On June 13th, Bedford v. Canada was heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. The case is a legal challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws. Currently, in Canada, it isn’t technically illegal to buy sex, but many of the laws surrounding prostitution criminalize it: communicating for the purposes of prostitution, operating a bawdy house (brothel), or living off the avails of prostitution (pimping). The debate around prostitution and prostitution law is often discussed as though there are only two options: legalization or complete criminalization. But many women’s groups across the country argue that Canada should adopt a more feminist model of law.
The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, comprised of a number of groups, including: Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), was granted intervener status in the hearing and argued to decriminalize women in the sex trade, and instead target pimps and johns.
I spoke with Janine Benedet, lawyer for the Coalition, about the hearing, her thoughts on the arguments presented by both sides, as well as the arguments presented by the other interveners, and about what comes next.
Listen to that interview below.