Celebrating a legal win and remaining vigilant

04 December 2023
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The EFC is celebrating a decision by an Ontario court this fall that found Canada’s prostitution laws to be constitutional.
The current laws protect human dignity and equality – so it’s illegal to buy sex, arrange for the sale of another person or receive a benefit from the sale of another person’s sexual services. As an intervener in this court case the EFC argued buying sex is inherently exploitive.
The judge concluded that all the provisions of the prostitution law are constitutional. He described these laws as “a carefully crafted legislative scheme that prohibits the most exploitive aspects of the sex trade while immunizing sex workers from prosecution.”
In his decision the judge noted Parliament’s view of the harms of prostitution is well grounded in evidence. Significant numbers of sex workers come from marginalized and racialized groups, particularly Indigenous girls and women. He also found there is a strong link between sex work and trafficking, and that violence and the threat of violence are present in the everyday lives of many sex workers.
“The EFC has long argued prostitution is not merely a series of interactions between purchaser and purchased who exist independently of one another,” says Julia Beazley, director of the EFC’s Centre for Faith and Public Life. “Prostitution is part of a system of exploitation that is based on structural inequalities and preys on vulnerabilities.”
The EFC wholeheartedly applauds this decision and Justice Goldstein’s careful analysis of these complex and important issues.
The coalition of sex workers who launched the challenge to the laws is planning to appeal. Donor support thus far enabled the EFC to act as an effective and respected intervener. The EFC will apply to intervene again in support of these laws that stop exploitation.
Meanwhile there are ongoing and new concerns with the Canada Summer Jobs program. Many churches and faith-based groups apply for Canada Summer Jobs grants to help hire summer staff. These grants offer welcome support and have a positive impact. While many groups have no difficulty in having their applications approved, other groups feel they are being targeted for review or denied approval based on their religious beliefs.
“If the government is going to offer grants there must be a level playing field without screening on the basis of religious beliefs,” says Beazley. “We’ve heard from enough faith-based groups that we are concerned these are not just isolated incidents.”
A problematic values-based attestation was part of the Canada Summer Jobs application in 2018. The application was changed in 2019 and following years, but there is concern that values-based screening may be carried out by some staff behind closed doors.
That kind of potential screening out of the applications of religious organizations can hinder the work of churches and faith-based groups that foster vibrant social networks, spark volunteerism and help make communities resilient. We know evangelical churches often work to alleviate poverty and care for those who are vulnerable in Canadian communities.
The EFC expressed concerns about the grant program in a written submission to a parliamentary committee this fall. We asked for faith-based groups to be considered for grants based on their actions and activities, not to be screened out of the program because of their beliefs.

What you can do

Enjoy with us a rare moment of a victory in the courts. We did it! And it was possible only with your help. Thank you.
  • Continue to donate toward and pray for the work of the EFC. It’s uniquely challenging but immensely satisfying to know we bring a voice of biblical compassion and insight into some of the most pressing issues of the day.
  • Share what you learn in this issue of Canada Watch with a friend. We will happily mail out a copy or send it by email to anyone you would like.
Also in this issue: Centre for Research charts evangelical thinking on MAiD, Presidents Day meets in Calgary, Ignite brings churches together to pray, Faith Today 40th birthday.