Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Life and Death' Court Decision on Canada's Sex-Trade Laws Coming Monday: Sex-Trade Court Decision Coming Monday

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Life and Death' Court Decision on Canada's Sex-Trade Laws Coming Monday: Sex-Trade Court Decision Coming Monday

Article excerpt

TORONTO - A ruling that could effectively end prostitution-related prosecutions in Canada comes down Monday as Ontario's top court weighs whether current laws are constitutional.

Essentially, the Appeal Court will decide whether three laws put sex-trade workers in danger by banning brothels, soliciting, and living off the avails of the sex trade.

"It's a matter of life and death," said Valerie Scott, one of three women involved in the case.

"In what other legal occupation is a worker not permitted by law to take any security measures?"

In a comprehensive judgment in September 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel ruled the laws were fundamentally unjust by making life more dangerous for sex-trade workers. Prostitution itself was not illegal in Canada, though many of the key activities were under the three laws that Himel struck down.

The provisions, Himel said, put prostitutes at risk by preventing them from working indoors, screening clients or hiring bodyguards.

"These laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person," Himel wrote.

The government appealed, arguing in part last June that the laws are necessary to allow police to control street prostitution and to protect vulnerable women from harm at the hands of pimps. It also maintained that prostitutes make an economic choice they know is dangerous, and therefore have no constitutional protection for that decision.

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper has weighed in.

"We believe that the prostitution trade is bad for society," Harper said after Himel's decision.

"That's a strong view held by our government (and), I think, by most Canadians."

Critics of the laws argued that scrapping them had the potential to save women from predators like serial killer Robert Pickton, convicted of murdering six Vancouver prostitutes. …

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