Canada: Parliament Approves New Anti-Prostitution Laws
Monday, November 17, 2014 1:50 PM

The Canadian Parliament has approved new anti-prostitution legislation to reduce demand for commercial sex. The new law, called the Protection of Community and Endangered Persons Act,” allows the sale of sex but prohibits the purchase of sexual services, the advertising of sexual services and obtaining any financial benefit from selling women for sex (“pimping”). It also updates Canadian law prohibiting the procurement of women and girls for sex and authorizes funds to support women who want to leave prostitution.

By directly punishing buyers of sex and those who exploit women and girls for sex, the Canadian law reflects the “Nordic Model” of prostitution. This model, enacted in Sweden, Norway and Iceland, recognizes that demand for commercial sex often leads to violence and trafficking of prostituted women and girls. However, the new law departs from the Nordic Model by continuing to punish prostituted women for “communicating” about the sale of sex in a public place or where children might “reasonably” be present. The law contains no clear exception for cases of trafficking and exploitation. One expert on the Swedish prostitution law told Canadian lawmakers in July that this provision likely violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “because it targets those who are victims of first of all a human rights violation but also a crime.”

The Protection of Community and Endangered Persons Act is a direct response to a December 2013 Canadian Supreme Court decision striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional. Prostitution was allowed under the old laws, but brothels, public solicitation and living off the proceeds of prostitution were prohibited. The Canadian Supreme Court found such restrictions on prostitutes created dangerous working conditions and made it harder for prostitutes to guard against violence and risk.

The Court gave Parliament one year (to December 2014) to draft new legislation. The old laws will remain in effect until the new anti-prostitution laws are given “royal assent,” considered a formality. 

Compiled from: Wofford, Taylor, Canada Signs Bill Legalizing Sale of Sex, but Not Its Purchase, Newsweek (November 10, 2014); Wingrove, White, Tory Prostitution Bill Gets Senate Approval, The Globe and Mail (November 4, 2014); Blanchfield, Mike, Canada prostitution bill likely unconstitutional, says Swedish expert, The Globe and Mail (July 9, 2014).