The Conservative government’s prostitution bill crafted with the hope of eventually abolishing prostitution in Canada passed its third and final reading in the Senate on Tuesday.
It now only requires Royal Assent to become the law of the land. It is expected to meet the December 19 deadline set by the Supreme Court of Canada after it struck down former prostitution laws in 2013 with Bedford v. Canada, saying they violated the Charter right to security of the person.
The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, also known as Bill C-36, targets purchasers of sexual services with fines and prison, criminalizing those who benefit financially from exploiting prostituted women. The bill follows a model that has proved effective in Sweden since 1999 in reducing the commodification of women and girls for sex.
While selling sexual services would not be criminal per se, the law prohibits prostitutes from advertising in places “open to public view, that is or is next to a school ground, playground or daycare centre.” It also sets aside $20 million to help exploited women exit prostitution.
“Men do not have the right to purchase women, and, of course, the inverse is also true. We as a society should not allow a price to be placed on another human being, period, even if that other person seemingly consents,” said Hon. Denise Batters, who represents Saskatchewan, in the Senate prior to the bill’s passing.
“We say no to prostitution by targeting those who fuel the demand for it and those who profit from the trade. That is what Bill C-36 does,” she said.
Pro-family leaders welcomed the news of the bill’s passage, saying that it makes Canada a safer place for women.
“It’s good news,” Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, told LifeSiteNews. Landolt said that while women would be better served if prostitution had been entirely criminalized, she nonetheless called the new law a “vast improvement” to the former criminal code laws dealing with prostitution since it will “stop brothels, it will stop pimping — hopefully — and it will protect children.”
“There is no form of prostitution that is safe — whether it’s escort service, whether it’s on the streets, whether it’s in the brothels — every act of prostitution is inherently dangerous to the woman because of uncontrollable factors,” she said, adding the bill tells Canadian women that the government is “worried about protecting them.”
Julia Beazley, policy analyst with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, believes the bill’s passage is a historic moment in Canada, calling it a “victory for women’s equality.”
“With the passage of Bill C-36, for the first time in Canada buying sex or trying to buy sex will be illegal,” she told LifeSiteNews. “C-36 recognizes that the vast majority of prostituted persons are not there by choice, and makes it clear in the spirit and intent of the law that they are to be seen as vulnerable, as victims of exploitation, and therefore afforded immunity from criminal charges – except under certain specific circumstances.”
“With the law’s focus on criminalizing the purchasers and purveyors of sexual services – johns, pimps and traffickers – it challenges the belief that men are entitled to paid sexual access to primarily women and children. It also boldly refuses to accept the notion that buying sex is inevitable in our society.”
“All women and girls are safer in a society that stands up to the idea that some, or any women, or their sexuality can be bought and sold,” she said.
Tania Fiolleau, a former victim of prostitution and former Madam who employed hundreds of women said the bill “should have been done a long time ago.”
“I think it’s a good thing that they’re adopting a Canadian version of the Nordic model because it’s definitely proven to be effective in those other countries [in reducing rates of prostitution],” she told LifeSiteNews.
“If this law deters the men from getting into it, then it will deter women from getting into it, because there will not be enough demand,” said Fiolleau, who has become a vocal advocate for women wanting to leave prostitution.
Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews that the bill is a “step in the right direction, but it stops short of saying prostitution is a criminal act.”
The bill is expected to receive Royal Assent, an act considered to be little more than a formality, within a matter of days. It will come into force 30 days afterward, just in time for the December 19 deadline.