The case, involving an escort agency shut down by police five years ago, constituted the first real test since the legislation was revised in 2014.
Justice Thomas McKay ruled that the laws, which prohibit procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from someone else’s sexual services, are unconstitutional.
Hamad Anwar and Tiffany Harvey, then 26 and 24, were charged in November, 2015, after a six-month police probe, sparked by complaints from London, Ont., residents about advertisements on local bus shelters, culminated in a raid on their business, Fantasy World Escorts.
The pair – who were pulled over in Mr. Anwar’s Ford Mustang, with the licence plate “MRBOSS” – were charged with procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from the sale of someone else’s sexual services.
Fantasy World Escorts was shut down by police in 2015.
They launched a constitutional challenge in 2017, arguing that they were charged under laws that violate sex workers’ Charter rights to safety and freedom of expression.
The case was being closely watched by legal scholars and sex workers’ advocates, given the divisive nature of the topic of sex work.
“It’s interesting because we have a broader discussion going on globally, and in Canada, around how to understand the commercial exchange of sex,” says Debra Haak, an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.
“[That conversation] is premised in two very different understandings: one that sees it as sex work and thinks that it ought to be treated as work, and that [criminal] sanctions shouldn’t apply – and the other side that sees it as inherently exploitative, and inconsistent with a gender-equal society.”
With today’s decision, the charges against Harvey and Anwar are stayed.
In his ruling, McKay said the law against advertising violates the Charter right to freedom of expression, and the laws against procuring and materially benefiting violate the Charter guarantee of “security of the person.”
“We won. We won them all,” Harvey told someone on the phone outside court.
Anwar cried as the verdict was read, as did the couple’s family members in the courtroom.
Canada’s prostitution laws were revised in 2014 after the Supreme Court deemed the old laws – which included bans on street soliciting, brothels and people living off the avails of prostitution – to be unconstitutional, in that they created severe dangers for vulnerable women.
“Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes. It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the 2013 ruling.
In response, the federal government made things worse by adopting failed the “Nordic Model,” which, like many Marxian policies, denies the existence of human nature. Specifically, the Nordic Model idiotically maintains that it can eliminate the demand for sex work — in order to eradicate the practice altogether. Under the new law, known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, it is now legal to sell sex, but not to buy or advertise it.