On December 20, 2013, in the case of Bedford v. Attorney General of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada found three Criminal Code prostitution offences to be unconstitutional and of no force or effect. This decision gives Parliament one year to respond with a new law before the judgment takes effect.
The government is now asking for feedback from you. Here is your chance to help shape a very important law for the better. What a practical and far-reaching way to honour the command to love your neighbour as yourself!
The link for the government feedback survey is right here (just click on the consultations tab). Before filling it out, it might be a good idea to review the next few paragraphs. What follows is a basic summary of what our law currently says, what the Supreme Court said about these laws, and what other options there are in dealing with this issue. Then we’ve listed ARPA’s own talking points on the issue. Consider using these when filling out the survey.
Current Criminal Laws Governing Prostitution
Adult prostitution is not illegal in Canada; however, the Criminal Code prohibits three types of prostitution-related activities:
- activities related to brothels, or “bawdy houses” (sections 210 and 211);
- procuring and living on the avails of prostitution (section 212); and
- communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution (section 213).
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Bedford Decision
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Bedford v. Attorney General of Canada found three Criminal Code prostitution provisions unconstitutional:
- the bawdy house offence with respect to the practice of prostitution (section 210 prohibits keeping and being an inmate of or found in a bawdy house);
- the living on the avails offence (paragraph 212(1)(j), which prohibits living in whole or in part on the earnings of prostitutes); and
- the communicating offence (paragraph 213(1)(c), which prohibits communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute).
The Supreme Court found that these offences violate prostitutes’ right to security of the person, as protected by section 7 of the Charter, by preventing them from taking measures to protect themselves while engaging in a risky, but legal, activity. Such protective measures include selling sexual services indoors, hiring bodyguards and drivers, and negotiating safer conditions for the sale of sexual services in public places.
The Supreme Court’s decision does not take effect for one year. If there is no legislative response, the result of this decision would be decriminalization of most adult prostitution-related activities:
- indoor prostitution (e.g. in a house or apartment, massage parlour, or strip club);
- providing services to prostitutes (e.g. as a bodyguard or a driver); and
- communicating for the purposes of purchasing or selling sexual services in public places (e.g. in the street).
Existing International Approaches to Prostitution
Internationally, prostitution is generally treated in one of three ways:
Decriminalization/legalization: Jurisdictions such as Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia have decriminalized and regulated prostitution.
Prohibition: All states in the United States, with the exception of the state of Nevada, prohibit both the purchase and sale of sexual services, as well as the involvement of third parties (e.g. pimps) in prostitution.
Abolition (the “Nordic Model”): Sweden, Norway and Iceland have adopted a criminal law response that seeks to abolish the exploitation of persons through prostitution by criminalizing those who exploit prostitutes (clients and third parties) and decriminalizing prostitutes themselves. These countries have also implemented social programs to help prostitutes leave prostitution (e.g. exit strategies and supporting services).
Canada’s current approach is a hybrid of decriminalization and prohibition – prostitution itself is legal but almost all activities associated with prostitution are criminalized. A similar approach is taken in England, Ireland and Scotland.
ARPA’s Talking Points
- Knowing that God gives us direction in His Word for the benefit of society, we note two biblical principles that apply to prostitution: first, that sexual activity was created by God and designed for marriage, and that deviation from that increases risks of harm; and second, that the government is tasked with doing all it can to restrain evil. Applying this to public policy, we note the following:
- Prostitution poses risks to those involved and to the communities in which it is practiced;
- Prostitution degrades the human person;
- Prostitution is inherently dangerous and exploitative – legalizing and regulating the practice will not change this reality, in fact, legalization only normalizes the commodification of the female body;
- Our laws should first be concerned with protecting the vulnerable, not enabling the strong at the expense of the vulnerable – we are well aware that there are some (a minority) who willingly engage in prostitution and avoid exploitation by pimps and johns in doing so. However, the exceptional ones should not be given the right to sell themselves at the cost of the life, liberty and security of the person of the vulnerable majority. To argue otherwise is a logical fallacy of composition.
- When listening to “sex workers” or (more accurately) prostituted women, the government and society must listen to all women, children and men in the sex trade. That means more than just the ones with the microphone. For example, in a survey of downtown Vancouver prostitutes, an overwhelming 95% said they wanted out of the sex trade!
- The Nordic model is the only law that provides for escape for the vulnerable and exploited while also punishing those who exploit the vulnerable, particularly pimps and johns;
- The other alternative (legalization) is rife with problems: there is an overwhelming influence of gangs in the sex trade, human trafficking increases and child prostitution rates climb;
- Therefore, purchasing sexual services from an adult (johns) should be a criminal offence with no exceptions and selling sexual services should be a criminal offence (pimps) with the exception of prostitutes themselves since the majority (though not all) are coerced into selling themselves by others;
- Although the government may need to assist at the outset, victims should primarily be assisted by those agencies and institutions in society who are most naturally called to assist the weak and exploited. This would naturally include the church as that is where the message of forgiveness and healing naturally can be promoted.
- In John 8, when interacting with the woman brought to him having been caught in adultery, Jesus forgives her and tells her to sin no more. God is willing to forgive.
PLEASE NOTE: When filling out the survey, please answer the last question (question #6) as follows: “No, I am a concerned private citizen” (optional, add name of city and province in which you live)
After you have filled out the government survey, please send your MP an EasyMail (in three easy steps) on this issue. We have three templates to choose from: