Prostitution laws face new B.C. challenge
Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca
Published Friday, October 7, 2011 9:05AM PDT
Canada's prostitution laws are facing another constitutional challenge from a woman charged with keeping a bawdy house.
And the lawyer mounting the case says other charges laid against sex workers in B.C. are in trouble because anyone can use a charter challenge as a defense in court.
"It's the same experts, the same evidence…the constitutional challenge is not out of reach the way it was two years ago," said Joven Narwal.
Narwal represents a woman who was charged with keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and procuring a person into the sex trade after Vancouver police raided ISHQ on East Hastings Street in 2010.
The raid came days after an Ontario judge ruled that Canada's prostitution laws are unconstitutional.
Right now, selling sex for money is legal, but living off that money, running a bawdy house, and communication for the purpose of selling sex is illegal.
That means women can't hire bodyguards or work indoors.
Ontario dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford argued that the laws – meant to protect women – are actually endangering their lives. The judge struck down the prostitution laws last year in the case, though the federal government has appealed the ruling.
In B.C., former sex worker Sheryl Kiselbach challenged the same laws, though the case is tied up in legal delays.
Putting those two cases together means anyone has access to the research and arguments to build a charter challenge, said Narwal.
"It's easier now to the extent that you know which evidence is necessary, which experts will be necessary," he said.
There are some 90 solicitation charges being prosecuted right now in B.C., and two groups of bawdy house charges.
"They're all compromised to the extent that anybody who is going to fight is going to sue constitutional arguments," said SFU Criminologist John Lowman.
B.C. prosecutors admit this will mean a harder fight in court, but they won't be deterred.
"If a charter challenge is raised, that will be more complicated," said Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie. "If that happens more often, we'll just deal with it on a case by case basis."