Canadian Court Strikes Down Anti-Prostitution Laws
Canada’s highest court struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws in their entirety Friday, including against keeping a brothel.
The 9-0 Supreme Court ruling is a victory for sex workers seeking safer working conditions because it found that the laws violated the guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person. But the ruling won’t take effect immediately because it gave Parliament a one-year reprieve to respond with new legislation.
Prostitution isn’t illegal in Canada, but many of the activities associated with prostitution are classified as criminal offences.
The high court struck down all three prostitution-related laws: against keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and street soliciting. The landmark ruling comes more than two decades after the Supreme Court last upheld the country’s anti-prostitution laws.
The decision upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling last year that struck down the ban on brothels on the grounds that it endangered sex workers by forcing them onto the streets.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing on behalf of the court, said Canada’s social landscape has changed since 1990, when the Supreme Court upheld a ban on street solicitation.
"These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not," she wrote. "They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not."