Ontario prostitution laws could be lifted Saturday
Published Monday, November 22, 2010 8:56PM EST
Lawyers for the federal government said that Canada is on the brink of launching an "unprecedented" social experiment if three key prostitution laws are lifted this Saturday.
The government appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice on Monday to seek a ruling that would delay the lifting of the laws.
But Justice Marc Rosenberg, from the Court of Appeal for Ontario, reserved his decision on Monday, saying that he would attempt to issue a ruling by the Saturday deadline.
If the Ontario Court of Appeal does not agree to give the government more time to consider an appeal, it could mean the end for a number of laws that have effectively criminalized prostitution.
A September ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down laws against keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution and living on the avails of the trade.
The government is requesting a stay until a proper appeal can be heard.
Michael Morris, a lawyer for the federal government, said if a stay isn't granted Saturday, it will be the start of a "social experiment unprecedented in this country."
Prostitution is not illegal in Canada, but nearly everything related to it is.
Lawyers who fought for the end of those laws said the adjustment would mean safer conditions for sex-trade workers.
In a 131-page ruling released in September, Justice Susan Himel determined the laws created a dangerous environment for sex-trade workers.
"I find that the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public," she wrote.
The struck-down provisions deal with adult prostitution. Prostitution laws dealing with those under the age of 18 remain unaffected.
Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford had originally asked the court to rule on the Criminal Code laws relating to prostitution and called the decision to strike the laws down "emancipation day" for sex-trade workers.
The government argued that prostitution is inherently dangerous, no matter where it is carried out. It has also argued that striking down the laws would make Canada a sex tourism destination.
Legal analyst Steven Skurka said that the court will likely grant the government its request, given that not doing so would essentially alter the laws.
"All of that suggests to me is that the judge ... is indeed going to accede to the federal government's request and stay the proceedings."
Skurka said that the legal wrangling will continue, however.
"It doesn't mean that they will have won the appeal," Skurka told CTV News Channel Monday.
"What the federal government is saying is, ‘Wait a moment, the appeal is not going to be heard for months. We can't rush into this. This is only one judge that is essentially upsetting all the prostitution laws in this country.'"
Skurka says that the government wants the three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal to weigh and review the original, lower-court decision.
However, ultimately, Skurka believes that the rules could be changed, forcing the government to perhaps draft new laws.
"I believe that these laws will be determined to be unconstitutional," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press