Ontario court dismisses sex workers' Charter challenge

sex workers ontario cp

Ontario's Superior Court has dismissed a Charter challenge launched by an alliance of groups advocating for the rights of sex workers, ruling that Canada's criminal laws on sex work are constitutional.

Justice Robert Goldstein's decision says the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, brought in by the former Conservative government, balances prohibition of ``the most exploitative aspects of the sex trade'' while protecting sex workers from legal prosecution.

Goldstein found the laws are constitutional and do not prevent sex workers from taking safety measures, engaging the services of non-exploitative third parties or seeking police assistance without fear of being charged for selling or advertising sexual services.

The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform had argued in court that the laws foster stigma, invite targeted violence and prevent sex workers from obtaining meaningful consent before engaging with clients, violating the industry workers' Charter rights.

The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act was passed in 2014, about a year after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down previous anti-prostitution laws after lawyers argued existing provisions were disproportionate, overbroad and put sex workers at risk of harm.

Even though prostitution was legal under the previous laws, nearly all related activities, such as running a brothel, pimping and communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution, were against the law.