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Ontario court rejects sex workers’ Charter challenge

The Ontario Superior Court has rejected a Charter challenge launched by an alliance of sex worker rights groups, ruling that Canada’s criminal sex work laws are constitutional.

Justice Robert Goldstein’s ruling says the Protection of Exploited Communities and Persons Act, introduced by the former Conservative government, balances banning the “more exploitative aspects of the sex trade” while protecting sex workers against legal proceedings.

Goldstein said the laws are constitutional and do not prevent sex workers from taking safety precautions, using the services of non-exploitative third parties, or seeking police assistance without fear of being charged with selling or advertising sexual services.

The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform argued in court last fall that Canada’s prostitution laws violate the Charter rights of workers in the industry.

The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act was passed in 2014, about a year after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down previous anti-prostitution laws after lawyers argued the existing provisions were disproportionate, overly broad and put sex workers at risk.

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Although prostitution was legal under previous laws, almost all related activities – such as running a brothel, pimping, and communicating in a public place for the purpose of prostitution – were illegal.

Executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, Jennifer Dunn, told Global News in October last year that if decriminalization of the sex trade were to take place, it would be more difficult to hold traffickers to account.

“A lot of sexual exploitation trafficking is actually fueled by organized crime, and what would that look like if all of a sudden it was completely decriminalized? I know there are laws specific to trafficking, and this one is specific to prostitution, but they work hand in hand at any given time,” Dunn said.

“If prostitution is completely decriminalized, it will lead to more problems with sexual exploitation and trafficking, which will also lead to an increase in the sexual exploitation of children.”

Sex work advocates say prostitution-related offenses introduced under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper came close to criminalizing prostitution itself by banning payment for sexual services and allowing businesses to sell them. take advantage, as well as prohibiting communication to purchase sexual services. sexual services constitute a criminal offense.

The federal government maintains that these new laws do not prevent sex sellers from taking safety measures and says they are intended to reduce both the buying and selling of sexual services.

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The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform argued in October that the new laws are more restrictive than those they replaced and require sex workers and the people who work with them to operate in a context of criminalization.

The alliance says there should be no criminal laws specific to sex work and makes dozens of recommendations aimed at creating a more regulated industry.

— with files from the Canadian Press and Sawyer Bogdan of Global News

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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