Canada strikes down national criminal prostitution laws
Nikki Thomas/director Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the main scheme of criminal laws against the buying and selling of sex by prostitutes, saying it endangers the lives and security of vulnerable sex workers.
However, the country’s top court has given Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme that could pass constitutional muster.
That means if, 12 months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, overbroad and “grossly disproportionate,” then prostitutes will be allowed to legally practice their trade, hire drivers, bodyguards, accountants and screen their clients freely.
In the meantime, the Criminal Code ban on brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution remain in full effect…
The stunning judgment that the country’s main prostitution laws breach fundamental Charter rights was a unanimous conclusion reached by all nine judges, including the retiring Justice Morris Fish. The court flatly rejected calls by the federal government’s lawyers to defer to Parliament on the contentious matter.
The appeal, known as Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott was brought by Toronto-based dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott, and downtown eastside Vancouver’s Amy Lebovitch. All three were on hand in Ottawa, and rejoiced loudly.
If you haven’t been following the case, the article is long, detailed and informative. Frankly, it’s worth reading because it should nudge your own thought processes. The questions raised ain’t easy.
On one hand, any sort of libertarian outlook says, let folks earn a living however they wish if they aren’t producing permanent harm to individuals and society. That last word brings in all the religions and philosophers. Not me. Individual freedoms are pretty hard to celebrate to a level that harms a nation.
The only concern from my side is the opportunity for criminals enterprise to profit from and control the lives of sex workers. And history tells us that is easier under criminalization than without. As alcohol prohibition has taught us, as our wonderful war on drugs illustrates on a daily basis.
Worth thinking about, folks – even if the opportunity to visit the question in your own country isn’t likely.