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June 12, 2013

OTTAWA – The decriminalization of prostitution leads to increased rates of human trafficking and victimization of vulnerable people. Tomorrow, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) as an intervener in the Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford case to argue this point. The case is a challenge to Canada’s laws that prohibit activities related to prostitution.

“Most Canadians don’t know that prostitution is not and has never been illegal in Canada. The acts surrounding prostitution are illegal, and it is those laws that are being challenged,” noted EFC vice-president and general legal counsel Don Hutchinson.

In September 2010, the Ontario Superior Court struck down the Criminal Code provisions dealing with keeping a common bawdy house (brothel), communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and living on the avails (proceeds) of prostitution.

That decision was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal which decided: the federal government had to reform the Criminal Code (Code) provision against prostitutes operating out of brothels, massage parlours and other forms of common bawdy houses; the provision that prohibits communicating for the purposes of prostitution was upheld; and, the section of the Code dealing with living on the avails of prostitution was amended by the court so that it would only apply to those doing so in an exploitive way, i.e. theoretically accommodating the capacity to structure a sex-for-sale business with paid support staff. The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal is stayed (the law stays as it is written in the Criminal Code) until the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada is rendered in this case.

“The EFC will argue that human dignity is a vital underlying Charter value that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the commodification of human beings is contrary to that value,” explains Hutchinson. “Further, prostitution and human trafficking are intrinsically linked. In nations that have decriminalized prostitution, decriminalization has led to increases in human trafficking. Decriminalization does not lessen the abuse of those who are being prostituted. It is Parliament’s constitutional jurisdiction to enact criminal laws, including those in place concerning prostitution.”

“Ultimately, the EFC favours the abolition of prostitution,” added Hutchinson. “We support the need to amend the current laws to a Canadian version of the legal and social framework used in Sweden, which makes the buying of sex illegal, targeting the ‘pimps’ and ‘johns’ – the purveyors and purchasers – while decriminalizing those who are being prostituted and offering them opportunities and supports to exit prostitution.”

“We are aware that several police departments across the country have been working on a model of enforcement similar to this ‘Nordic model,’ using the existing law despite its limitations,” concluded Hutchinson. “So, before the Supreme Court of Canada, we will be supporting the government in maintaining the current law. This law at least provides something to work with to protect those who are being prostituted on the street corners and in the back rooms of our nation.”

For more information on the EFC’s intervention in the Bedford case please see www.theEFC.ca/bedford.

For additional information or an interview, please contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
613-233-9868 x332