TORONTO, ON September 28, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League, a member of an intervenor group in the court challenge to Canada’s prostitution law, commented on the decision of Madam Justice Susan Himel issued today in the Bedford case, which struck down three Criminal Code provisions without any opportunity for Parliament to address the immediate changes to the Criminal Code.
“It is unfortunate that a single judge has been required to make a decision that will radically change social policy. Parliament is really the appropriate forum for social issues with this level of complexity. By removing what safeguards exist against the exploitation that prostitution represents, this decision will make it much more difficult to prosecute pimps, or offer help to those who want to leave the life,” said Joanne McGarry, League executive director.
Three women involved with the sex trade initiated the case in an effort to overturn Criminal Code provisions prohibiting keeping a common bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution and communicating in public for purposes of solicitation. Among other arguments, they maintained that such changes would provide greater safety for prostitutes. The League filed an intervention jointly with Christian Legal Fellowship and REAL Women of Canada to oppose the application.
“There is ambiguous and equivocal evidence that a liberalized law might make prostitutes safer. In fact, there is evidence from the court file and from other countries that when prostitution is legal, the illegal side of the business tends to continue and flourish,” said Ms. McGarry. “The laws against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house are the best ways we have to arrest pimps and others who exploit and profit from prostitution, and to extend help to those prostitutes who want to leave the life.
“The majority of Canadians consider prostitution immoral. There are certainly differences of opinion about how best to regulate or reduce it, but few consider it to be a good or morally neutral thing. Fewer still would want their sons or daughters to engage in it.” Ms. McGarry added: “We are most concerned about the educational effect of this decision. A single judge has determined that what was previously understood to be illegal is no longer illegal, at least in Ontario. Are we prepared as a society for the unintended consequences of what may now follow?”
Link to complete decision.
MPs need to tackle prostitution issue. Globe and Mail editorial, Sept. 29, 2010
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org