Sex work laws struck down by Canadian Court
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.”
‘This decision means that sex workers can now pick up the phone, and call the police and report a bad client.’— Valerie Scott
The judge suspended the effect of the decision for 30 days. It does not affect provisions dealing with people under 18. Rona Ambrose, minister for the status of women, said the government is concerned about the decision and is “seriously considering appealing it.”
Terri-Jean Bedford and 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.