The Hon. Marco Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety
269 Laurier Avenue West
Dear Minister Mendicino,
We are writing to urge you to allow prostitution-related convictions incurred prior to enactment of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act to be expunged from the criminal records of prostituted persons. This would be a step towards removing stigma and barriers for those who have been in situations of exploitation and towards addressing historically unjust offences.
Statistics Canada data confirms that prostitution is the most common end point for victims of trafficking in Canada. Under the previous Criminal Code provisions on prostitution, prostituted persons were often the ones arrested, charged and convicted. This was at a time when there was less awareness of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and less understanding of the factors behind entry into prostitution.
The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) recognizes that prostitution is inherently exploitative and harmful. PCEPA’s preamble warns of the “objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity.” It recognizes that the vast majority of individuals in prostitution are not there by way of free and fully informed choice.
Prostituted persons may be vulnerable and victimized in various ways. As the Department of Justice Technical Paper on PCEPA noted, entering into prostitution and remaining in it are influenced by socioeconomic factors such as poverty and childhood abuse. Marginalized groups are disproportionately represented among those who are prostituted. The Technical Paper pointed out that prostitution poses a risk of violence and psychological harm.
The past criminalization of those who are prostituted can pose significant barriers to their exit from prostitution. Prostitution-related offences on a criminal record often act as a barrier to gaining housing or securing employment.
We note as well the non-punishment principle that has emerged at the UN. Under this principle, it is recognized that trafficked persons should not be penalized for illegal conduct they committed as a direct consequence of being trafficked. This is based in the belief that it is unjust to penalize victims of trafficking who commit crimes in connection with their victimization.
We respectfully ask that you consider making prostitution-related convictions of prostituted persons incurred prior to the enactment of PCEPA eligible for expungement. This would protect and promote the fundamental human rights of prostituted persons in Canada.
Director, Public Policy
Author: Julia Beazley