Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Canada Wakes Up and Recognizes Unconstitutionality of Prostitution Laws

Today, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel struck down three sections of the Criminal Code pertaining to adult prostitution as unconstitutional. These sections are:
S. 210(1) Every one who
(a) is an inmate of a common bawdy-house
(b) is found, without lawful excuse in a common bawdy-house, or as owner, landlord, lessor, tenant, occupier, agent or otherwise having charge or control of any place, knowingly permits the place or any part thereof to be let or used for the purposes of a common bawdy-house is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction
S. 212(1)(j) Everyone who lives wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
S. 213(1) Every person who is in a public place or in any place open to public view, stops or attempts to stop any person or in any manner communicates or attempts to communicate with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
To put this into plain English:

The communicating law under s.213 emerged in 1986 as a response to conservative cries of "not in my backyard" with respect to the visibility of on-street sex work. The communicating law made it illegal to communicate for the purposes of prostitution, which inversely resulted in the retreat and displacement of street-level sex workers having to retreat to poor
ly-lit back alleys where they could be picked up by the likes of Robert Pickton and murdered... from zero sex workers reported missing or killed before 1986 and s.213 to at least 60 missing in Vancouver alone (many more nation-wide) post s.213 after I think it's safe to say the government dropped the big one when they passed this law.

Sadly it's taken almost 25 years to change, and a lot of people close to me (including my wife!, the Pivot Legal Society, and the wonderful ladies and gentlemen involved with FIRST), have worked around the clock for years to strike that section down and provide safer conditions for people working in the sex industry, meaning off the street and into indoor settings (regardless of one's moral stance on selling sex). So, this is a strong preventative measure, I'd say, and a progressive step in a country not generally regarded as a leader in practices of safe sex work.