BY ANDREA HOUSTON – UPDATE:
The Ontario Court of Appeal has struck down two provisions criminalizing sex work in Ontario and ruled that the prohibition of bawdy houses is unconstitutional.
The five judges ruled unanimously that sex workers in Ontario will be allowed to work legally in brothels.
However, the court did not strike down one provision around communication, ruling that communication for the purposes of prostitution is not allowed.
Judges said the decision will go a long way to protecting sex workers from harm.
Xtra is following the story. Stay tuned to xtra.ca for more.
March 26: Today Ontario decides whether to scrap the laws that keep sex
The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to release its
ruling in a case concerning the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution
Terri-Jean Bedford, who launched the sweeping constitutional challenge, will be at a press conference this morning at the 519 Church St Community Centre beginning at 11:30am.
Bedford and her fellow plaintiffs have been waiting months for this decision. The federal and Ontario governments appealed an Ontario
Superior Court ruling by Ontario Justice Susan Himel last year.
Prostitution itself is not illegal; however, three key
activities surrounding it are.
Himel struck down three laws — communicating for the purposes of
prostitution, keeping a common bawdyhouse and living on the avails of the
trade. She ruled that the laws made sex work more dangerous.
“By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating
law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social
nuisance,” Himel said, as reported in The Globe and Mail. “I find that the danger faced by
prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the
The government argued there is no obligation to maximize the
safety of sex workers because it is not a constitutionally protected right to
engage in the sex trade.
Himel ruled the laws were putting sex workers in danger and
violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For the past four years, lawyer and Osgoode Hall professor
Alan Young has represented sex workers Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and
Valerie Scott, who are challenging the laws that criminalize sex work in
Canada. He argued the appeal in June in front of five judges.
In this video clip, Bedford explains to The Globe and Mail the dangers faced by sex workers. She also has fierce words for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying he is hiding behind the courts and he needs to come out and fight like a man.
Young sounded confident about the pending decision when he
spoke to Xtra in December.
“I had a good time in the Ontario Court of Appeal,” he said.
“I just got to sit back and watch the government squirm as they tried to
overturn this decision.”
This is a lecture featuring Young at his most captivating,
laying out his case. It’s 45 minutes, but I highly recommend you take the time to watch the whole thing.