Breaking down the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on prostitution law

TORONTO – The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled two of three laws on prostitution are unconstitutional – a decision hailed by Canadian sex-trade workers as a pivotal moment in the protection of their rights.

The ruling came in an appeal by the federal and Ontario governments of a lower court ruling that found three provisions dealing with prostitution were unconstitutional in that they contributed to the dangers faced by prostitutes.

Global News spoke with Bruce Ryder, Assistant Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and Brenda Cossman, law professor at the University of Toronto to break down what the ruling means. Here’s a compilation of what they had to say.

Q: What does the ruling allow sex workers to do that they couldn’t before?

A: Firstly, Ontario’s top court has struck down a ban on brothels. Sex-trade workers will be allowed to set up shop in private houses and business areas and carry on sex work. In the past, it would have been criminal.

Secondly, the law dealing with living on the avails of prostitution can be reworded to specifically exclude the exploitation of prostitutes. Meaning sex-trade workers could now hire drivers, bodyguards, or receptionists and be paid from the money they made. In the past, they could not do so.

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Thirdly, the Appeal Court has upheld the ban on soliciting for the purposes of selling sex.

Q: When does the ruling take effect?

A: The common bawdy-house decision will take one year before it comes into effect. The “living off the avails of prostitution” provision has been delayed for 30 days.

Q: Does the decision apply across Canada?

A: The decision is binding in Ontario ONLY but will undoubtedly prompt similar challenges in other provinces.
It will be up to the discretion of Attorneys General and crown prosecutors to decide in other provinces to comply with the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Q: What is the next step for the federal government? How likely will they appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada?

A: It is very likely the federal government will apply for an appeal. Any decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue would apply country-wide.

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