Sex workers across Canada are celebrating the Ontario Superior Court’s decision today, which struck down Canada’s prostitution laws. The Court held that the bawdy house law, the communication law and the law that prohibits living on the avails are unconstitutional because they violate sex workers’ rights to safety, life, liberty and freedom of expression.
“We’re excited to start working on the next steps,” said Susan Davis of the BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC). “Sex workers have already laid the groundwork for building a safe and vibrant working community for ourselves, and we’ve already started implementing our plans.” BCCEC’s new Opening the Doors report lays out detailed plans to increase the safety of all sex workers and can be a template for working in a decriminalized environment. The report was written by sex workers, who are in the best position to know what is best for themselves and their industry.
“Although the government will likely appeal this verdict, this decision is a huge step towards ensuring that sex workers will enjoy the same rights and protections as other Canadians, including the protection of police and other support systems,” said Tamara O’Doherty, a FIRST spokesperson and a criminologist at University of the Fraser Valley.
“We call on all provinces and police forces across Canada to stop enforcing the prostitution laws immediately,” said O’Doherty. “This would be a crucial first step in reducing violence against sex workers. It’s time for Canada to acknowledge that sex workers are people too, and that sex workers are entitled to safety and equality.”
The plaintiffs – Amy Lebovitch, Terri-Jean Bedford, and Valerie Scott, of Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC) – argued their case in front of the Superior Court of Ontario in October 2009, with Alan Young as counsel.
“Much of the violence and abuse experienced by sex workers is a result of the conditions created by the criminal laws,” said Katrina Pacey, lawyer with Pivot Legal Society. “The laws have forced sex workers into the shadows where they face very dangerous conditions and can’t turn to the police for protection without risking arrest. It’s wonderful that the court has recognized the harm of the laws, and has freed sex workers from the threat of criminal prosecution.” Pivot and FIRST explain why consensual adult sex work needs to be decriminalized in Canada in their new position paper, Out of the Shadows.
FIRST, Pivot, and BCCEC would like to thank Sex Professionals of Canada and the three Toronto sex workers for their courage and determination in standing up publicly for the rights and safety of themselves and all Canadian sex workers.
Audio - Kara Gillies from Maggie's speaks about what effect the ruling will have on the women who work in the sex trade (starts at 11:00), The Current, CBC Radio, 10.07.2010
Decriminalization of Sex Work and Indigenous Youth and Communities – a response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, 10.05.2010
Vidéo - CTV's interview with Pascale Robitaille, 10.05.2010
‘It is not important for scholars to present information that contradicts their own findings’: anti-prostitution witness Richard Poulin, Laura Agustin, 10.02.2010
Dan Gardner : Prostitution ruling confronts wall of apathy, National Post, 10.01.2010
Decriminalizing sex work means minimizing harm, Meredith Ralston, TheChronicleHerald.ca, 09.30.2010
Prostitutes were murdered because of our laws, Mindelle Jacobs, Toronto Sun, 09.30.2010
Courts take giant step for sex workers' safety, Jody Paterson, Times Colonist, 09.29.2010
Minister, take note: Current laws harm prostitutes, communities, Peter McKnight, The Vancouver Sun, 09.29.2010
Ottawa to appeal prostitution ruling, The Canadian Press, 09.29.2010
B.C. rights groups celebrate court ruling striking down prostitution laws, Laura Baziuk, The Province, 09.29.2010
Prostitution laws struck down, Tracey Tyler, thestar.com, 09.28.2010
Ontario Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws, Maggie’s, 09.28.2010