Libby’s statement on the Ontario prostitution ruling

Today the Court of Appeal for Ontario struck down the ban on keeping a common bawdy house and also called for revised legislation on living off the avails of prostitution.

The decision today, confirms yet again, that the status quo is not acceptable and that the current laws put sex workers at risk.  The ruling is in line with the 2006 findings of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Solicitation Laws, showing that current laws are hurting sex workers, and the status quo is not acceptable.  The Ontario ruling recognizes the role that Canada’s harmful and marginalizing prostitution laws played in the Pickton murders and the disappearance and murder of upwards of 300 other women, mostly sex workers, across Canada.  The court has found it is unacceptable for sex workers to have to put themselves in these highly risky situations.  The Court struck down the law surrounding bawdy houses and in addition, stated that the laws concerning living off the avails of prostitution need to be rewritten, to apply only to “circumstances of exploitation”. 

The federal government cannot simply sweep this issue under the carpet, nor should they initiate costly and lengthy legal appeals.  I urge the government to accept the legitimacy of the Court of Appeal’s decision.  We need immediate action to protect the safety and rights of sex workers.  Therefore, Parliament itself should seize this issue and review the laws in question – in consultation with sex workers – and determine what needs to be done to protect the rights and safety of sex workers, as well as the wider public.  

I applaud the ground breaking work of the three complainants, and Professor Alan Young, for bringing forward the original case to the Ontario courts, and for drawing attention to the inherent rights of sex workers.

To read a brief recap of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s Decision, check out Pivot Legal Society excellent summary:

To read the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Solicitation Laws report (December 2006):