TORONTO – Two months since the Supreme Court struck down three prostitution-related prohibitions and gave Parliament one “buffer” year to come up with new legislation, prosecutors in some provinces are acting like the laws are already gone.
Canada’s provinces divided
Prosecutors in Ontario and New Brunswick have stopped prosecuting crimes related to keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and street soliciting.
Advocates for sex workers are pleased with the decision, but at least one MP is concerned that it’s setting a dangerous precedent.
“Basically what the provinces are doing now, is they’re cherry-picking the Criminal Code. So Canadians need to tell their elected people, keep the laws in place,” said Tory MP Joy Smith, who urged prosecutors in British Columbia to continue prosecuting the crimes. “That’s a very dangerous precedent to be set.”
Smith praised Alberta, where the deputy attorney-general issued a directive that the province would continue to prosecute prostitution-related offences within the confines of the landmark Bedford ruling.
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said if they didn’t continue to prosecute the offences—like keeping a brothel—it would mean a “period of lawlessness.”
“It would not be unreasonable to foresee that you could see a brothel popping up in residential areas. It’s not unreasonable to see that you would even have human trafficking happening through this province,” Denis said. “And that’s not something that we’re willing to stand for in Alberta.”
British Columbia will also continue to prosecute the crimes in question on a case-by-case basis — until the federal government introduces legislation.