OTTAWA – The Conservative government’s controversial anti-prostitution bill passed third reading in the Senate on Tuesday and requires only royal assent to become law.
The government had wanted to get the bill through the legislative process by the middle of this month, so it could become law by December.
That would meet the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada when it struck down existing laws as unconstitutional last year.
The court found the laws violated the charter rights of sex workers because they were criminally prohibited from taking measures to keep themselves safe.
The Sex Professionals of Canada says the new set of laws won’t improve things and will ensure violence against sex workers continues in Canada.
In a statement on its website, the group says keeping criminalization in place will continue the stigma and social exclusion of sex workers.
The group also said it plans to continue to fight for rights for sex workers, saying “this isn’t over!”
The government has argued the legislation protects sex workers by giving them access to bodyguards and the ability to work indoors.
However, none of that can happen if a third party benefits or the sex worker is operating in exploitative conditions.
Scores of witnesses told both MPs and senators during hearings on the bill that the various exemptions in the bill are open to further charter challenges.
For example, while it would allow sex workers to advertise, it would make it an offence for anyone to run those ads, said Ian Carter, an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s national criminal justice section.