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Reflection of Prostitution Laws Since Canada v. Bedford
In the landmark case of Canada v. Bedford, Canada’s Criminal Code dealing with three laws on prostitution was struck down. Under Canada’s Criminal Code before Canada v. Bedford, the law deemed it a criminal act to keep or be in a bawdy house, to “live on the avails of prostitution,” and to solicit sexual services in public places. For the first time in Canada’s history the highest court heard testimony from sexual workers and concluded that the three laws of the Criminal Code violated a sex workers’ constitutional right. Criminalizing individuals involved in prostitution, communicating in public about prostitution and being in a bawdy house was found to violate a sex workers’ right to a security of a person.

The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, also known as Bill C-36 was approved in November 2016. Bill C-36 states that prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation, recognizing that prostitution cause a negative impact on women and young girls. The bill gave a Royal Assent to protect individuals involved in sexual services, protecting communities that may be harmed by prostitution and to reduce prostitution altogether. The Act also seeks to protect those involved in prostitution by encouraging victims to come forward and report any violence they experienced due to being sexually exploited and ultimately leaving prostitution. A total cost of 20 million in funding has been set aside to help those involved in sexual services to leave prostitution.

Along with protecting communities, women and children involved in sexual services, Bill C-36 also outlined a new series of offences and penalties. The bill has now made it illegal to communicate or buy sex in any place. Every time there is a transaction of sex, that offense is criminalized. This offense can come with a maximum prison sentence of 5 years and at least 18 months. There is a starting minimum fine of $500 for the first offense. But, if the purchase of sexual services takes place in a public place in or near schools, parks, religious establishments or anywhere children may be present, the fines are higher. If the victim is a child, an individual can receive up to 10 years imprisonment or 6 months in prison for a first offense and one year for reoccurring offenses.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code the laws did not distinguish between those who exploited sex works (such as pimps) and those that protect the safety of a sex worker (such as bodyguards). Such a law was deemed not to be in the best interest of a sex worker because it did not allow for protection of a sex worker, therefore increasing the likelihood the risk of violence. The case of Canada v. Bedford provided the framework in shielding those involved in prostitution from danger. Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act goes a step further by criminalizing prostitution while still protecting those involved to reduce and diminish sexual services altogether.

If you or someone you know has been criminally charged, it is critical to seek legal representation. Contact Julian van der Walle today.Photo by jpereira_net

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