Ontario Court of Appeal strikes down two-thirds of Canada’s sex trade laws

Update: The Ontario Court of Appeal has agreed to strike down two of the three laws pertaining to the sex trade that were declared unconstitutional by an Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2010. The Court of Appeal found that the bans on bawdy houses and living off the avails of prostitution are unconstitutional, but agreed with the Crown that the open solicitation of prostitution should be illegal. The Criminal Code provisions that were judged unconstitutional will not be declared invalid for another 12 months, the Court ruled. That will give the Harper Conservatives time to draft new sex trade legislation.

A widely anticipated ruling is expected today from Ontario’s top court on whether Canada’s prostitution laws are constitutional. The case was brought to Ontario’s Appeal Court after a September 2010 ruling by Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel, who said that Canada’s prostitution laws were fundamentally unjust because they force sex trade workers into dangerous situations.

Today’s expected ruling pertains to three laws with which Himel took issue: the banning of brothels, open solicitation and living off the avails of prostitution. In Canada, the act of prostitution itself is not illegal.

Critics say these laws make prostitution more dangerous by forcing sex trade workers to find customers in the street, rather than working indoors, and by making it illegal for them to hire bodyguards. “It’s a matter of life and death,” Valerie Scott, one of three women involved in the case, told the Canadian Press. “In what other legal occupation is a worker not permitted by law to take any security measures?”

If Ontario’s Appeal Court upholds Himel’s ruling, the laws will be struck down in the province. But, as reports, it would effectively end all prostitution-related prosecutions in Canada.

The ruling is expected around 11 a.m. EST.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.