Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford [2013]

01 December 2013

Case Summary

In September 2010, Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court effectively struck down the Criminal Code provisions dealing with living on the avails (proceeds) of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house (brothel), and communicating for the purposes of prostitution in the case of Bedford v. Attorney-General of Canada. That decision was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal where five judges heard the appeal and decided:

1. The federal government had twelve months to reform the Criminal Code (the “Code”) provision against prostitutes operating out of brothels, massage parlours and other forms of common bawdy houses; which would do nothing to protect the rank and file exploited women, men and children working on the street.

2. The Code provision that prohibits communicating for the purposes of prostitution was upheld; i.e. you can buy and you can sell but you can’t advertise or negotiate a price.

3. And, the section of the Code dealing with living on the avails of prostitution was amended by the court so that it will only apply to those doing so in an exploitive way; which would accommodate the rare few with the capacity to structure a sex-for-sale business with support staff.

The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal was stayed (i.e., the law stays as it is written in the Criminal Code) until the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which was rendered in December 2013. It struck down all three provisions of Canada’s prostitution laws, creating a legal vacuum. The current laws remain in place for one year, during which time the Government of Canada has the option to abandon them or implement new laws.

The EFC was an intervener in the case and responded immediately to the Supreme Court decision.

In February 2014 the Government of Canada began inviting public input on the reform of Canada’s prostitution laws. The online consultation was open until March 17, 2014.

Legal Submissions

  • Factum of the Intervener, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, as submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada (May 2013)

Court Decisions

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