On December 20th, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three current laws governing prostitution (prohibiting keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating for the purpose of prostitution) violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“’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’ ” (CBC News, 2013, n.p.).
The Canadian government has one year to adjust the criminal code.
This ruling was the result of a challenge to federal laws launched by sex workers in Ontario in 2007. They argued that current legislation made it impossible to earn their livelihood safely and with dignity. While prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada, the laws prohibiting related activities make it almost impossible for sex workers to avoid breaking the law. These laws made it illegal for sex workers to work together indoors and to hire bodyguards, infringed on their ability to properly assess clients, and made it difficult for them to take other kinds of precautions.
For more information about this case, please visit our Legal Context Page.