Supreme Court of Canada strikes down country’s prostitution laws

Dec 20, 2013
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Parliament has 1 year to bring in new law as Criminal Code provisions remain in place

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws in a unanimous decision, and given Parliament one year to come up with new legislation — should it choose to do so.

In striking down laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients, the top court ruled Friday that the laws were over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.”

“Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 9-0 decision that noted “it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.”

The ruling was in response to a court challenge by women with experience in the sex trade, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott that had resulted in an Ontario court ruling that overturned the laws.

Sex workers advocate Valerie Scott, left, and Terri-Jean Bedford brought the case against Canada's prostitution laws. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Sex workers advocate Valerie Scott, left, and Terri-Jean Bedford brought the case against Canada’s prostitution laws. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Court of Appeal later upheld the law against communicating in public, but sided with the lower court in overturning the provisions against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house or brothel.

“These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not. They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not,” McLachlin wrote.

“I would therefore make a suspended declaration of invalidity, returning the question of how to deal with prostitution to Parliament.”

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10 years ago

Nice to see some intelligent legal reasoning on this subject for a change. Perhaps this will start a counter-trend against the nonsense of the so-called “Nordic Model.” The Canadian model appears to be based on rational thought rather than ignorant prejudice. How refreshing.


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