Letter on PCEPA prostitution law to justice minister

04 October 2022
The Hon. David Lametti
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Dear Minister Lametti,
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (the EFC) applauds the federal government’s defence of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) before the Ontario Superior Court in CASWLR v. Canada this fall.
The EFC supports PCEPA as an essential tool in the fight against sexual exploitation. 
We fully agree with the objectives of PCEPA, which are, as laid out in the AG of Canada’s factum (at par. 20), to “reduce the demand for prostitution with a view to discourage entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing to the greatest extent possible, in order to protect communities, human dignity and equality.”   

The EFC is intervening in CASWLR v. Canada in support of PCEPA. Our factum points out that, in passing this law, Parliament sought to protect the dignity and equality of vulnerable populations who are disproportionately prostituted or impacted by prostitution.

The EFC’s legal brief goes on to say: “Parliament reasonably concluded that prostitution is not an issue of merely personal, private choices between consenting adults with which the law need not be concerned.  Rather, it raises fundamental questions of dignity and equality, and is inseparably tied up with such consequential issues as abuse, coercion, manipulation, assault, trafficking, physical and emotional trauma, harmful beliefs and attitudes about sex and gender, inequality, and more.”

As you contribute to a government response to the Justice Committee’s June 2022 report on PCEPA, we ask that you continue to uphold the law and encourage its enforcement across Canada.
We appreciate that the committee recommends further consultation before making any major changes to the legislation. However, we reject the overall framing of the report, expressed in recommendation 7, which suggests that Canada should move toward decriminalization. We also strongly disagree with the premise of the report’s second recommendation, that the prostitution laws themselves cause serious danger and harm to individuals in the sex trade.
Canada’s approach to prostitution, based on the Nordic or Equality model of law and policy, is intended to be a three-pronged approach. The criminalization of sex-buying is the lynchpin of the Act. The criminal prohibitions against sex-buying, procuring and pimping are just one element of this model, however, meant to work together with the others: significant, long-term investment in exit supports and services; and public awareness and education campaigns about the law and its objectives. These other two elements have yet to be fully implemented and require further government attention and investment.
This approach to prostitution seeks to provide options for individuals in prostitution. The intention is not to remove the livelihood of vulnerable persons without providing economic and other supports. A robust public education campaign would reduce the confusion, noted in the committee’s report, over which practices are illegal under PCEPA and how the immunity provision is intended to be applied. 
We note also that the provisions of PCEPA move Canada closer to fulfilling its international commitments. Several UN instruments obligate countries to address, reduce or eliminate demand for paid sex, such as the Palermo Protocol, the UN General Assembly resolution 61/144 on trafficking in women and girls, and the OHCHR Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking.
We commend the committee for listening to all sides of the issue in its review of PCEPA. And we note some of the positive recommendations in the report that we hope you will support, including that the government: 
  • Consult extensively before making any change to the laws or developing programs (recommendation 1) 
  • Take action to address exploitation and trafficking, making additional resources available to victims and law enforcement (recommendation 6) 
  • Introduce legislation to strengthen the laws on exploitation and trafficking [apart from the idea of a possible move towards decriminalization] (recommendation 7) 
  • Study how to encourage more consistent application of the prostitution laws across the country (recommendation 9) 
  • Invest in and support programs to address the root causes for entering sex work (recommendation 15) 
  • Invest in and support additional supports for vulnerable youth at risk of sexual exploitation and individuals who wish to leave the sex industry, including mental health and addiction services, vocational and education programs and income supports (recommendation 17) 
The EFC’s support for the prostitution laws is rooted in a deep desire to protect the safety, equality, dignity and well-being of all women and girls. We must work toward a society where no woman, girl or boy feels their only or best option for survival is prostitution.

When there are Canadians living in poverty, unable to afford housing, experiencing racism and marginalization or lack of social support, we must respond with genuine options to address those needs, rather than accepting the sale of the person’s sexuality as the answer. 

Julia Beazley, Director, Public Policy