Ontario’s Court of Appeal has ruled that sex workers should be able to legally take their trade indoors and pay staff to support them.
The court released a decision Monday on an appeal of Superior Court Judge Susan G. Himel’s high-profile ruling that three provisions of the Criminal Code pertaining to prostitution should be struck down on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.
The Ontario appeal court agreed with two-thirds of Himel’s ruling, namely that the provisions prohibiting common bawdy-houses and living off the avails of prostitution, are both unconstitutional in their current form.
Ontario’s Court of Appeal agrees that sex workers should be permitted to work in safer locations and pay others to help protect them, but not that they should be able to communicate with their clients in public places. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)
But the court disagreed that the communicating provision must be struck down, meaning that it "remains in full force" and the existing ban on soliciting will continue.
Both Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen indicated that their respective departments would review the decision before deciding how to proceed.
"As the Prime Minister has said, prostitution is bad for society and harmful to communities, women and vulnerable persons," Nicholson said in a statement released by his office.
"We are reviewing the decision and our legal options."
The Ontario court said it will strike the word “prostitution” from the definition of "common bawdy-house," as it applies to Section 210 of the Criminal Code, which otherwise prevents prostitutes from offering services out of fixed indoor locations such as brothels or their homes.
However, the court said the bawdy-house provisions would not be declared invalid for 12 months, so that Parliament can have a chance to draft Charter-compliant provisions to replace them, if it chooses to do so.
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