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]

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • sad SAD day for Canadian women

  • My question is WHY are the women on the street criminals and women in the houses not? NONE of them should be criminalized but what will happen is the MOST vulnerable women will be criminalized on the street. This is so disgusting. So it’s OKAY for men to have full 24/7 access to women at all times? Of course, lots of entitled dudes are saying, “well, it’s been around forever, so it won’t go away” YEAH it’s been around forever because misogyny and patriarchy has been around forever, woman hating hasn’t died out yet and so neither has men’s feelings of entitlement to women on demand.

    • Meghan Murphy

      That aspect is super-disheartening, I agree. I am still hopeful that the decision will be different at the Supreme Court.

  • Becci

    I am interested in becoming involved in the feminist community in Vancouver but don’t know where to start or who to contact! Do you have any advice?

    • Meghan Murphy

      There are lots of local women’s organizations that need volunteers – maybe look into WAVAW or Rape Relief? There are always women’s centres at universities and colleges also…It depends on what your looking for. Good luck!

      • Becci

        Thank you!

  • grounsel

    Having worked for government social services, I do see the time when women on welfare are told to go work in the brothel because it is now a legitimate job. I did not listen to your audio. I know the meaning. Under the guise of protection and saving money for government, the lust for new revenues trumps all considerations.(taxes on brothels) It’s the new world order.

  • Meteorites

    Suggesting we let men have unlimited sexual rights to women in the name of protecting those women is the modern burning of the village in order to save it.

  • Sunshine

    i think making housing for them is a good idea only for their safety…. this “profession” will NEVER go away.. and its sad but true… so now the courts are sympathising with the people looking through the women of prostitution’s eyes .

    • Grosellina

      Sunshine, if men were “raping” you every day I would do everything I could to make them stop and not settle for making your rapes more tolerable.

  • Saying it will never go away is a sad projection of the future.

    It proclaims that men have no hope to evolve past their present state.

    I dearly hope that is not true.

    i hope that we can one day evolve to a point where our need for sex does not outweigh the desire to treat others with respect and dignity. It seems that when a man desires sex, it does not matter to whom or how much pain is caused in order to acquire it.

    Well I pray that we are able to rise above this and put the need to treat others well before our personal desires.

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