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Canadian sex workers rally in support of legalized prostitution

By Arthur Weinreb     Jun 9, 2013 in World
The rallies were held in several Canadian cities just days before the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments concerning the constitutionality of the country's prostitution laws.
Prostitutes held demonstrations throughout Canada yesterday including in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Those who gathered carried red umbrellas, a symbol for the rights of sex workers. Many dressed in red and carried signs that read "Sex Worker Solidarity" and "My Bawdy, My Business."
Prostitution per se is not illegal in Canada but there are three prostitution related offences; being an inmate, having control or being found in a common bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in the case of Attorney General of Canada et. al. v. Terri Jean Bedford et. al. The court is being asked to decide if each of the three offences violates section 7 of the Charter that guarantees everyone the right to life, liberty and security of the person and not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It will also be argued that the offence of communicating for the purpose of prostitution in a public place, violates freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Charter.
In 2007, Bedford, a Toronto area dominatrix, along with two other women brought a challenge against the three prostitution related offences. At trial, the judge struck down all three sections of the Criminal Code holding they were unconstitutional. The government appealed.
Last year the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the unconstitutionality of the bawdy house provisions, ruling they violated section 7. However the appellate court upheld the offence of communicating in a public place for the purpose of prostitution, holding the matter was settled by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990.
With regards to the offence of living on the avails of prostitution, the court of appeal upheld the section but read the words, "in circumstances of exploitation" into it. The effect of this is that it would still be illegal for a pimp to exploit prostitutes by taking all their money but would allow sex workers to, for example, pay body guards without these persons falling under the living on the avails section.
In Vancouver, lawyer Katrina Pacey, who will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada later this week said she will concentrate on the offence of communicating for the purpose of prostitution. She said, "As we all know (the law) pushes sex trade workers into super dangerous parts of the city, forces them to work in isolation, makes it impossible for them to go to the police when they are victimized and makes it hard, if not impossible to screen clients and take time before they get into vehicles. We know very well what the result of that has been, which is a legacy and epidemic of missing and murdered women in this community."
Speaking at the Toronto rally, Bedford said, "All over Canada today women are demonstrating for their freedom and safety. This is not just about sex trade workers. This is about every Canadian who enjoys their right to privacy. The government's coming in through the back door and they're going to tell you what you can and cannot do in the privacy of your own home with another consenting adult—for money or not."
More about Sex workers, living on the avails, Bawdy houses, communicate for the purpose of prostitution, Supreme court of canada
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