Canada v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72

Canada v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72

December 20, 2013 By Janko Predovic

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a large section of Canada’s anti-prostitution legislation in a landmark 9-0 decision written by the Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin.

You can read the full text of the Court’s decision below.
Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72

In simple terms, in Canada, the act of having sex for money is not illegal but the activities surrounding such conduct are. This includes soliciting sex for money, running a brothel or living off the avails of prostitution. This has created a situation in which prostitutes can’t work “in-house” and when they do “out-calls” to clients’ homes, they can’t have the support of bodyguards or other parties to protect them. Thus, they are relegated to working in the street, which is far more dangerous, unhealthy and problematic.

So, the Supreme Court decision hinges primarily on the fact that the “net” of laws the government has in place (e.g. anti-brothel laws, and anti-support laws) means that prostitutes are being placed in an unjustifiably dangerous corner of the trade when they engage in an activity that is technically legal anyway. As such, the law has either lost sight of its original goals or it is causing a harm that is disproportionate to its doing good. Either way, it fails the constitutional test.

The Court has given the Parliament of Canada one year to rewrite the laws so they pass constitutional muster, but if nothing is done by then, will we begin to see a general shift toward attitudes about the commercialization of sex in this country? Stay tuned.

The Globe and Mail has listed some places where prostitution is legal around the world today:

New Zealand
The Prostitution Reform Act aimed to create a safer and healthier environment for people selling sexual services. It placed significant responsibility for regulating brothels (zoning, licensing and advertising) into the hands of local governments.

Netherlands
While prostitution has long been tolerated, the Dutch Penal Code was revamped to allow brothels, and created a licensing scheme to regulate the prostitution industry and give sex workers the same rights as other workers. In 2006, authorities tightened controls by closing red-light districts.

Nevada
The only U.S. state to legalize prostitution, Nevada allows counties to regulate the industry via a special section of the tax code. Counties limit the location of brothels to communities with populations fewer than 400,000. Licences determine the number of brothels within those boundaries, the number of sex workers, their working hours, health regulations and advertising.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin

Legal Services provided by Predovic Law Corporation