It has been just over one year since the Bedford decision and sex workers have yet to see any significant benefits from the ruling. The landmark decision, delivered in December 2013, effectively struck down three Criminal Code provisions deemed to exacerbate the risk of harm faced by sex workers — an ostensible victory for sex worker rights.
However, the days of decriminalized sex work have been short-lived. With the Conservative government’s swift response to the decision, Bill C-36, also known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), passed through our parliamentary system without meaningful consultation.
Having had a year to reflect on the changing prostitution laws in Canada, it comes as no surprise to have come full circle, legislating from a moral position that sex work is inherently exploitative — a fundamental ethos that ignores many diverse experiences of those within the sex trade.
As we kick off the New Year, prostitution is criminalized yet again. Despite the Supreme Court’s recognition that sex workers’ lives are put at risk through vaguely defined laws, the government’s response reflects many of the same legislative and constitutional problems it faced in the pre-Bedford regime.