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Ontario about to become prostitution hub, government warns

Ever since Justice Himel concluded that laws criminalising prostitution in Ontario, laws very similar to those here in the UK in that they prevent any form of collective organisation, placed sex workers in danger and struck them down the government and anti prostitution lobby groups have been working overtime trying to scare people into re instating these bad laws.
The government is presently engaged in the process of appealing against this decision.
In the meantime the Canadian government and anti sex work lobbyists are playing upon good old fashioned fears and prejudices about prostitution.
Has it not occurred to them that their laws are the real danger and that it was their laws that this enlightened judge ruled against exactly because they placed people in danger?
When will it dawn on them that they and their laws are the real danger not sex work.

In this article in the National Post Janice Tibbetts “writes:

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010

OTTAWA – With just over one week to go before sex workers can openly do business in Ontario, the federal government is warning that the province will become Canada’s prostitution hub and there will be legal uncertainty in other provinces unless a judge stays a court ruling that struck down antiprostitution laws.

The Justice Department, in a written legal brief, asserts that “one single judge of one single superior court” should not be able to ravage Canadian law.

Failure to suspend Justice Susan Himel’s ruling, pending an appeal, will cause “irreparable harms to the public interest,” says the federal factum, filed in the Ontario Court of Appeal in advance of a Monday court hearing on whether to grant the stay.

In her September decision in the Ontario Superior Court, Judge Himel concluded that criminal prohibitions on running brothels, communicating for the purpose of prostitution and living off the avails of prostitution put the lives of sex workers at risk by forcing them to ply their trade in the shady underground world.

She stayed the decision for 30 days, but subsequently extended it another 30 days. The ruling is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 27.

“Failure to grant a stay would create distinctions in the operation of the Criminal Code between Ontario and the rest of Canada,” said the Justice Department factum.

“This will create profound and immediate consequences upon communities, neighbourhoods and women engaged in prostitution in this province, while generating legal uncertainty across Canada.”

The government also contends that permitting sex workers to operate in Ontario “will likely encourage the movement of prostitutes to Ontario from other jurisdictions.”

That will go hand in hand with more drug trafficking, violence, garbage, noise and traffic from johns patrolling Ontario communities in their cars, says the legal brief.

The challenge to federal anti-prostitution laws was brought to the Ontario Superior Court by three sex workers, including dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford. While there is no direct Criminal Code ban on prostitution, many aspects of it have been criminalized by Parliament.

Alan Young, Ms. Bedford’s lawyer, dismissed the federal arguments as speculative scare tactics.

“This is the legal counterpart of Chicken Little claiming that the sky is falling,” said Mr. Young. “Even though they present numerous concerns about what may happen, it’s all speculation.”

Mr. Young said that granting a stay would amount to a “perpetuation of violence,” given Judge Himel’s findings that existing laws are endangering the lives of women.

“Can you reasonably stay a law where a finding has been made that the law is contributing to physical harm?”

The federal government, to bolster its motion for a stay, filed six supporting affidavits from police and community activists, which contend that red light districts will emerge, prostitutes’ lives will be in danger and authorities will be powerless to protect residents in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

The Justice Department says there is plenty of precedent to support staying Judge Himel’s decision while the case winds its way through appeals. The process could take years, but the government contends it has become “almost routine” for courts to delay any declarations of constitutional invalidity.

A date has not been set for the Ontario Court of Appeal to hear the federal appeal.

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About Douglas Fox

One comment on “Ontario about to become prostitution hub, government warns

  1. Rene Ross
    18 November, 2010

    Mr. Young is right. Indeed, these are scare tactics that are being used by our Federal Government. In my past 6 years of working with and for sex workers in Halifax I have seen first hand the damage that these laws cause.

    I have seen killers go away free because the laws create mistrust amongst sex workers and law enforcement that prevent crimes from being reported. I have also seen the killers go free because the laws treat sex workers as second class citizens that do not deserve justice.

    I have sat through victim impact statements where women were raped and almost killed because they were working in back alleys due to the sweeps that the ‘213’ laws bring.

    I have seen sex workers turn to the street after the bawdy house laws are enforced, pushing them away from places that are secure and clean.

    I have met many people that want to transition from the sex trade, but cannot, because these laws have locked them in the criminal justice system.

    I doubt very highly that the Minority Conservative Government knows what it is like to work with one person one day, and the next day be informed that cops cannot locate their body, and are not sure if they ever will.

    By appealing this decision, the Conservative Government is showing what I had suspected all along, that they do not care about the health and safety of all Canadians; Because at the end of the day, sex workers are people too.

    Thank you for your post on this.

    Rene Ross

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This entry was posted on 18 November, 2010 by in Government Reviews and Change.