Supreme Court of Canada Rules Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional
Victory for Sex Workers’ Rights
Calgary, Alberta – Today the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a landmark unanimous decision (9-0) in the case of Attorney General of Canada v. Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott. Canada’s highest court has ruled that three provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code, s. 210 (keeping or being found in a bawdy house), s. 212(1)(j) (living on the avails of prostitution), and s. 213(1)(c) (communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution) violate the right to security of the person protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (s.7). All three laws have been struck down.
Three Ontario sex workers: Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott initiated the case in 2007. The court was asked to strike down the three provisions of the Criminal Code because they violate sex workers’ constitutional rights to security.
“This is a historic victory for sex worker rights in Canada” says Amanda Berjian, Shift Program Supervisor. “The decriminalization of prostitution is the byproduct of striking down the existing unconstitutional laws. Decriminalization allows sex workers who choose this work the ability to name their safety needs and enforce appropriate safety practices. Canada may remain a country where sex work is decriminalized, or this decision may open the conversation about how sex work should be handled in Canada going forward.” Berjian states “we will continue to advocate for policies and practices that support the rights to safety and security for sex workers.”
According to Berjian, “The Supreme Court decision is not a commentary on how sex work should be handled in Canada. The decision is an acknowledgement that the existing laws violate sex workers human rights. Whether you support the choice of sex workers to do this work or not, we should all support the rights of Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The removal of Canadian prostitution laws will allow sex workers who choose this work to be afforded the same rights to safety and security that all other Canadians are afforded.
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Shift is a program of HIV Community Link and provides support services to adults currently and formerly working in the sex industry to improve their quality of life and achieve individualized goals. HIV Community Link is a local not-for-profit HIV/AIDS service organization that offers support services, prevention and education to individuals who are at-risk for, affected by or living with HIV/AIDS. For more information, please contact HIV Community Link at (403) 508-2500 (or toll free at 1-877-440-2437) or online at www.hivcl.org.
For more information, please contact:
Weston Jacques, Communications Coordinator
HIV Community Link
(403) 508-2581 (direct)