Canada’s Supreme Court has struck down most of the previous laws related to prostitution in Canada deeming them unconstitutional because they breach the Charter rights of vulnerable and marginalized people and their right to “security of the person.” The present laws will stay in effect for one year giving the Parliament of Canada time to draft better laws. If elected politicians fail to create laws which will withstand constitutional challenge prostitution will be legal and unrestricted in Canada.
This has opened a door for all of our elected officials to work together regardless of political parties and I pray that they will work together for the good of Canada and for the good of vulnerable and marginalized people who have used prostitution as a means of survival. It will be messy political work but it will be important for them to be willing to risk their political careers to do the right thing. The tendency in the past has sometimes been to simply despair of creating better laws and leave social issues largely unregulated. Doing so in this case would be a mistake. There are examples of other countries of the world which have drafted effective laws on prostitution and there are examples of countries which have tried the route of legalizing prostitution leading to dreadful consequences.
Joy Smith, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul in Manitoba, is admirable in her willingness to step into the debate. On hearing of the Supreme Court ruling, she issued an immediate press release stating the importance of drafting new legislation. You can read it in its entirety here. In the release she states that “This ruling leaves police without important legal tools to tackle sex trafficking and organized crime and does not reflect a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision which stated that the elimination of prostitution through law was a valid goal.” Thus, she encourages Parliament to have the will to use the rule of law to eliminate prostitution and protect people from human trafficking and organized crime. She further states that “prostitution as an industry . . . is inherently harmful to women and girls and therefore must be eliminated.” Ms. Smith suggests, along with many others, that the way to solve this problem lies in the Nordic model of prostitution which targets the buyers of sex. The Nordic model criminalizes the buying of sex and the sexual exploitation of prostitutes and has been used effectively in countries such as Sweden and Norway. It also features a support program which aims to create strategies for those who seek to exit prostitution.
The position of the press release is summarised in these statements:
Prostitution must be eliminated because it dehumanizes and degrades humans and reduces them to a commodity to be bought and sold. Legalizing prostitution is a direct attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, girls and vulnerable people. In the same regard, continuing to criminalize the women and vulnerable populations being prostituted creates barriers that prevent them from escaping prostitution and entrenches inequality. . . .
As a nation, we must ensure pimps remain severely sanctioned and prostituted women and girls are not criminalized and instead given meaningful escape routes out of sex work. Most importantly, Canada must focus on the real root of prostitution by targeting the buyers of sex.
Let’s join together in prayer and effort to see that this ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada is a turning point in Canadian law. May we all work toward the implementation of a Nordic model of law regarding prostitution in this country. May we work to see people protected and work toward a just society in Canada.
REED, Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity; http://www.embracedignity.org
“Legalizing Prostitution Will Harm Women – Canada Must Target Buyers of Sex,” MP Joy Smith, Press Release, December 20, 2013, http://www.joysmith.ca/news.asp?newsID=761
“Supreme Court of Canada strikes down federal prostitution laws,” The Star.com, December 22, 2013, http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/12/20/supreme_court_of_canada_strikes_down_federal_criminal_prostitution_laws.html
“Supreme Court strikes down Canada’s prostitution laws,” CBC News, December 20, 2013, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-strikes-down-canada-s-prostitution-laws-1.2471572