OTTAWA, (Reuters) – Prostitutes in Canada will generally be allowed to sell their services, but for the first time it will be a crime to buy sex from them under a government bill introduced yesterday to replace legislation the Supreme Court struck down in December.
The Supreme Court had suspended for a year the effect of its decision, which struck down a ban on brothels and street solicitation on the grounds that it compromised the safety of sex workers, to allow time for a new law to be enacted.
The bill introduced by Justice Minister Peter MacKay is loosely modeled on what has been called the Nordic model, which targets customers and pimps, but not the sex workers themselves.
The legislation goes after “the perpetrators, the perverts; those who are consumers of this degrading practice,” MacKay told reporters.
It will not, however, be clear legal sailing for prostitutes. The new legislation would criminalize solicitation in public places where a child could be reasonably expected to be present. Advertising for the sale of others’ sexual services would also be banned.
Until the Supreme Court decision, prostitution had technically been legal, but most related activities were not.
Some predicted a court challenge of the new bill would be inevitable.
The safety of sex workers took a high profile in Canada after the trial and conviction in 2007 of serial killer Robert Pickton, who preyed on prostitutes and other women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood.