PROSTITUTION RULING HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR NEW LAWS
March 27, 2012
OTTAWA – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is deeply concerned that yesterday’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Bedford v. Canada (Attorney General) not only fails to protect women from exploitation, but could lead to a situation in Canada where the most vulnerable are put at greater risk of violence, exploitation and trafficking. The stage was set to head to the Supreme Court of Canada as the Court neither endorsed nor overturned a September 2010 decision of the Ontario Superior Court that had struck down three key Criminal Code provisions related to prostitution as unconstitutional.
“Canada needs new laws rather than simply trying to amend existing laws,” says Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel with the EFC. “In September 2010, Justice Himel attempted to stickhandle her way around a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision on two of the three sections in question. Yesterday, the Ontario Court of Appeal endorsed part of her manoeuvering and undid another part while doing a little stickhandling of its own, essentially establishing the need for the Supreme Court of Canada to provide direction or Parliament to take the initiative to introduce new laws.”
“Here’s the decision in a nutshell,” continues Hutchinson. “The court gave the federal government twelve months to reform the provision against prostitutes operating out of brothels, massage parlours and other forms of common bawdy houses; which does nothing to protect the rank and file exploited women, men and children working on the street. The court redrafted the living on the avails of prostitution section to only apply to those doing so in an exploitive way; which accommodates the rare few with the capacity to structure a business with support staff. And, the court upheld the law against communicating for the purposes of prostitution. All of this was couched in the concept repeated page after page in the decision that, and I quote, ‘In Canada, prostitution itself is legal. There is no law that prohibits a person from selling sex, and no law that prohibits another from buying it.’”
Julia Beazley, policy analyst with the EFC, added, “Our existing laws have been found flawed. What we have now is an opportunity for Parliament to establish better laws that will effectively combat prostitution, sexual exploitation and human trafficking, while affirming the dignity and value of all Canadian women. Surveys of women in prostitution here in Canada and in other nations have consistently found that upwards of 90% of prostituted women would get out if they could. There would be no justice in normalizing and legitimizing abuse and exploitation. And there is little sense in trying to stop human trafficking – with its attendant immigration and organized crime issues – if we’re not going to address the end point of most trafficking, which is prostitution.”
“Prostitution is not safe, and must not be legitimated as a form of work. It must not be accepted as a solution to female poverty,” continues Beazley. “We must be unambiguous in defining prostitution as a form of violence, abuse and control of vulnerable women, children and men, and we need to shift the focus of our laws in order to achieve the Criminal Code’s intended objective of preventing prostitution and its associated harms.”
The EFC continues to call on the government to pursue legal reform in Canada based on the social and legal framework of the Nordic model of law on prostitution. This model, first enacted in Sweden in 1999, criminalizes the purchasing and procuring of sexual services, while providing robust support and services enabling women to exit from prostitution without fear of prosecution.
The EFC is hopeful that the Government of Canada will appeal today’s ruling while the law is re-crafted.
For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868, ext. 332