Joining the Conversation

Alisha OstbergBlog, criminilization, human rights, sex work

Supreme Court of Canada Rules Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional

On December 20, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a landmark unanimous decision (9-0) in the case of Attorney General of Canada v. Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott. Canada’s highest court has ruled that three provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code, s. 210 (keeping or being found in a bawdy house), s. 212(1)(j) (living on the avails of prostitution), and s. 213(1)(c) (communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution) violate the right to security of the person protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (s.7). All three laws have been struck down. ”

The conversation is starting to pick up a lot of media attention around Calgary and Amanda has done her part in keeping Shift in the conversation. She has appeared on CTV’s Alberta Primetime, CBC’s The Homestretch and other media outlets to discuss what these changes mean for the city of Calgary. Berjian states that “it is important to remember that it has always been legal to sell sex in Calgary and the city regulates this by issuing escort licenses.” Although these laws do not come into effect for a year the city will continue to regulate the industry.

If you’d like to be a part of the conversation as well, this week the Federal Government launched a ‘Public Consultation on Prostitution-Related Offences in Canada’ on the Department of Justice website that will remain open until March 17th, 2014. The website includes a ‘Discussion Paper’ and provides room for the public to submit 500 word answers to 6 questions. It can be viewed here.  Although we agree it is important for the public to voice their opinions,  the consultation has been criticized for several reasons and we fully agree that 1) An online survey does not take the place of face to face consultations with key stakeholders; 2) The discussion paper and questions are worded to favour criminalization and ignore the findings in Bedford that the laws themselves are harmful; and 3) The Justice Minister has already spoken publicly of the Conservative government’s interest in the Nordic Model (criminalizing the purchase of sex), a model that Shift does not support. Sex workers across Canada have provided their suggestions on the public consultation and key issues to consider in framing your responses, and we encourage you to read these suggestions here. For more information please visit or email