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Kitchener judge rules prostitution law unconstitutional in London couple’s case
KITCHENER -- A precedent-setting ruling has been made in a Kitchener courthouse.
A provincial judge ruled that Canada’s prostitution law is unconstitutional in the case of a London couple who ran an escort agency.
The charges against them were also declared to violate the charter of rights in the Friday morning ruling.
“It’s a huge relief and a tremendous victory for sex workers in Canada,” said the couple’s lawyer James Lockyear. “This judgement is very bad news for pimps.”
Justice Thomas McKay stressed to the packed courthouse that his decision does not call for changes to Canada’s prostitution laws.
Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar were charged back in 2015 when police raided their company Fantasy World Escorts.
The initial human trafficking charges against them were later dropped.
Charges of advertising sexual services, making money from the sex trade, and procuring from the sex trade remained.
The couple challenged these charges and said they violate their right to freedom of expression as well as the rights of sex workers to a safe work environment.
“It enables them to get off the streets,” said Lockyear. “It’s well known that the safety of sex workers is most affected when they are working on the streets.”
The court heard the couple’s agency advertised a code of conduct. This included wearing condoms, acting like gentlemen, and communication for service at a safe distance rather than on the street or in a bar.
John Cassells of the group Men Ending Trafficking was in the courtroom and says the ruling sends the wrong message to criminals involved in the sex trade.
“It appears to put ahead the interests of criminal profiteers ahead of the rights of vulnerable and exploited children,” he said.
A woman who says her 21-year-old daughter is in the sex trade added that she's also upset with the ruling.
“How can any victims of this trust our court system when they are going to give criminals this kind of latitude?” she said.
The defence argued their clients were managers protecting their workers, not criminals.
“This judgment means sex workers can legitimately hire managers as oppose to having to go underground,” said Lockyear.
The ruling is the first of its kind in Canada and the first test of the law since Stephen Harper’s Conservative government changed it in 2014
The crown is expected to appeal the decision. Lockyear says his clients are, “in it for the long haul.”