In a move that could radically change how Canada deals with prostitution, the Ontario Court of Appeals is hearing a case this week that could effectively legalize The Oldest Profession throughout the country, making all Canadian sex workers safer in the process. Although sex work is technically legal in Canada already, all sorts of “blue laws” remain on the books that make it easy to prosecute anyone who is not simply turning tricks out on the street. These laws include bans on communicating for the purpose of prostitution (think of all the hilarious and/or dangerous misunderstandings that could occur as a result of hookers and johns not being allowed to communicate) and “keeping a common bawdy house” (the old timey language of which should clue you into just how ancient these laws are).
The laws effectively ban prostitutes from taking safety measures like hiring bodyguards and sussing out clients before meeting them, which, as anyone with a brain can see, inevitably makes the allegedly “legal” work much more dangerous than it needs to be. “I find it hard to understand why it’s not self-evident that these provisions harm the ability to carry out prostitution safely,” said Justice David Doherty to the federal government. “These are things that just as a matter of common sense make the business of trading sex safer.” He also argued that there is no other legal profession for which the government has these types of restrictions.
For their part, the federal and Ottawa governments are arguing that they have no obligation to make prostitution safer, as “there’s no constitutionally protected right to engage in the sex trade.” They’re right about the second half, but then again, there’s no explicitly stated right to work in a factory either, but that doesn’t mean the government can’t legislate for the safety of factory workers. This is also fallacious because Ontario isn’t trying to increase their safety with new laws, but merely to stop decreasing their safety by striking down stupid laws that have already been made.
It will interesting to see if the federal Canadian government will listen to reason and remove these absurd restrictions from the books. The resulting decrease in violence towards prostitutes would stand as an example to American legislators of how to make the human beings who engage in this profession safer and less scared. If all the resources that currently go towards locking up prostitutes were put towards rehabilitation programs for those who want to leave the trade but aren’t sure how, we’d have a healthier and happier country. But that would be too logical, wouldn’t it?