OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada started the clock ticking Friday for Parliament to reshape social policy dealing with the world’s oldest profession, as political battle lines were drawn.
In a unanimous 9-0 ruling on Friday, the high court struck down the country’s prostitution laws, giving Parliament a year to produce new legislation. That means prostitution-related offences will remain in the Criminal Code for one more year.
Here’s a chronology of some key events in the evolution of the country’s prostitution laws:
1867: Canada essentially inherits anti-prostitution laws from Britain at Confederation.
1982: Charter of Rights and Freedoms signed into law.
1985: Parliament passes a law barring communicating in public for the purposes of prostitution in an effort to combat streetwalking.
1990: The Supreme Court hands down a reference upholding the street soliciting law, saying eliminating prostitution is a valid social goal.
2002: Police arrest Robert Pickton in a case which would eventually involve the murders of 26 women, most of them prostitutes from Vancouver’s gritty downtown east side.
2007: Pickton convicted of six murders and sentenced to life. The trial focuses attention on the plight of street prostitutes.
2009: An Ontario Superior Court hearing opens in a suit brought by three former and active sex-trade workers seeking to overturn the prostitution laws.
2010: Judge Susan Himel strikes down the three key provisions of the laws, saying they were unconstitutional.
2011: Ontario Court of Appeal holds three-day hearing on government appeal of Himel decision.
2012: The Appeal Court upholds Himel on the bawdy house law, modified the living on the avails law to specifically preclude exploitation and reversed her on soliciting.
2013: The Supreme Court throws out all three provisions as violating constitutional guarantees to life, liberty and security of the person. The justices give Parliament a year to craft a replacement law that complies with the Charter.