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Cities should set rules if prostitution laws fall: Young

Cities should set rules if prostitution laws fall: Young

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Ontario sex workers await appeal court ruling
If Ontario becomes the only province to legally allow prostitution, municipalities will likely take a role in regulating sex work, making the issue one of Toronto mayor-elect Rob Ford’s first orders of business, says Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young.

But even with a newly created municipal bylaw, Young admits, sex work could end up recriminalized, but without provision in the criminal code.

“I think it’s interesting that this issue may be thrust upon Ford as one of the first municipal issues on his agenda,” Young tells Xtra following a discussion at York University’s Osgoode Hall: The Bedford Decision: Off the Streets? “I have no clue what [Ford’s] position is. I just find it ironic because, as a politician, that’s the last issue you want to deal with, not the first.”

Ford declined to comment to Xtra.

The Ontario Superior Court struck down prostitution laws in Ontario on Sept 28, but the laws have remained in force pending an appeal court ruling that is expected in the coming days.

Young, who represents sex workers Amy Lebovitch, Valerie Scott and Terri-Jean Bedford, speaks about the case with unwavering conviction and rock-solid ethics, yet he remains guarded on the outcome.

“In my 20-year career, this is one of the few cases where I feel the argument is bordering on incontrovertible,” Young says. “I don’t see what the other side is. That leads me to believe this should be a victory all the way. But I’m also very painfully aware of the conservative nature of the Ontario Court of Appeal.”

Young, along with a panel of experts, spoke about the landmark case to a lecture hall full of law students Nov 24.

Also on the panel was Emily van der Meulen, a fellow with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health; Christa Big Canoe, a First Nations lawyer; and moderator Sonia Lawrence, a constitutional law and gender equality law professor at Osgoode.

If the stay is lifted, Young says, a temporary municipal bylaw will need to be created until the federal government makes its decision. But that may still be a long time coming.

“Create a bylaw of a temporary nature that restricts locations and restricts the size until we see what the federal government wants to do. That will solve the so-called nuisance issue of having large-scale brothels in residential areas. So I think it’s a very simple bylaw to pass,” Young says.

The Nov 27 expiration date comes after the federal and provincial governments made an application to Ontario Court of Appeal justice Marc Rosenberg to stay a Sept 28 decision by Justice Susan Himel beyond the 60-day deadline. The stay allows their representatives more time for a proper appeal.

If Rosenberg fails to make a decision, the stay will be extended, Young says.

Himel’s ruling strikes down three criminal code provisions surrounding prostitution, declaring them unconstitutional. They are: laws that forbid soliciting, keeping a bawdyhouse and living off the avails of prostitution. Himel concluded that the current laws are harming sex workers by putting them in danger and punishing victims.

The biggest change is that sex workers will be free to work indoors and in groups, without triggering Canada's bawdyhouse laws, says Young. It also means hookers will be able to hire drivers, bouncers and bodyguards to keep themselves safer.

Valerie Scott, executive director of the Sex Professionals of Canada, laughs at the alarmist scenarios suggested by the Crown, such as Canada becoming a mecca for sex tourism and increased child prostitution, she says.

“In court, the Crown just couldn’t say pimps and children enough,” she says. “It was amazing to watch the Crown’s logic, none of which made sense. It was just a lot of pimp panic.”

“Himel struck these laws because they are harmful to sex workers and harmful to communities, not to mention outrageously expensive to enforce. The highest-paying customers are the taxpayers. There has never been a case in Canadian history like this.”

Scott says the Crown is “playing around with the safety of sex workers.”

“It’s unconscionable,” Scott says. “They are putting misguided sexual morals before lives.”

Michael Morris, the lawyer for the federal government, who declined to comment to Xtra, told court that the allowance of prostitution would “usher in a social experiment unprecedented in this country.”

He argues that throwing out the laws will cause “irreparable harm to both sex workers and communities” and says it opens the door for a host of social evils and the general destruction of residential communities.

“We’re talking about maybe a year-long period, and it would be impossible to transform Toronto into a sex hot spot in one year,” Young says. “Maybe these people should get off their asses at city council, if they’re really concerned, come up with some regulations.”

But Young admits there’s some truth to what the federal government suggests.

“As I said in court, everything they say can happen, but it’s not sufficient reason to stay a very important constitutional decision. It’s impossible any of it will happen in the next 12 months.”

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Comments

Prostitution law reform in New Zealand
You might want to have a look at New Zealand's Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003. It decriminalised all forms of adult sex work and mandates occupational health and safety for sex workers.
Same rules for every profession
If you sell insurance we have laws that keep you from solciting in public. Just like we created laws from keeping prostitution in public.
But as far as consenting adults meeting in private, I think sex workers should not need any license or have any regulations that are not the same as in any other professions.
This is all about people being scared a hooker will move in next door, however nobody gets to comment on who you have in your home or what you are doing. They even want to take away the sex workers sanction & protection in her own home.
Irony
It would be ironic if the restrictive federal criminal code provisions are replaced by restrictive municipal by-laws. In the past, the criminal code provisions only seemed to be enforced against prostitutes who were too visible to local residents (e.g., local residents calling the cops on street prostitutes who worked at night near downtown apartment buildings). In the future, local residents may just lobby city council for a by-law banning prostitution on their street (or banning it on the street for reasons of noise control, traffic control, etc.). While left-wing councilors in downtown Toronto would likely oppose these types of by-laws, they would likely be enacted in other cities. Maybe Canadian cities will instead have by-laws providing for red light districts, like they do in certain European cities.
Ed's note
Hi Thomas, ummm the bit you're looking for is in the very first sentence of the story.
Journalism 101
Journalism 101 in paragraph four, please? It might be a good, professional and courteous idea to introduce individuals with their proper role and title if you're going to cite him or her as a source. The Ford you name, I assume, is newly elected Toronto Mayor Rob Ford? Am I correct? Look, I get that you guys at Xtra are looking forward to years of throwing around the word homophobic in any article that refers to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, but at least do the man, and your readers beyond Church and Wellesley, a favour by citing a subject's first and last name and role, if you're going to use him or her as a source.
Living in the solution
I agree that new rules will need to go in place.

1) outdoor solicititation would be illegal
2) only 2 or 3 or less sex workers can work out of the same location without it being considered a brothel. No brothels in residential neighborhoods (but this would mean that 2 or 3 sex workers could share a work space or an a apartment.
3) Anyone exploiting a minor or trying to purchase sex from a minor goes to jail for 25 years
4) sex workers will pay a one time fee of 100 to be licensed and this will enure they are in your country legally and are of legal age. The license would inlude a tax number so the sex worker can pay her fair share of taxes.
5) all STD testing wold be on a volunteer bases.
6( discriminating against a sex worker for housing, or heath care of employment would be illegal.
7) Hate crimes against sex workers would be illegal
8) Law enforcment would be required to investitgate any sex workers claim that she has been abused, stalked or threatened by a person or persons.

any other rules would be a clear discrimination of these women. It is no citizens right to demand these women be kept from their own neighbrhoods and continued to be Stalked by police.
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