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This week, lawyers challenged the constitutionality of current Canadian prostitution laws in an Ontario court; it’s being called a “first test case of its kind”.

What Happened?

The case stems from criminal charges against escort agency owners from London, Ontario, who were arrested in 2015 and charged with procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from the sale of someone else’s sexual services under the Criminal Code. The police shut down the agencies.

The Arguments

The accused do not deny they ran the escort agencies, but their lawyers argued that they can’t be convicted because the charges themselves are unconstitutional. The lawyers argued that Canada’s prostitution laws are based on ideology and the flawed belief that sex work is inherently exploitative and harmful. The case brings into question whether the laws actually endanger workers in the sex trade.

The lawyers argued that the current Criminal Code provisions are contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) by violating sex workers’ Charter right to security of the person. Section 7 of the Charter states:

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

The charges faced by the accused include charges of materially benefiting from the sale of someone’s sexual services and procuring and advertising someone else’s sexual services. The offences are relatively new, having been enacted in 2014 during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government under Bill C-36. The law criminalizes the purchasing of sex but decriminalized its sale. The new law was enacted after the Supreme Court of Canada had struck down the country’s prostitution laws in 2013. 

Under ss. 286.4 and 286.5 of the Criminal Code, it is illegal for a third party, such as websites or newspapers that host such advertisements,to advertise someone else’s sexual services. However, sex workers are not prohibited from advertising their own sexual services. The lawyers argued that advertising in advance reduces the chance of conflict and protects sex workers.

The Crown has argued that prostitution laws are not meant to protect sex-trade workers, but to criminalize those who buy sexual services and to discourage people from entering the sex trade.

The CBC reported that those watching the case closely say it could eventually be decided in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Get Advice

Being criminally convicted can have a significant impact on your life, leading to a permanent record, significant fines, and/or jail time. This can seriously impact your reputation, your employment opportunities, and even your ability to travel outside of Canada. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is imperative to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your options and to protect yourself.

At Campbell Bader LLP, we can help. Our team of exceptional Mississauga criminal defence lawyers has been representing clients charged with criminal offences since 1999. We are highly skilled litigators and have conducted trials in the Superior Court and Ontario Court of Justice. We have the knowledge, experience, and skill-set to effectively defend clients charged with even the most serious of offences. We will listen, consider, and provide you with practical options. Contact us online or at 905-828-2247.