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BCCLA argues prostitution laws must be struck down to protect vulnerable women

Ottawa – The Supreme Court of Canada will be hearing arguments on June 13, 2013 in Attorney General of Canada, et al. v. Terri Jean Bedford, et al.

Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott started the case in 2007. They challenged the constitutionality of three provisions of the Criminal Code: s. 210, which prohibits the operation of common bawdy-houses; s. 212(1)(j), which prohibits living on the avails of prostitution; and s. 213(1)(c), which prohibits communicating for the purpose of prostitution in public.

Bedford, Lebovitch, and Scott argued that there are ways of conducting prostitution that could significantly reduce the risk of violence towards sex workers, such as allowing sex workers to work indoors, to work with a companion or to work in settings with others nearby. The prostitution laws make these safety-enhancing techniques illegal.

The BCCLA is an intervener in the case. The BCCLA has long-advocated for sensible and compassionate legal response to issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity.

The BCCLA will argue in part that the expression restricted by s. 213(1)(c) lies at the heart of the right to freedom of expression protected by the Charter. This communication allows sex workers to communicate terms of consent and to screen potential clients, both of which are essential to their basic health and security needs. Restricting this communication furthers the victimization and vulnerabilities of street sex workers. This expression warrants a high level of protection.

Brent Olthuis of Hunter Litigation Chambers and Megan Vis-Dunbar are counsel for the BCCLA.

The BCCLA’s argument in the case is available here >>

What: Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in Bedford case
When: Oral arguments before the court begin on Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 6:30 am PT / 9:30 am ET
Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
Who: Representatives from the BCCLA available for comment