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In 2013 there was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court that decriminalized activities associated with prostitution, that decision was, Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, referred to colloquially as the Bedford decision. Prior to Bedford it was not illegal to sell sex in Canada but there were a number of related acts that were illegal, including keeping a bawdy house (running a brothel), living off the avails of prostitution (it was illegal to receive any money obtainedvia prostitution, which while criminalizing pimps also forbade sex workers from hiring their own personal security and/or drivers), and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. These provisions of the Criminal Code were struck down on the basis that they violated sex worker’s Charter rights to Security of the Person, as they could not engage in a legal activity safely with these strict provisions intact. The Supreme Court gave the government 12 months to come up with a new legislative regime surrounding sex work, the new laws came into effect under the Conservative government on December 6, 2014.
Many sex work activists hoped that the new legislative regime would keep all aspects of the voluntary sex trade legal, while only criminalizing abuse and human trafficking. However, the government passed legislation based on the Nordic country’s laws, called the “Nordic Model” which made the selling of sexual services legal while criminalizing the buying of sex, along with a few more select activities. See below for a discussion of all non-human trafficking prostitution related offences.
Obtaining Sexual Services for Consideration
It is a crime under the current legislative regime to purchase sex. It is a hybrid offence if the sex worker was an adult, punishable by a maximum of 5 months if charged by indictment and a maximum of 18 months if convicted on summary conviction. If the purchased sex was with a child it is an indictable offence, punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a minimum of 6 months. It is not a crime to be paid for your own sex work.
Advertising Sexual Services
It is illegal to advertise another person’s sexual services for sale, but you are allowed to advertise your own. It is irrelevant if the advertisement is online or in print. It is a hybrid offence punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment on indictment or 18 months on summary conviction.
Material Benefit Offence
This is essentially the anti-pimping crime re-imagined. Sex workers are permitted to enter into legitimate business relationships meaning they are now entitled to hire security, rent apartments with their earnings, etc. Under the current regime, it remains a crime to directly earn money from someone if they are providing sexual services (i.e.: it would still be a crime to own an erotic massage parlour).
This section of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to procure someone to sell sexual services. In otherwords, by hiring the erotic masseuse or recruiting and hiring escorts you could be found guilty of both procuring and materially benefitting from prostitution.
In an effort to stop street prostitution it is a crime to communicate for the purpose of selling sexual services next to playgrounds, daycare centres and schools. It is also a crime to stop a motor vehicle for the purpose of selling sexual services. It is a summary conviction offence punishable by a maximum of 6 months imprisonment.
While the Bedford decision may have softened Canada’s prostitution laws for ordinary sex workers there remain many crimes in place for purchasers and others in the sex industry. Some sex worker advocates contend that the continued criminal enforcement of their industry leads to the most vulnerable sex workers still working in unsafe conditions. On the other hand, some anti-trafficking advocates contend that the Nordic Model is the best way to keep sex workers safe because they are free to contact police, but they insist that those profiting from their work should still be criminalized. Whatever your opinion on the matter there are still many crimes associated with prostitution. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a criminal lawyer to work on your case. Mehdi Au LLP has criminal lawyers on staff to work on your matter. We accept Legal Aid Certificates.
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