TORONTO, Ontario, March 27, 2012 ( – Yesterday’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that ruled as unconstitutional provisions in the law that prohibited brothels and living from the profit of prostitution has caused a firestorm of dissent from Canada’s leading advocates who champion the dignity of women and the strengthening of marriages and families.

In its decision Bedford v. Canada (Attorney General), the Court of Appeal found that Sections 210 and 212 (1) (j) of the federal Criminal Code that regulate prostitution were now suddenly “unconstitutional”. It suspended its “bawdy-house” decision for twelve months to give Parliament time to draft a new “Charter-compliant” bawdy-house provision. The overturning of the “living on the avails” of prostitution provision will take effect within 30 days of the ruling.


Father Raymond J. De Souza in an op-ed in the National Post that appeared yesterday criticized the constitutional bases for the prostitution case arguing that it is not plausible that Parliament “desired to protect the right to run a brothel as part of our fundamental legal liberties” when it guaranteed everyone in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the “right to life, liberty and security of the person.”

“Section 7 now apparently includes the right to sell one’s body for sex in a licensed establishment fully compliant with safe drinking water standards and the requisite no-smoking signs,” he said.

“The naïveté of the Court of Appeal is this regard is astonishing”, De Souza continued. “The learned justices have a vision of professionally accomplished, commercially savvy young women, contemplating careers either as hookers or graphic designers, and concerned about the enforceability of contracts and provision of benefits. A few high-end prostitutes would benefit from no longer having to disguise their ‘escort’ services, but prostitution in Canada is not a high-end occupation. It preys upon the desperately poor, the drug addicted, the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable women in the dark corners of society.”

The Post’s Catholic priest columnist argued that with the prohibition against brothels lifted, which he saw as “one of the few tools that law enforcement and social services could use to pry women out from a life that precious few of them would ever choose”, prostitution in Ontario will only increase.

“It’s simple economics: Reduce the barriers to entry and more firms will enter. As a public policy matter, it is also simple. At the margin, this judgment will ensnare women in prostitution who otherwise would not have been.”

REAL Women of Canada was “disappointed” in the decision and called the Ontario Court of Appeal “the most liberal court in Canada” for ignoring “the views of Parliament in this case”.

“Prostitution itself is inherently dangerous, no matter where it is carried out. Prostitutes should not be encouraged to engage in this activity by way of brothels or otherwise,” stated Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice president of REAL Women of Canada in a press release. The woman’s organization was an intervener in the case at both the Superior Court and Appeal levels.

“This Court partially upheld the lower court’s decision of Madam Justice Susan Himel to allow prostitutes to operate from legal brothels. It based its decision on the belief that this will reduce the risk of harm to prostitutes.”

Landolt pointed out that evidence from countries, such as Sweden, Spain, Australia and the Netherlands, indicate that the legalization of brothels only “increases the number of individuals involved in prostitution, both on the streets as well as in brothels.”

“The legalization of brothels in Canada can therefore greatly increase the risk of harm to prostitutes by assaults and even death, as more individuals will inevitably become involved in this activity.”

REAL Women of Canada has urged the Attorneys General that this case “be immediately appealed” to the Supreme Court of Canada so that Parliament may “ultimately decide the grave issue of the social policy on prostitution, not appointed unaccountable judges.”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was “deeply concerned” that the court’s decision not only “fails to protect women from exploitation, but could lead to a situation in Canada where the most vulnerable are put at greater risk of violence, exploitation and trafficking.”

“Here’s the decision in a nutshell,” said Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel with the EFC:  “The court gave the federal government twelve months to reform the provision against prostitutes operating out of brothels, massage parlours and other forms of common bawdy houses; which does nothing to protect the rank and file exploited women, men and children working on the street.”

Hutchinson explained that the court simply redrafted the ‘living on the avails of prostitution’ section of the criminal code so that it only applies to those who are doing so in an exploitive way. He said that this “accommodates the rare few” who have the capacity to structure a business with support staff.

“All of this was couched in the concept repeated page after page in the decision that, and I quote, ‘In Canada, prostitution itself is legal. There is no law that prohibits a person from selling sex, and no law that prohibits another from buying it.’”

Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF), which was also an intervenor in the case, was “disappointed in the decision”, which it says “ignores Parliament’s disapprobation of prostitution and the harms it causes both to prostitutes and our communities.”

Ruth Ross, CLF’s executive director and general legal counsel stated in a press release that there are some positive aspects to the decision.

“The court did not strike down the ‘living on the avails’ provision in its entirety but instead recognized its importance in protecting those who are exploited by prostitution,” she said.

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) commented that while the court’s ruling is “being touted as a success that will make prostitution safer, international evidence exposes this [as] myth.”

IMFC pointed out in a press release that the Netherlands legalization of prostitution caused a dramatic surge in new criminal activity. In the aftermath of legalized prostitution Amsterdam’s former mayor Job Cohen was forced to concede that “this is no longer about small scale entrepreneurs, but that big crime organizations are involved here in trafficking women, drugs, killings and other criminal activities.”

IMFC’s also argued that the court’s decision “belies the realities facing the vast majority of prostitutes in Ontario today”.

“A high percentage of prostitutes have drug and sexual abuse in their pasts. Many are coerced into prostitution as minors. Prostitution is inherently dangerous and the legal changes that are currently being made in Ontario will not change that.”

Andrea Mrozek, IMFC’s manager of research and communications said, “Above all, the law should not in any way, shape or form allow men to buy women’s bodies. There will be no equality in Ontario so long as we sanction that,” she said.

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL), which also intervened in the case is “disappointed with much of the ruling”.

Landolt from REAL Women called it “ironic” that the Court of Appeal stated in its decision that “prostitution is a controversial topic, one that provokes heated and heartfelt debate about morality, equality, personal autonomy and public safety; it is not the Court’s role to engage in that debate”.

“Yet the Court has done just that,” she pointed out.

To contact the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
E-mail: [email protected]
Ph: (613) 957-4222


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