Bedford v. Canada decision: Ontario Court of Appeal strikes down provision restricting "bawdy house" law

At long last, a decision has been made in the Bedford v. Canada case.

This morning, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared the Criminal Code provision restricting “common bawdy houses” unconstitutional. This would mean that johns cannot be criminalized if found purchasing sex in a brothel.

The court found that “living on the avails” of prostitution should apply only in “circumstances of exploitation” which, of course, is not something that is particularly easy to prove.

The communication laws have been upheld, which means that there would be no separation between buyers and sellers. Prostituted women working the street can still be criminalized just like the men. This particular aspect of the decision is disappointing, as Hilla Kerner, of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter notes: “This is contradictory to our position; as the Abolitionist Coalition we argue that the women in prostitution and the buyer should not be viewed from the same lens… There is no protection or understanding of the vulnerability of the women in street.”

Kerner felt the most important aspect of the decision could be found in paragraph 183 wherein the court states that “we agree that a modern comprehensive scheme dealing with prostitution could reflect the values of dignity and equality.”

The case will inevitably be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which means that a final decision will not likely be made for at least a year.


You can listen to my interview with Hilla Kerner about the decision and what it means here:

[audio:|titles=Interview with Hilla Kerner – Bedford v. Canada decision March 26 2012]

Bedford v. Canada decision: Ontario Court of Appeal strikes down provision restricting "bawdy house" law
Meghan Murphy

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Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.