Lawyers in Charter challenge argue advertising protects sex-trade workers

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Lawyers in Charter challenge argue advertising protects sex-trade workers

by - 2 min read

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The first-ever court challenge of Canada’s prostitution laws resumed Wednesday, with defence lawyers raising advertising rules as part of their final arguments.

Advertising sexual services is effectively banned under Bill C-36, Toronto lawyer Jack Gemmell told a Kitchener, Ont., courtroom. And that puts sex-trade workers at risk, he said.

Sex workers are allowed to advertise their own sexual services, but third parties such as websites or newspapers that host such advertisements are prohibited from doing so. 

“Advertising in advance reduces the chance of conflict. The client gets to know exactly what services are being provided,” Gemmell said.

That helps assist in the health and safety of the sex worker.– Jack Gemmell , defence lawyer

Gemmell and his partner James Lockyer are trying to make the case in their closing arguments that Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, is unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They’re representing Tiffany Harvey and HamadAnwar, who ran Fantasy World Escorts in London, Ont., until it was raided by police and shut down in 2015.

The pair were charged with procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from the sale of someone else’s sexual services, all of which are illegal under the new laws.

Harvey and Anwar’s defence team argues the charges against their clients put sex-trade workers at risk, because they prevent them from working with third parties such as escort agencies to mitigate risk, therefore violating the sex-trade workers’ Section 7 Charter right to security of the person.

Crown makes its case

After the defence is finished, likely Wednesday afternoon, Crown attorneys will defend Canada’s prostitution laws.

They say the laws were not meant to protect sex-trade workers, but rather discourage people from entering the sex trade, which is in inherently risky.

The laws, based on similar ones in other countries, are known as the Nordic Model. They outlaw the purchasing of sexual services, but allow the selling of it, in an effort to criminalize those who buy sexual services and therefore decrease demand. 

This is the first constitutional challenge of the four-year-old prostitution laws, and the case is being closely watched around the country by legal experts as well as those who advocate for and against the new laws.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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