The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is deeply concerned with today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision to strike down all three provisions of Canada’s prostitution laws, creating a legal vacuum. The current laws remain in place for one year, during which time the Government of Canada has the option to abandon them or implement new laws.
The EFC intervened before the court in June to argue that decriminalization of prostitution leads to increased rates of human trafficking and victimization of vulnerable people.
“In light of today’s decision, we urge the federal government to enact new laws to protect vulnerable women, children and men from victimization and being trafficked” said EFC president Bruce Clemenger. “Canada should be a place that promotes and defends the dignity of all persons. The commodification of sex, which inevitably results in abuse and exploitation, should not be tolerated.”
In September 2010 the Ontario Superior Court struck down the Criminal Code provisions dealing with keeping a common bawdy house (brothel), communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and living on the avails (revenues) of prostitution. That decision was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal and subsequently to the Supreme Court, which heard the case in June 2013.
“Most Canadians didn’t know that prostitution is not and has never been illegal in Canada. The challenged acts surrounding prostitution are illegal, at least for another year. The court has said that the Criminal Code provisions…imposed dangerous conditions on a legal activity; in which those involved should be able to take necessary steps to protect themselves from the attendant risks. The court did recognize the inherent violence that exists in prostitution,” says EFC general legal counsel Don Hutchinson.
In its submission to the Court, The EFC argued human dignity is a fundamental principle undergirding Canadian law and public policy that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as a Charter value, and the commodification of human beings is contrary to that value.
The vast majority of people who are trafficked into or within Canada are trafficked for purposes of the sex trade.
“The court today noted that the decision on the legality of prostitution, an inherently dangerous activity, was made by Parliament,” says Hutchinson. “It is Parliament’s constitutional jurisdiction to enact criminal laws. And, again today, the EFC calls on Parliament to take the necessary action to criminalize the purchase, rental and marketing of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”
“Ultimately, one of the EFC’s goals is the elimination of all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada. We support the need to amend the current laws to a Canadian version of the legal and social framework used in Sweden, which makes the buying of sex illegal, targeting the ‘pimps’ and ‘johns’ – the purveyors and purchasers – while decriminalizing those who are being prostituted and offering them opportunities and supports to exit prostitution.”
The EFC delivered a comprehensive proposal for reforming Canada’s prostitution laws to the Prime Minister and the ministers of justice and public safety on Dec. 9, 2013; and to all Parliamentarians on Dec. 10, 2013, before the House of Commons adjourned for Christmas break.
That proposal, entitled Out of Business: Prostitution in Canada – Putting an End to Demand, is a significant development in the EFC’s continuing effort to eliminate all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada. The report makes recommendations that adapt laws and social policies which have proven effective in other countries in reducing prostitution, human trafficking and organized crime to Canadian constitutional realities. The proposal transforms the Swedish or Nordic model, as it has been called, into a uniquely Canadian model to address our nation’s needs.
For more information on the EFC’s actions:
—a Evangelical Fellowship of Canada release
Confronting an insidious crime: People of faith stand against human trafficking