the other laws conveniently skirting around it. Everything about the profession is illegal except the the act itself. The reason pickton was so successful in his serial killing practices was because prostitution is, for all intents and purposes, illegal, so it is driven underground. Making it legitimately legal would allow for increased safety, and better access to support programs for the people involved. It would also help getting them off the street, clean, and potentially out of the industry altogether.

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