Opinion Column

Any new Canadian prostitution laws doomed to fail 0

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

Valerie Scott (left) and Amy Lebovitch, two of three current and former sex workers who initiated a challenge to Canada's prostitution laws, embrace at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2013. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down all current restrictions on prostitution, including bans on brothels and on street solicitation, declaring the laws were unconstitutional because they violated prostitutes' safety. (REUTERS)

Valerie Scott (left) and Amy Lebovitch, two of three current and former sex workers who initiated a challenge to Canada's prostitution laws, embrace at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2013. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down all current restrictions on prostitution, including bans on brothels and on street solicitation, declaring the laws were unconstitutional because they violated prostitutes' safety. (REUTERS)

In late December the Supreme Court of Canada tossed out three sections of the Criminal Code relating to prostitution. The relevant sections were communicating for the purpose, living off the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house.

As I read the decision, the driving factor for the court was section seven of the charter, which says everyone has the right to security. Fair enough.

In the court's reasoning, the justices regarded the three sections as "over broad" in that they captured aspects that were unintended. Ah yes, the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head again in legislation enacted by well-meaning people upon the unwitting.

Last week, the federal government launched a website ostensibly seeking public consultation as to what any new legislation should look like. All well and good, but it's the police the government should be consulting on this legislation. They are at the sharp end of things and listening to them can perhaps lessen the chances of those pesky unintended consequences when the righteous are trying to do the right thing.

Let's be realistic. While the intent of all the handwringers is to protect ladies of the evening who are forced by circumstance or situation to stand on a street corner, any attempt to enact a law that will make their situation safer is destined to failure.

This is the area prowled by the likes of Robert “Willie” Pickton. They are the drug addicted, the abused — the low end of the spectrum so to speak.

If Parliament decides to legalize the world's oldest profession by legalizing brothels — as the court decision seems to be saying — could these women actually get a job in the more structured ways of a brothel that is licensed and regulated by bureaucrats?

Any legislation legitimizing the act of selling sexual services would be limited to consenting adults. What about the underclass of exploited teens? Police tell me they are really focused on human trafficking of teens by those who would exploit them. How would any of this protect teens under section seven of the charter or anything else, really?

There is a trial underway in B.C. Supreme Court dealing with just such a case. The girls involved are between the ages of 14 to 17. They were allegedly exploited and coerced by various methods. How might they be protected in any legalization or decriminalization effort?

The court has kicked the issue back to Parliament, but federal politicians need to understand there is no easy answer to this question.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.  

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