Three parts of a Harper government initiative to make life more difficult for sex workers have been deemed unconstitutional by the Ontario Superior Court. The federal government has chosen to appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Earlier this month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba struck down the ban on commercial sex altogether, and ruled that the third part — criminalizing the purchase of sex — violates sex workers’ constitutional right to freedom of expression.
As CNN reports, the court cited the previous ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal:
In its decision, the appeal court also acknowledged the “detrimental effects that prohibition on sale of sexual services has on the sex trade,” particularly on sex workers, “who work in dangerous conditions.”
The federal government took issue with Belobaba’s assessment that prostitution and human trafficking are the same crime. (Belobaba found that sex trafficking of children by pimps and sex workers by johns is more than an economic reality: “The physical abuse that sex workers experience and the threats and violence they face are not trivialized or reduced to the very different offence of trafficking.”)
In its appeal, the federal government cited the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Canadian section of the Criminal Code that made promoting prostitution a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison. That ruling, B.C. v. Fraser, kept up the legalization of prostitution itself.
In 2013, the Harper government moved to extend that ruling beyond prostitution: A bill, C-36, criminalized contact with “escorts” who “advertise” on the internet, advertise in print or (without advertising) simply buy sex. Belobaba determined that this law was “the worst version” of that section.
In the Ontario Court of Appeal, the government has argued that prostitution can be protected in Canada. Trudeau has promised to change this law in a way that protects sex workers and legalizes sex work.