A Toronto judge has struck down Canada’s prostitution laws, saying provisions meant to protect women and residential neighbourhoods are endangering sex workers’ lives.
If Justice Susan Himel’s decision stands, prostitutes will be able to communicate freely with customers on the street, conduct business in their homes or brothels and hire bodyguards and accountants without exposing them to the risk of criminal sanctions.
The Superior Court judge suspended her ruling from taking effect for 30 days to give the government time to consider how to address potential consequences, including the emergence of unlicensed brothels.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the federal government is “very concerned” and is seriously considering an appeal of the 131-page ruling.
Alan Young, a lawyer at the forefront of the landmark legal challenge, said it is too early to say whether Tuesday’s decision could open the door to Canada going “the way of Germany with five-storey brothels.”
But to his client, Terri-Jean Bedford, a dominatrix who was convicted in 1998 of keeping a common bawdy house, it was “emancipation day.”