In 2013, the Bedford case originating in Ontario, challenged the prostitution law in Canada and the case went on to the Supreme Court of Canada. Prior to this time, prostitution was legal in Canada and only certain activities around prostitution were illegal, such as
a. Keeping a bawdy-house or brothel (Sections 196, 210 of the Criminal Code).
b. Communicating in public for the purpose of engaging in prostitution (Section 213).
c. Living off the avails of prostitution (Section 212).
On December 20, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down these three laws surrounding prostitution and gave the Government of Canada one year to respond with a new law.
On June 14, 2014, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Canada's Justice Minister, introduced Bill C-36 to parliament and on November 6, 2014 Bill C-36 passed the Senate and received Royal Assent before the December 19, 2014 deadline. For the first time in Canada, it became illegal to buy sexual services. This was a big turning point for Canada. Our new law is similar to the Nordic model of Law currently enacted in Sweden and other countries.
The new law is called The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. The preamble makes it very clear that Canada defines prostitution as inherently harmful to the individual as well as to society. It recognizes that prostitution is the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity. It denounces and prohibits the purchase of sexual services as well as the commercialization and institutionalization of prostitution. It denounces and prohibits the procurement of persons for the purpose of prostitution, and also prohibits the economic interests in the exploitation.
Briefly summarized, the new law
1. Criminalizes the purchase of sex. It is a crime to buy another person for sex.
2. Decriminalizes the selling of sex (unless the prostituted person is found working in proximity to where minors would gather, such as schools, day cares centres, etc.). Prostituted persons will not be considered criminals, nor charged.
3. It is illegal to benefit from the exploitation of another person.
4. It is illegal to advertise the sexual services of another person.
5. The government has set aside $20 million dollars over a five year period, to provide programs for those who wish to exit.
This law will be evaluated in 5 years to ensure its effectiveness.
CPAC televised viewing of 2014 expert testimony to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights when Bill-C 36 on prostitution was being debated in Ottawa.
Video clip from the film CPAC: Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights