The legality of prostitution in Canada


in Canada, Law

Canada’s laws criminalising aspects of prostitution are going to be challenged before the Supreme Court.

Personally, I cannot see how treating prostitutes as criminals helps anybody. If government wants to reduce exploitation in the industry, they would do better by regulating it and fostering good relationships between sex workers and the police.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt March 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm

If government wants to reduce exploitation in the industry, they would do better by regulating it and fostering good relationships between sex workers and the police.


oleh April 1, 2011 at 7:22 am

The problem with the prostitution laws is that it can force the prostitutes into the street where they are subject to increased danger. Prostitution in Canada is technically legal, but there are prohibitions on keeping a bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution or living off the avails of prostitution.

I do not see the primary problem as between the police and sex workers. I believe that most police, in the role as protecting the public, also protect prostitutes. The problem lies with a view of prostitution in society in general as a reality that we prefer to ignore. Hence we prohibit brothels, a basic institution which would make prostitution and sex workers safer.

I do not see it as the role of the Courts, but rather Parliament to improve this situation. In particular, I do not see the solution on the floor of Parliament with its tendency for partisanship and showmanship. Rather bi-partisan work within the Committees of Parliament is where the work can be done after input from the various stakeholders and in particular the federal and provincial Ministries of Health and Social Services.

The reality is that prostitution will always be present in our society, and basically in every society. A key is to make it safer for all involved. It will require a more enlightened view from Parliament to accomplish that.

Padraic April 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

This article is wrong. The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to consider the issue of whether the sex workers have standing to challenge the constitutionality of prostitution laws in the BC Supreme Court (trial court). No leave has been granted for a Supreme Court of Canada hearing on the merits of the challenge, only this procedural issue.

Alison April 1, 2011 at 9:42 am

What do you really mean, Matt?

Tristan April 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I saw Ron Marzel, counsel on the Bedford case speak at the Law Union of Ontario conference this year. He summarized the arguments they had made, and I will be very disappointed if the supreme court rules against them. Perhaps the most perverse thing in Canadian common law regarding prostitutes that Marzel pointed out is that after the bawdy house provision prevents prostitutes from practicing their trade in their house or a safe house owned collectively, which means they’ve been pushed out into dangerous public areas, the avails charge has been interpreted to criminalize any attempt by prostitutes to hire protection.

oleh April 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm


Giving a party standing means that a party can participate in the proceeding. This decision would allow the retired sex worker and the group representing sex workers to participate in the proceeding where the anti-prostitution law is being challenged even though they are not parties. For example in the Reference currently being heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on the Criminal Code prohibition on polygamy, standing has been given to about 10 associations who advocate on behalf of various issues such as civil rights, women, and children.

Anonymous April 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Perhaps one way to view people who freely choose to work in the sex
trade is like contractors who do dangerous work for high pay. There
are risks, but they are often paid hundreds of dollars an hour.

Ron Marzel April 19, 2011 at 11:35 am

Thanks for the support and vote of confidence Tristan. Feel free to hit me up if you want to help out. :)

. July 16, 2012 at 11:57 am

The Guardian caught up with one such consensual sex worker swept up in Operation Cross Country. “Maya,” 22, an escort in Richmond, was targeted because officers believed she looked under 18 in her ads.

M: They told me that that day they had caught an underage girl, but then I read the newspaper article about the sting about it, and they said the youngest girl that they got that day was 20. So they were trying to make it seem like they were helping all these women, helping all these girls get away from this lifestyle, when in reality they’re just busting girls like me. Who totally- this has made my life infinitely worse.

They looked through my phone and looked through my pictures, and questioned me about every picture in my phone. They were like, is this your pimp? They read my text messages, they listened to voice mails from my family. They don’t care.

. November 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Legalize Me, Tax Me, Protect Me

November 7, 2012

I am a sex worker, prostitute & whore, use whatever term suits your taste. Unfortunately my job is deemed illegal although; cigarettes & alcohol kill people its okay to “sin tax” these products. I don’t hurt anyone outside of an occasional ass slap all in good fun. I provide a stress relieving service that while most see it as a physical release, it is more involved then it appears on the surface.

I am basically a naked therapist, who happens to take the patient/therapist relationship to a sexual level. I know more about my clients families, jobs, children, hopes, fears & goals, in an hour session than any therapist could manage to find out in 6 months of weekly sessions. My job is to connect, break down boundaries & make my client feel on top of the world all in an hour and I’m good at it. I don’t understand why my job that I have chosen of my own free will is such an issue in the eyes of law makers, most of whom are consumers of escorts services.

. November 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

WHEN an activist, Ye Haiyan, was attacked by eight men in May near her home in the south-western province of Guangxi, she was not completely surprised. Nor was she shocked when local police raided the China Grassroots Women’s Rights Centre where she works. The incidents followed her participation in a controversial stunt in January when she volunteered as a prostitute for two days to highlight sex workers’ plight. She then described her experiences in minute detail on Weibo, a popular microblog. The stunt was meant to boost awareness about Ms Ye’s campaign to legalise prostitution, and it succeeded. Online debate about China’s booming sex trade has raged ever since.

Ms Ye has some prominent allies. Chi Susheng, a lawyer, says China should build red-light districts, license sex workers, and standardise regulations to prevent the spread of HIV. She cites the example of Taiwan, which decriminalised prostitution in designated red-light districts last year, and Sweden, where prostitutes can register to pay taxes. Since 2003, Ms Chi has submitted three proposals to legalise prostitution to the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. All have failed.

. June 23, 2014 at 3:45 pm

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