The Globe and Mail has a thorough (if biased) story on the Ontario Superior Court’s decision which makes the three restrictions on prostitution unenforceable in Ontario. Their editorial slams Justice Susan Himel for deciding this issue on her own: “An Ontario judge had no business striking down three major anti-prostitution laws in the Criminal Code on Tuesday.” The paper says Parliament should weigh the evidence and debate the issue, but no doubt once that debate occurred, the Globe and Mail would editorial against infringing on the rights of “consenting adults” partaking in a “consensual” transaction. That’s the tact the other national paper takes; the National Post editorializes that it’s time to permit legal prostitution, even though it acknowledges that the sex trade can never be made safe. Barbara Kay, one of their columnists who opposes Justice Himel’s decision, says:
Many libertarians will applaud the legalization of prostitution, which is in theory a victimless crime. The reality is that high-end prostitutes already know how to look after themselves, while low-end prostitutes are usually just trying to get from one drug fix to another. They will have little interest in pre-screening their johns, because they are desperate women. Does anyone really believe that they are going to spend their money on an “office,” advertise their services, keep accounts, submit to regular health testing and pay taxes on their income? Dream on. Does anyone really believe that pimps will then become vacuum-cleaner salesmen?
So when one of the prostitutes involved in the legal challenge against the Criminal Code restrictions on prostitution says, “We don’t have to worry about being raped and robbed and murdered,” she is clearly over-stating the benefit of permitting prostitution. Furthermore, Conservative Joy Smith has criticized Justice Himel’s decision, noting that wherever prostitution is legal, human trafficking is sure to follow. Permitting bawdy houses and solicitation might make selling sex safer for some prostitutes, but it hardly makes prostitution safe. For more on this, see the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s study on the link between prostitution and trafficking.
My two cents: Why is the focus always on harm reduction? Is there no higher morality than making something safe or safer, regardless of how morally repellent it might be? Do advocates of selling sex rally behind a mantra of safe, legal and rare? Of course not — that would be bad for business.
Here is the two cents of others. The reaction from REAL Women:
Ontario court decision on prostitution is without merit
Ontario Courts are one of the most liberal in Canada. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has handed down a decision today on the prostitution law that merely confirms the court’s liberal perspective, which previously legalized marijuana for “medical” reasons, three-parent families, and same-sex marriage. The decision on the prostitution law today is just more of the same.
What has occurred is that an appointed non-answerable judge has handed down a decision on a national social policy that would never be passed by an elected Parliament.
Madame Justice Himel has used the vague wording in the Charter of Rights as a tool to interpret a grave national social policy according to her ideology, rather than on sound facts and legal principle. To declare prostitution and all its accompanying activities as a legal right and activity protected by the Charter of Right’s section 7 (security of persons) is an absurdity.
The purpose of the law on prostitution is to protect women and children (and also some men) from harm and possible death. To remove the law, as Madame Justice Himel has done, increases the number of individuals involved in legal and illegal prostitution. It is particularly important to protect the most vulnerable women, such as aboriginal and other women, who are used and exploited in the human trafficking business.
Ideology should not supplant common sense on a matter which degrades and exploits individuals who need assistance to get out of the horrendous activity of prostitution by protective laws.
Here’s the reaction from the Christian Legal Fellowship:
Ontario Superior Court decided prostitution challenge
The Superior Court of Ontario released its decision in Bedford v. Canada, a case challenging the constitutionality of Criminal Code provisions impacting prostitution. The case, heard last October, was brought by three sex workers on the grounds that the Criminal Code provisions against operating a bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution, or communicating for the purposes of prostitution violated s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In response to the challenge, the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Christian Legal Fellowship (“CLF”), and REAL Women of Canada (“the intervenors”) filed a joint submission requesting the Court uphold the Criminal Code provisions in order to protect vulnerable individuals who may find themselves forced into prostitution. The intervenors also presented evidence explaining Canada’s historic and longstanding position against prostitution, revealing the importance of these provisions in maintaining Canada’s moral and social fabric.
Ruth Ross, CLF Executive Director and General Legal Counsel, stated, “Today’s decision is unfortunate. Although it purposes to fulfill a noble goal, that of providing greater protection for the vulnerable, it in fact has the potential to create a system that undermines the security of all Canadians. As studies have shown and recent reports from Winnipeg affirm, prostitution and human trafficking are closely linked. By eliminating the Criminal Code provisions, we anticipate police will find it more difficult to identify and protect those who have been forced into prostitution and pimps will acquire a greater degree of power.”
“Prostitution exposes both women and men to physical and psychological harm; it is an inherently dangerous activity. Removing the Criminal Code provisions will not reduce the harm to those who engage in the behaviour nor will it benefit society as a whole. Other nations have implemented similar legal schemes only to find an increase in detrimental consequences. Moreover, the decision reinforces the notion that sex is not an intimate and loving act but instead a commodity that can be bought and sold at will.”
“Beyond the particular issue of prostitution, this decision again puts into question Parliament’s role in our Canadian democracy. In enacting these provisions, Parliament reviewed the array of variables and social science evidence, took into account public opinion by hearing from citizens across the nation, and discussed the complexity of the subject. Its provisions struck a reasoned balance that did much to protect the human dignity of victims of prostitution and the health, safety, welfare and morals of society.”
The Catholic Civil Rights League has a press release here.
There is a link to Justice Himel’s decision at the bottom of this page.