Bill C-36 passes senate, receives Royal Assent, will become law in 30 days

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Bill C-36 passed the Senate. Today the bill received Royal Assent, which means that in 30 days The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will become law.

In a press release, Hilla Kerner, spokesperson for Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, states:

“Having a new law is a very important step but now we need to make sure it’s implemented. We need to monitor the criminal justice system and ensure the new law is used to protect women in prostitution and to stop the men who exploit them. In addition to the law, we want the Provincial and the Canadian government to provide a comprehensive response to women’s needs to prevent them from resorting to prostitution to begin with and to enable women to exit prostitution.”

This law constitutes an enormous step in working towards gender equality in Canada. By criminalizing the pimps and johns, the new legislation directly targets male power and male violence against women. In doing this, Canada has shown incredible initiative in the face of an increasingly aggressive and ever-expanding porn culture, a general acceptance among many leftists, liberals, and even some feminists of the sex industry as, not only inevitable, but a source of liberation for women — an empowered “choice.” The neoliberal status quo tells us that individual women have the “right” to prostitute themselves, but those who seek true equality know that freedom lies in real choices — choices that extend beyond having to sell our bodies to those who have the means to pay. By criminalizing the exploiters and perpetrators of violence, and by decriminalizing those who must resort to selling sex (which continues to be primarily women), we challenge men’s sense of entitlement to female bodies and an institutionalized misogyny that turns women and girls into commodities.

The law follows in the footsteps of the most progressive and feminist countries in the world — countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland* and Iceland, which continue to hold the top rankings in the Global Gender Gap Report.

The bill was supported by a number of Canadian feminist, human rights, women’s, and prostitution survivor organizations, including Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP), Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN), Sex Trade 101, Person’s Against Non-State Torture, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (LaCLES), Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI), EVE: Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating, the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), and The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC).

*Finland’s legislation criminalizes specifically the purchase of sex from minors and from trafficked women, as well as the purchase of sex in public places. The law is problematic as it’s extremely difficult to prove that a john knew a woman was trafficked when he paid for her.

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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  • em em em

    This is so important. It doesn’t end here. Thank you for the article Meghan!

    • I agree it doesn’t end here. We need to move on to ban strip clubs and porn where women are also being sexually exploited. They did it in Iceland and we need to get that here too.

  • Mary

    This is fantastic. The first thing the Conservatives have done that I fully stand behind.

    • Same here! I am a bit in shock that we actually managed to get this. The Nordic Model is essentially radical feminist and how big a group of radical feminists do we have in Canada ? How did we manage to get radical feminist policy and law ? It’s amazing that we managed to get this. This is thanks to some very brave women putting their lives on the line to fight for this!

  • RadFemPornBasher

    Yay Canada!!

  • Hat

    I am so happy to see this. I live in Eastern Europe, and since countries such as mine use western countries as role models for legislation (and everything else, tbh), passing laws like this one is very important.

  • Milla

    Hi there, great news! You wrote: “The law follows in the footsteps of the most progressive and feminist countries in the world — countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, which continue to hold the top rankings in the Global Gender Gap Report.”

    I live in Finland, and even though I’m lousy at following ‘bigger’ politics, I think it’s still very much legal to buy sex here. The only amendments as far as I know are those of it being illegal to ‘pimp’ and it’s illegal buying in public places, and buying from minors or trafficked persons. The latter ones are pretty easy to ‘get off the hook’ by saying “I didn’t know. I thought everything was okay.” (regardless of having a language in common with the persons they meet with or not).

    The other places that I know of (which might be correct info or not..) are France and most recently Northern Ireland going for the full criminalization of buying sex.

    Hope you found this info useful, even though it might not be complete or correct 🙂

    Wishing you well. Thanks for sharing your views on these important topics.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh sorry! Just responded to you on Facebook! Here’s what I wrote:

      “My understanding was that it was illegal to buy sex from a minor, to buy sex in public, and to buy sex from someone who is trafficked in Finland… My understanding is also that this law doesn’t work very well because of how difficult-to-impossible it is to know if someone is trafficked… But I interpreted this as a form of criminalization of buying sex (which needs to be reassessed)… Did I get that info wrong? And yes! Northern Ireland and France have recently voted in favour of bills that would criminalize the purchase of sex! Hooray! Let’s all do it!”

      • Unfortunately it’s not illegal to buy sex in Finland. Finland does not have the Nordic model. Only buying sex from trafficked and underaged women is illegal. Trafficking in Finland has also increased as opposed to Sweden where they have the Nordic model.

        • Meghan Murphy


  • Lola

    Hopefully more countries will join this initiative. It’s great to hear some good news from time to time.

  • ArgleBarle

    Fantastic. A huge thanks to all who worked so hard and took so much crap while doing it, in order to see this Bill passed. This is a clear signal that Canada does not support sexual exploitation of it’s citizens and guests.

    • Yes!!! A huge thanks to Meghan Murphy and everyone else who worked so hard on it this bill! I am also particularly awed by the prostitution survivors who showed so much bravery in coming forward, putting themselves on the line publicly and advocating for it. They are the ones that have really protected future generations. Oh God I’m going to cry now, this is horrible!

  • This is a huge victory for women in Canada! Thanks for all your hard work and public advocacy on this Meghan Murphy!

    This is also a victory for women in the US and Latin America and beyond because if prostitution had become legalized here countless women from there (their most vulnerable women) would have doubtless been trafficked here. It’s also important for prostitution survivors in Canada (and the world over) to know that we will say that what was done to them was an atrocity so that they can feel some amount of safety and healing, instead of the message that legalization would have sent to them that we refused to acknowledge the atrocity they suffered and do not oppose their being treated as subhuman and consider them less than us. This sends a message to child sexual abuse survivors (who make up 90% of those in prostitution) that they are neither subhuman nor destined for a life of sexual abuse and nor that society will fail to protect them from exploitation again.

  • I worked with Hilla for a short time a few years ago. She’s a wonderful woman. As a woman living in Vancouver I have some words to explain what it was like to be prostituted here.

    First off, men always try to talk you down and always press your boundaries. If you show you don’t want to do something, they will use their power (money) to make you do it and not because they necessarily want it but because it will cause you pain.

    One of my best friends I met before she was pimped by a man named Steve. She had long long golden hair and her body was full and beautiful. Two years later she was thin, her face marked by picking and had become pregnant while addicted to several drugs. She bore the children but they didn’t survive very long.

    I lost contact with her. I don’t know if she’s alive. I think about her often and hope that she escaped that man and found a home, found peace.

    Many of us women who’ve been prostituted only find peace in death. Our voices are silenced forever by MEN, not laws.

    The good thing about this bill is its message to men that women are not objects to be bought and sold.

    Hilla is right that the only way we’ll see progress is if the cops will do their jobs. I honestly don’t have much confidence in the Vancouver Police.

    Women down here make a tooney for a blowjob.

  • Daniel Miller

    Hi Meghan,
    Have you done or read any writing on how the organizations and activists who made this happen managed to get the Conservatives to pass such a radically feminist bill?

    The Harper Conservatives have been such an anti-feminist government. It is almost unbelievable that they would align with Canada’s radical feminists on something.

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  • Komal

    Good to hear!