OTTAWA, ON April 26, 2012 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is pleased to learn that the federal government is seeking leave to appeal the ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal that struck down several anti-prostitution laws. The League, an intervenor in the case, urged Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to appeal the ruling just after it was announced. We also suggested that introducing a new prostitution law, and the use of the notwithstanding clause, may both be needed.  

“The League intervened in this case in an effort to have a voice in court in support of the moral values shared by the majority of Canadians,” said Joanne McGarry, League executive director. “With our partners REAL Women of Canada and Christian Legal Fellowship, we were the only intervenors completely in support of retaining all the provisions in the Criminal Code. Our position was and remains that while the law is not perfect, any liberalization of it would not improve prostitutes’ safety, and would make it easier to lure and exploit vulnerable girls and women.”

While upholding the Code provision that makes it illegal to publicly solicit or communicate with clients in public, the Ontario Court of Appeal decision upheld the 2010 Ontario Superior Court Ruling that provisions against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house should be legalized because they placed unconstitutional restrictions on prostitutes’ ability to take safety measures such as hiring security to protect themselves.

While the Ontario ruling only applies in Ontario, a Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision would apply nationwide. In announcing the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Nicholson said: “It is our position that the Criminal Code provisions are constitutionally sound, and denounce and deter the most harmful and public aspects of prostitution.”

The League supported the government’s view that the laws were not causing the danger to prostitutes, rather that the danger is inherent in the work itself.