Sep 18, 2023
By Jeremy Logan
The Superior Court of Ontario has dismissed a Charter challenge launched by a consortium of groups advocating for the rights of sex workers, ruling that Canada’s criminal laws on sex work are constitutional.
Justice Robert Goldstein’s decision notes that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which was brought in by the former Conservative government, balances prohibition of “the most exploitative aspects of the sex trade” while protecting sex workers from legal prosecution.
Justice Goldstein said the laws are constitutional and don’t prevent sex workers from taking safety measures, engaging the services of non-exploitative third parties or seeking police assistance without fear of being charged for selling or advertising sexual services.
In court, he Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform had argued that the laws foster stigma, prevent sex workers from obtaining meaningful consent before engaging with clients, and invite targeted violence, violating the industry workers’ Charter rights.
The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act was passed back in 2014, around a year after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down previous anti-prostitution laws after lawyers argued existing provisions were disproportionate, overbroad and put sex workers at risk of harm.
Although prostitution was legal under the previous laws, almost all related activities such as running a brothel, pimping and communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution were against the law.