What is the legal status of prostitution in Canada

I am under the impression Canada has some of the vaguest laws about prostitution. Something about how exchanging money for sex isn’t illegal, but it is illegal to advertise the fact that you do so, visiting or working in a brothel and illegal to live off the proceeds of prostitution. So basically the law was you can exchange sex for money, but you can’t advertise that you do so, solicit sex or spend the money legally.

But Canada had a supreme court decision overturn a lot of prostitution laws in 2013.

So what is the legal status now? Will Canada become like Germany or Amsterdam or what exactly?

The legal status is the same as it’s been because the effect of the ruling is suspended.

Section 210 to 213: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/


" I would dismiss the appeals and allow the cross-appeal. Section 210, as it relates to prostitution, and ss. 212(1)(j) and 213(1)© are declared to be inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and hence are void. The word “prostitution” is struck from the definition of “common bawdy-house” in s. 197(1) of the Criminal Code as it applies to s. 210 only.

[165] I have concluded that each of the challenged provisions, considered independently, suffers from constitutional infirmities that violate the Charter. That does not mean that Parliament is precluded from imposing limits on where and how prostitution may be conducted. Prohibitions on keeping a bawdy-house, living on the avails of prostitution and communication related to prostitution are intertwined. They impact on each other. Greater latitude in one measure — for example, permitting prostitutes to obtain the assistance of security personnel — might impact on the constitutionality of another measure — for example, forbidding the nuisances associated with keeping a bawdy-house. The regulation of prostitution is a complex and delicate matter. It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach, reflecting different elements of the existing regime.


[169] The choice between suspending the declaration of invalidity and allowing it to take immediate effect is not an easy one. Neither alternative is without difficulty. However, considering all the interests at stake, I conclude that the declaration of invalidity should be suspended for one year."

Looks like it’s heading the way of Amsterdam and Germany, yeah. Although, once criminal law is taken out of it, prostitution regulation will fall to the provinces which may differ in their approach. I’m pretty sure that the Conservatives will be really happy to let the provinces decide how prostitution should be handled. The fed might still include some anti-pimp and anti-trafficking legislation which, if properly tailored, would be constitutional.

I wouldn’t describe these as “some of the vaguest”; they’re actually pretty typical of how common law countries have traditionally dealt with prostitution. The US is the anomaly for actually making the act of selling sex illegal.

In terms of what happens now, sex workers are pushing for the New Zealand model - decriminalisation at all levels of administration, regulating only managed brothels (not those run and owned by sex workers themselves) and bringing sex work within the ambit of employment law so that occupational health and safety rules (etc) apply. Opponents are pushing for the Swedish model in which it would remain legal to sell sex but become illegal to buy it. I can’t see the latter passing muster, though, as it would still create the problems for sex worker safety that led the Supreme Court to unanimously strike down the existing laws.

A third alternative is that Canada could adopt a US style regime of prohibiting sex work entirely. The Supreme Court ruling placed significant emphasis on the fact that it isn’t currently illegal, so making it illegal would force it to take a somewhat different approach if it wanted to strike out this law. But I’m inclined to suspect it would find such an approach if it had to.