Is Prostitution still a Criminal Offence in Canada?

January 28, 2015

There have recently been changes to Canada’s prostitution laws that could impact your rights.   In order to obtain an accurate picture of the new legal landscape of prostitution in Canada, you should be aware of the implications of the relevant 2013 Supreme Court decision, Bedford v Canada and Bill C-36—the bill that  served to amend the prostitution laws in the Criminal Code. 

The Supreme Court in Bedford found that three sections of the Criminal Code (Sections 210-offense of keeping a bawdy house, 212(1)- the offense of living off the avails of prostitution and 213(1)-the offence of soliciting sex in a public place) were unconstitutional. The court decision turned on the fact that these sections prevented sex workers from implementing safety measures that could protect them from violence.  

In response to the decision, the Federal Government proposed Bill C-36 on December 6th 2014. The Bill repealed Section 212 of the Criminal Code making it permissible to provide security services and/or driver services (or any other services) to prostitutes.   

Bill C-36 has, however, received substantial criticism due to its treatment of certain elements of Prostitution.  It does not, for instance, include a provision to decriminalize bawdy houses (places used for the purposes of sex work). Prostitutes are therefore likely to continue to operate in secret so they do not have to hire a criminal defence lawyer when criminally charged.

The Bill also failed to amend the language in section 213 that makes it an offence to stop traffic in a public place for the purposes of providing or obtaining a sexual service. As a result, both sex workers and customers can be charged under the Criminal Code , resulting with the need for a criminal lawyer, if they are caught soliciting or purchasing sex in public place respectively.   

The risk factors that the Supreme Court in Bedford identified may therefore have not been appropriately addressed by Bill C-36. Given the above, it is important to understand that a person could still be charged with many offences related to prostitution despite the ruling in Bedford. Any of the following is still an offence under the Criminal Code:

1) Purchasing sex in a public place

2) Offering to provide or to provide sex in a public place

3) Discussing the sale of sex in a public place

4) Keeping a common bawdy-house

The new legislation has created a great deal of ambiguity surrounding prostitution related offences. If you have been charged with a prostitution related offence in Toronto you should retain a criminal defence lawyer to protect you from conviction of these offences. Tyler MacDonald is an experienced criminal defence lawyer in Toronto who understands the implications of the new Canadian prostitution laws. He will explain your options and will provide you with the best possible defence if you are charged with a prostitution related offence.  Call Mr. MacDonald today to schedule your consultation and start strategizing your defence. 

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