In December 2013, in the infamous Bedford case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the federal government time to draft new legislation. Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was born and came into effect late last year.
With the introduction of Bill C-36, the buying, but not the selling of sex was explicitly outlawed for the first time in Canada. The legislation also gave the police the power to prosecute people who advertise sex work and people who exploit or otherwise make money off sex workers. Sex workers can still advertise their own sexual services, as the bill contains an exemption for sex workers themselves.
The government’s stated goal of the legislation was to reduce the demand for prostitution by “discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible”. The intent of the legislation is to make it more difficult for johns and pimps while protecting sex workers. Since the legislation has been enacted, the Toronto Police Service has begun a large-scale crackdown on human trafficking.
The legislation is not without controversy. Amnesty International has long been calling for the decriminalization of sex work involving consenting adults. The human rights group argues that criminalization of any sort makes it more likely that the rights of sex workers will be violated because the practices are pushed underground.
But other groups say that abolishing laws against prostitution lead to more violations of the rights of women and girls, and lead to human trafficking and child rape. Proponents of decriminalization argue that sex workers can be distinguished between women and children who are sold into sexual slavery and that there is a significant difference between coercive and consensual prostitution.
It is believed that Mali Jean, a Quebec man charged in Saskatchewan, was the first person to be charged under the new law on charges dated July 27, 2015.
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