Weekend plans ruined: Prostitution still effectively illegal in Ontario

Weekend plans ruined: Prostitution still effectively illegal in Ontario

Canada’s record of almost doing interesting things and then chickening out (cough, cough) is unbroken: after an Ontario judge ruled in September that Ontario’s laws against prostitution violate the Charter rights of sex workers, the federal and provincial government asked an appeals court to stay the decision until this can be settled by the Supreme Court. According to the Toronto Star, the feds got their wish this morning:

Laws criminalizing prostitution in Ontario will remain in place until at least until April 29, 2011.

Justice Marc Rosenberg released his ruling this morning, saying he will extend the stay on a landmark decision that would have allowed sex workers to hire bodyguards and communicate freely to sell services.

Rosenberg suggested that the appeal should be heard before the April 29 deadline.

Lawyer Alan Young, who represents dominatrix Terri Jean Bedford, said the judge was concerned with the regulatory void, meaning the lack of laws to regulate the industry.

The feds and the province had launched a full-court press to keep prostitution illegal, advancing basically every argument in the book against legalizing it, including the memorable assertion that “Brothels could spring up and ‘strip clubs would expand their menus.’”  We assume they don’t mean a more varied lunch buffet.

It will be interesting to watch this case wind its way up to the Supreme. And if the Supreme Court does rule that Canada’s laws against prostitution are unconstitutional, that still doesn’t end the story, because it’s hard to imagine Ottawa or Queen’s Park letting this go: they always have the option to try rewriting the laws in a way that doesn’t break the Charter. Canada’s judicial nerds are going to have saucy reading for a good while yet.

Stay extended, prostitution laws remain in effect [Toronto Star]
Stay extension keeps prostitution laws in legal limbo [Globe and Mail]
• Ontario court delays prostitution law until April [National Post]
• Ont. prostitution laws stand for now [CBC News]