Ottawa, ON [July 7]—More than 200 legal experts from across Canada are urging the federal government to consider the harmful and likely unconstitutional effects of the proposed sex work legislation introduced by Justice Minister Peter MacKay last month.
The signatories to the open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper—which include top constitutional, criminal, and public law experts—assert that Bill C-36, the Protection Of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, will reproduce the harms caused by the prostitution laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in Bedford v. Canada. The letter states that the criminal laws proposed by Bill C-36 are likely to violate the Charter rights of sex workers, who will face increased risk of violence as a result of the new law.
The open letter was released on the first day of hearings by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which is studying the proposed legislation.
The letter examines three key aspects of Bill C-36—the prohibitions on purchasing sex, public communication and advertising—and says these prohibitions will recreate the violent and harmful conditions that caused the SCC to strike down three of Canada’s major prostitution laws.
“These laws were found to create and exacerbate dangerous conditions and prevent sex workers from taking action to reduce or mitigate the risks they face,” the letter states. “We are concerned that, for the very same reasons that caused the Court to strike down these prostitution laws, the criminal regime proposed by Bill C-36 is likely to offend the Charter as well.”