TORONTO, February 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Ontario government has joined New Brunswick in saying it will cease enforcing the prostitution laws thrown out by the Supreme Court in December, even though the high court said the laws would remain in force for twelve months to give the federal government a chance to pass new legislation.
The announcement from Canada’s largest province has drawn strong criticism from anti-trafficking groups.
Last week the attorney general of Ontario announced that the province will stop pursuing cases involving brothels, living off the avails of prostitution and street soliciting, the sections of the Criminal Code the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in its December 20 ruling, while continuing to prosecute other prostitution-related offenses.
“Having carefully reviewed the Supreme Court’s decision, the Ministry recognizes that there are several prostitution-related offences under the Criminal Code which were not affected by the Court’s decision,” said Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, in a statement to CBC News.
New Brunswick Assistant Deputy Attorney General Luc Labonté said on January 27 the province will stop enforcing the prostitution laws until the federal laws struck down by the Supreme Court are settled.
In response, federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay said the provinces have a duty to enforce the law of the land.
“While the administration of justice is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, Canadians expect criminal laws in this country to be properly enforced so long as they remain in force. The Supreme Court of Canada made very clear in its decision that the current laws with respect to prostitution were to remain in force for twelve months. This gives Parliament the chance to respond,” he told CBC News.
“Make no mistake, doing nothing is not an option,” warned MacKay.
Alberta's attorney general Jonathan Denis followed MacKay's directive and issued an order last week stating that the province will continue to enforce the existing prostitution-related laws while awaiting Ottawa's response to December’s Supreme Court ruling.
On Friday, Manitoba MP Joy Smith released a statement applauding Denis for his leadership, while condemning Ontario and New Brunswick for their decision to stop enforcing the law.
“It is shocking that Ontario and New Brunswick’s Attorney Generals, unilaterally and without consultation, have decided to stop prosecuting these offences, putting the most vulnerable at risk,” said Smith. “To set a precedent that arbitrarily applies the laws unequally across our nation, as Ontario and New Brunswick have done, is a reckless move,” she said.
Organizations that combat sex trafficking and help women out of prostitution have also condemned the positions taken by Ontario and New Brunswick.
“As a survivor of human trafficking, as a Canadian citizen, and as a front line worker who faces victims of sexual exploitation on a daily basis, Ontario's decision to abandon prostitution offenses is alarming,” said Timea Eva Nagy, founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services.
“This decision will have an immediate impact. As a result, pimps who [traffic] Canadian girls as young as 15, will have impunity to continue to exploit and profit. As a victim service agency, it is important to Walk With Me that police and crowns continue to have access to the full range of legal tools available to apprehend and prosecute the abusers of the victims we assist,” Nagy said.
“Prostitution is inherently violent,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre.
“Any action to decriminalize buyers and pimps supports a view that women are no more than commodities to be bought and sold. Ontario’s decision places the most vulnerable women in Ontario at an even greater risk of exploitation and violence.”
These women's organizations have launched a national anti-sex trafficking advocacy campaign that advocates for legislation based on Swedish law, called the Nordic model, that criminalizes buyers of sex and pimps, and decriminalizes prostituted women.
Fifty thousand postcards have been printed for distribution across Canada to be signed and addressed to Conservative MP Joy Smith, who will then deliver them to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
Canadians who would like to take part in the campaign can find more information here.
John Gerretsen, Attorney General of Ontario
McMurtry-Scott Bldg, 11th Floor
720 Bay St
Toronto ON M7A2S9
Email: [email protected]