Prostitution in Canada

This contents below provides a general view of Prostitution in Canada and what Canadians are faced with at this present time. More details regarding the Prostitution laws, the constitutional challenge of the laws and other information regarding prostitution, sex trafficking and sex exploitation can be found in the Resources section.

Prostitution is not illegal in Canada.

However, specific activities related to prostitution are illegal.

Although this is a somewhat confusing way to curtail prostitution, it is the Government’s response to preventing the exploitation of those engaging in prostitution and to protect members of the community who are not involved in prostitution.

As such, the Criminal Code has three provisions that deem three prostitution-related activities to be illegal. The three prostitution-related activities that are illegal in Canada are:

a) Operating a common bawdy house (Section 210)

What is a common bawdy house?

It is a place that is kept, occupied or resorted to by one or more persons for the purposes of prostitution or the practices of acts of indecency.

This means that if an individual or individuals establishes a place for the purposes of prostitution or acts of indecency, then the established place fits under the definition of a common bawdy house.

The Constitutional Challenge of Section 210

This provision was constitutional challenged by three sex worker advocates. They argued that performing the act of prostitution is safer indoors versus on the streets. The court that heard the constitutional challenge sided with those who brought forth the constitutional challenge.

At this present time, Section 210 is still in effect because it is pending review from the Supreme Court of Canada. However, if the Supreme Court of Canada decides to strike down/eliminate Section 210, this would mean that the operation of a common bawdy house for prostitution is legal in Canada.

Therefore, any individual or individual(s) can establish a place, wherever they see fit, for the purposes of selling sex. No community will be immune to the existence of a common bawdy house in full operation.

b) Living off the avails of prostitution (Section 212)

Surely I can live off the avails of my employment?

Yes, this is true. If you are a prostitute, you can live off the money that you have earned prostituting. This provision in the Criminal Code was specifically created to protect prostitutes from being exploited by Pimps, Johns, and Madams. Therefore, this provision specifies that a person (or persons) cannot live on the earnings of another individual who is a prostitute.

The Constitutional Challenge of Section 212

This provision was constitutional challenged by the same three sex worker advocates mentioned above. They argued that this provision prevents them from hiring security personnel or assistants that would keep them safe while they are working as prostitutes. The court that heard the constitutional challenge sided with the three sex worker advocates.

It has been suggested by a court of appeal that this provision be rewritten to specify that: Everyone who lives on the avails of prostitution of another person “in circumstances of exploitation” is guilty of an indictable offence…

This puts the burden of proving exploitation, without a reasonable doubt, on the victim.

Pimps, Johns, Madams. These are individuals who are really good at what they do. They are masters of manipulation and will capitalize on the concepts of love, affection, friendship, security and trust to put one in a position of willing, voluntary and unconditional servitude. However, there are circumstances where Pimps, Johns, and Madams will go to the other extreme. If they cannot trick you into falling “in love” with them, they will threaten to kill you or your family.

In either case, when asked whether you have been exploited? One may tell a lie for protection sake – either a lie to protect your “friend” or a lie to protect your life or the lives of your family members.

c) Communicating for the purposes of prostitution (Section 213)

Isn’t communication important in every profession?

Yes, communication is key to every profession. This provision in the Criminal Code was created to prevent individuals from engaging in sexually explicit chat and sexual displays in public areas. It was put in place to protect innocent, unsuspecting, common individuals, such as children, from being exposed to sexually explicit content and the sale and purchase of sex while walking to school, on the bus, outside a shopping centre, in a restaurant, in the grocery store, etc…

Moreover, it was also put into place to prevent social nuisance. It could be said that most individuals prefer not to be exposed to sexually explicit content while going about their everyday routine. Therefore, it could be argued that this provision protects everyone’s right to respect and dignity.

The Constitutional Challenge of Section 213

The same three sex worker advocates challenged this provision by arguing that they need to be able to communicate with potential clients, in public, as a method of screening those who may be potentially dangerous. The court ruled in their favour.

At this present time, the court of appeal overturned the ruling. Therefore, this provision is still in effect. However, it is unknown as to whether there will be an appeal from the three sex worker advocates to contest the ruling of the appeal.