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Why the prostitution laws are essential, part 4: Not just constitutional, but safer

22 March 2022

Canada’s prostitution laws are not only constitutional, they are safer for those in the sex trade. 

Canada’s prostitution laws are being reviewed by MPs on the parliamentary justice committee. The committee is hearing testimony and evidence on the impact of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), which passed in 2014. The EFC believes PCEPA is an essential tool to fight sexual exploitation. 

The latest statistics find that fewer sex workers were victims of homicide since PCEPA was passed and they reported fewer injuries. An Ontario Court of Appeal decision released last month found the sections of the prostitution law it considered were constitutional. 

Latest statistics  

The Statistics Canada article, Crimes related to the sex trade: Before and after legislative changes in Canada, compares the five years before PCEPA was passed with the five years after. It found: 

Fewer homicides of sex workers since PCEPA: 

The Homicide Survey collects data on homicides in Canada and includes information related to a victim’s occupation. According to the Homicide Survey, 35 victims of homicide were identified as sex trade workers between 2015 and 2019, which was notably fewer than the 54 homicide victims reported as sex trade workers between 2010 and 2014. This was especially notable given that, between these two time periods, the number of homicides in Canada overall increased from 2,745 to 3,229. 

Homicides less likely by clients since PCEPA: 

For sex trade worker homicides where a suspect had been identified, in the five years prior to the change in the law, the perpetrator was most frequently identified as being in a criminal relationship with the victim (e.g., sex trade workers and their clients, drug dealers and their clients, gang members) (43% of victims). This was less common after the PCEPA (29%); instead, between 2015 and 2019, 38% of sex trade worker victims were killed by a casual acquaintance or a stranger. 

Fewer injuries since PCEPA 

Victims in incidents involving at least one sex-trade-related offence were less likely to have a physical injury as a result of the incident in the five-year period after the introduction of the PCEPA (17% compared to 29% in the five years preceding the PCEPA). 

PCEPA upheld in Court of Appeal decision 

In a decision released on February 24, 2022, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of several PCEPA provisions in the R. v. N.S. decision. Specifically, the court upheld the provisions against procuring a person to offer or provide sexual services, receiving a material benefit from someone else’s sexual services, and advertising someone else’s sexual services. 

In the decision, Justice Hoy noted that, with PCEPA, Parliament has fundamentally changed the lens through which it views prostitution. “Rather than viewing prostitution as a nuisance, it views prostitution as inherently exploitative and something that must be denounced and discouraged.” [para. 55] 

The decision confirms that sex workers are permitted to work cooperatively with others selling their own sexual services, to obtain, for example, security services on a shared, cooperative basis, and to give advice to a person who has decided to sell their own sexual services. 

Justice Hoy also explained that third parties may receive a financial benefit from providing security services, for example, so long as the relationship is not exploitative and the individuals sharing or receiving the service are selling their own sexual services. 

Based on the EFC submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), February 25, 2022. 

For more information on the review of the prostitution laws in Feb.-Mar. 2022, see www.TheEFC.ca/prostitution-law-review

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