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The Cheap Morality Play Over Prostitution Laws

If anyone had told me a week ago that two days before Christmas I would be writing about prostitution, I would have laughed at them but then, if anyone had told me five years ago that this nation would sink into sheer and utter madness, I would have laughed at them too.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned three laws related to prostitution in Canada and many on both sides of the issue have relinquished whatever tenuous grip they may have had on reality. Some are hailing it as a victory for women’s rights while others decry it as the underpinning of our society.

It is neither and you will note that I said the court overturned three laws that were ‘related’ to prostitution and not prostitution itself.

That’s because prostitution was not illegal in Canada before the ruling despite what many are trying to claim now. It was, and remains, legal for an individual to sell sexual services to make a living. Whether that is a good thing or not is open for debate and there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue but that isn’t the issue the Supreme Court was asked to consider.

The three laws the court reviewed and overturned have to do with the avails of prostitution.

It was illegal to live off the profits of another person’s prostitution; in other words – an anti-pimping law. It was illegal to solicit on the streets – an anti-nuisance law by admission by former Conservative Justice Minister John Crosby when he introduced the legislation in 1985 and it was illegal to operate a brothel.

Those were the three laws that the Supreme Court of Canada has determined violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are, therefore, bad law.

That, of course, has set off the hard-core right who yet again jump into the fray without thought or even a momentary attempt to get informed about the issue.

“It’s an assault on morality and democracy,” claimed Brian Lilly at Sun News Network and by an unelected judiciary.

To that I say, thank Christ we don’t have courts that are elected by unthinking, poorly-informed lynch mobs.

Neither Canada nor the United States elect the justices to their Supreme Courts and with good reason. The Supreme Court has a specific purpose and that is to ensure that the law before it is constitutional and does not violate the rights guaranteed to every Canadian citizen in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court will not even grant a case standing before it unless there is proven to be a new question about the law involved.

It requires judges that are highly schooled in the law and who bring a considerable amount of experience to the bench. It does not require a bunch of people whose only qualification was that they got elected by winning a popularity contest.

It is not undemocratic for our duly elected government to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. It is our system of government and it has worked just fine for 149 years in Canada and hundreds of years in Britain.

One can only imagine the damage that would be done by a Supreme Court that saw a Rob Ford, a Justin Trudeau, a David Suzuki and a Mike Duffy elected to it simply because they won an election. The simple reality is that the Supreme Court is one of the few real checks to protect us from government tyranny caused by bad law. This is especially true considering how ineffectual the Senate has become.

In the case of the three laws related to prostitution, the court ruled that they violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms although I believe a case could be made that they also violated common sense.

It should also be noted that the court did not – let me repeat that for the more obtuse – did not legislate morality. In fact, the ruling was specific in leaving that legislative responsibility to the elected Parliament. The ruling gave the government a year to revise and fix or repeal the laws as it saw fit. The court merely ruled that in their current form, these three laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The current conservative government made bold statements about changing the law more than a year ago but has done nothing and it’s a little specious to be now blaming the Supreme Court for its own failure to act.

Of course you won’t learn any of that at Sun News Network which  believes in forming an opinion first and then supporting it with whatever distortion of fact it finds inconvenient to that opinion. But then, as I’ve said before, Sun News Network is to news what McDonalds is to food.

There are valid arguments both for and against legal prostitution but there are no valid arguments that justify poorly drafted legislation that is constitutionally invalid and that causes unnecessary harm. Instead of one more cheap morality play in the media and online, Canadians need to stop with the sanctimony and have an honest and informed debate, come to a decision and then have Parliament draft the appropriate laws that are constitutionally valid.

Now let’s all calm down and in the spirit of Christmas get back to what’s truly important; endless carping about Justin Trudeau and how he is the real threat to Canada, to democracy and the free world.

Of course, he was elected so maybe this democracy thing is more complicated than some think and definitely no guarantee necessarily of substance or ability.

Who’d a thunk it?


© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • oldwhiteguy

    the SCOC has made it legal to sell a woman. that was said by another blogger. I think at this point he was right. .

    • MaggiesBear

      What nonsense

  • Pingback: December 23 2013 Grumpy Daily Headlines | Grumpy Opinions()

  • bill dunne

    This is certainly a sad day for democracy and due process. The SCC is filled with liberal appointed bleeding hearts who do not reflect Canada’s true Christian moral beliefs. I believe and have faith that PM Harper will do the right thing and pass legislation that will ensure the crime of prostitution is dealt with. Mr. Harper has reformed Canada’s criminal justice system to the point where criminals are now actually getting the sentences they deserve. Yes we still have a long way to go but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Randy

    You mention two things that are absolute facts amid all of the hype that
    Canadians should take great comfort from.
    First, the Supreme Court is the final check and balance against government
    tyranny, ideology and incompetence. It is impartial, filled with very accomplished
    judiciaries and I would say is right 99.99 % of the time. While the Senate is
    called the chamber of sober second thought, the Supreme Court is where
    sober second thought is implemented.
    And the second fact is what should give comfort to all Canadians. The Court
    did not implement any new law, it said the existing laws were incorrect. It did
    not say “living of the avails” of prostitution was legal, it said the current law was
    wrong as written. It said the law on solicitation was incorrect, not that the act
    was legal OR illegal. It gave the government a year to correct the current law
    or implement new ones. That is not judicial activism, that is sober second
    thought implemented with wisdom amid facts. And for that, we should rest
    very easy knowing that we have a body that anyone in the country can go
    to if the law is on your side.
    And after watching the clowns in the House of Parliament and the Senate,
    that is a comfort.

    • oldwhiteguy

      when the SCOC strikes down a law for any reason that law is no longer valid. saying the law was incorrect is the same as dumping it. until a new law is written the old one is void. I am not a lawyer but I do know that much.

      • MaggiesBear

        Then you should also know that the law remains in effect for another year. The SCOCs ruling doesn’t come into effect for one year to provide parliament with sufficient time to fix the existing laws or to write and pass new ones

        • Randy

          It is very easy to see why there is not a reasoned debate
          with regards to prostitution, or abortion, or gay marriage,
          or gun control, or legalizing marijuana.

        • oldwhiteguy

          there was nothing wrong with the old ones. the old ones will not be enforced because no crown attorney will want to look like a fool charging someone under a statute that is about to be changed and having a years work go down the drain. if you don’t know what is going to happen then how can you take action. much like business planning you have to know whether the rules are going to change or not and what they are going to change to.

          • Randy

            The old laws were created to appease the general
            population, not to eliminate prostitution. It is legal to be
            one, it is illegal to solicit as one. The laws were designed to
            keep them out of sight, to keep their customers out of
            sight, to ensure they completed the transaction in an
            area that was unsafe and to have as little protection as
            possible. Everyone tut-tutted about Robert Pickton, not
            many discussed the laws that made his actions possible.
            Everyone talks about the pimps but the current laws pretty
            much ensure they exist to dominate the women in this
            profession. The discussion should be how to make this
            safer for the women if it is legal. If it is illegal, then everyone
            involved can be charged. If people can get past their
            righteousness and NIMBY attitudes, and come to the
            realization that this profession exists, always has, then the
            government can draft laws to make it safer and cleaner.
            If not, then make everything about it illegal.

            • oldwhiteguy

              I know all of this. why can Canadians not become a more moral people and stop the degradation of women. what society thinks is right is quite often wrong and destructive. make it safer for women to be sold . that is just the thought process that I hate. it shows a lack of morality and concern for women. as the bear would say. it is stupid.

              • Randy

                People hide behind supposed morals to show that they are
                superior. An example for this rant is that you can go to the
                classifieds of most papers and find advertisements for
                “escort services” and although you will hear the usual
                snide comments, all is good.
                Now, if that advertisement was for a woman selling their
                body for a price, the uproar that would result would be
                something to see and hear for sure.
                Yet both are for the same thing.
                The current laws are to make the general public FEEL good,
                they have nothing to do with stopping prostitution or making
                it safer. Hopefully this ruling by the Supreme Court will
                force the government to get off the fence and the laws will
                be on one side or the other.
                On a more festive note, Merry Christmas and Happy New
                Year to you, Bear and his readers, along with everyone’s
                families. Hope everyone is back healthy and happy
                after the holidays.

                • MaggiesBear

                  Merry Christmas to you and your family as well

              • MaggiesBear

                Who decides what is moral? You? Me? Two guys down the street? You cannot legislate morality because our society is to diverse and complex. The best you can hope for is to find consensus on a common set of values by which we all agree to live and go from there and we’ve done that. It’s called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the courts have ruled that government violated it in this case. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, thank God.

                Merry Christmas

          • MaggiesBear

            The old laws were unconstitutional. They violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If we are not going to protect our constitution and our charter, what’s the point of having them and who is going to protect you when it’s your rights that are being violated by bad law?

            The Supreme Court did not legalize prostitution, it did not dictate morality. It advised parliament that these laws were unconstitutional and left it to parliament to decide how to fix them. That is the Supreme Court’s job and Canadians better wake up and start appreciating that there remains one check on government power to guarantee our rights.,

            • oldwhiteguy

              in the new year I think our government should start invoking the not withstanding clause.

              • MaggiesBear

                and I’m quite sure you would be just as supportive of a Liberal or NDP government invoking it to violate your rights if and when one of them get elected.

  • John Kivell

    The problem goes very deep. Where to begin? I have seen too many women ‘caught’ in the sex trade through no real ‘will’ of their own. There are those who would glamourize the trade (and there may indeed be glamorous sides to it at the high end), but they ignore the misfortune of the worst kind of street prostitution. For many of these women it is a vicious cycle – sell their bodies to buy drugs; take the drugs to dull the pain of their lifestyle and position. One might say they had a choice regarding this lifestyle, but often it begins very young, before the age that ‘mature’ choices can be consciously made. Whether it’s rebellion on the part of a young girl, addiction in the family, or abuse by a relative or step relative, the street sometimes seems preferable to an abusive home, to a young impressionable girl. It doesn’t take long before she is in a position where there seems to be no escape and no alternative but to offer herself for the sexual pleasure of others.
    The real danger, as I see it is in relaxing the law relating to, “living off the avails.” I tend to be rather laisse-faire on the general issue, but in my opinion, the harshest punishment should be reserved for pimping – the men who draw or force these young girls into prostitution in the first place, and who profit from their circumstances.