Remember back in September when I talked about this story on the legalization of prostitution debate going on in Canada? If not the gist was that sex trade workers argued last year that the laws, as they stand now, prevent them from working in doors or in their homes, and prevent them from properly screening clients before they leave with them. Possibly putting them in danger. In June of this year a 5 panel committee of judges heard the case as the federal government appealed the September 2010 ruling focusing heavily on the safety concerns sex workers had regarding the laws in place in Canada. The panel grilled the government lawyers on the issue of safety. The judges on the panel challenged the government lawyer, Michael Morris, telling him that they find it “hard to understand why it is not self evident that these provisions harm the ability to carry out prostitution safely.”On June 17, 2011 the panel ordered a stay on the provinces laws surrounding prostitution stating: “”The stay will remain in effect until we say something different.” A ruling from the supreme court is not expected until this fall.
After weeks of presenting arguments, back in June, by both sides the appeal court announced their decision at 11 am local time. So what did the courts decide? According to CBC news the court agreed with the majority of Himel’s rulings last year. This comes as no surprise given the line of questioning the government lawyer faced. First, that provisions prohibiting common bawdy houses are unconstitutional in the form they are currently in. Second, they also found that not allowing people to live off the avails of prostitution was also unconstitutional. However, they found that communication for the purposes of prostitution law is not in violation of women’s rights.
However, the judges also ruled that living off the avails of prostitution law will remain in effect for the next 30 days, and that the bawdy house laws will remain in effect for the next 12 months allowing the government of Canada to draft appropriate legislation.
This decision from the appeals court in Ontario will have an interesting effect on laws across Canada. I suspect that other provincial laws will start to be called into question in regards to sex work. Paving the way for a re-structuring of the laws in Canada. I can’t wait to see how the Harper government will handle this one!