On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) will hear Bedford v. Canada. This case brings to light the idea that all workers must be equally protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms despite their choice of occupation. Depending on the outcome of this case, sex work and sex industry decriminalization or legalization may soon enter the Canadian public policy arena through possible changes and or amendments to current sex work industry related laws. This insight provides a small introduction to a recently released white paper entitled Buy Me Love: Realizing the Economic Potential of Sex Work Decriminalization.
Although the exchange of sexual acts for money is legal in Canada, almost every activity adjacent to such exchange is not. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits the following: communicating for the purposes of prostitution in public (s. 213 “communicating”), the use of indoor workspaces (s. 210 “bawdyhouses”), the transportation to a working space (s. 211) and managerial and/or collective activities (s. 212 “procuring”). In practical terms, this means that a sex worker cannot hire a book keeper or a body guard, a driver or a receptionist, a manager or a graphic designer to assist them in their work activities. To be precise, in practice, current Canadian laws do not allow for practised sex work without legal obstruction as the control of associated activities restricts and severely limits sex workers’ abilities to make choices concerning where they can work and under what circumstances.
Since it is legal in Canada to work as a sex worker, Bedford argues that the above laws violate
sex worker rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because they criminalize many activities associated with sex work and thus make it virtually impossible for sex workers to work in a safe and secure environment. Bedford asserts that the above contradicts sex workers Charter rights to liberty and security and their freedom of expression (“Legalization vs. Decriminalization | Stella,” n.d.).
Contingent on the outcome of this case, sex workers, their clients and other sex work industry employees may soon enjoy full labour rights and protections, the ability to communicate boundaries and advertise services, the capacity to hire assistants, managers, body guards and drivers, and access to police and court protection from violence and maltreatment. On the other hand, depending on the outcome of this case, sex workers might continue to experience employment within a criminalized environment and will not be able to enjoy the same rights and protections afforded to other Canadian workers. Should the courts choose to amend or strike down the above-mentioned laws, the Canadian economy will change to reflect any legal modifications. While provinces and municipalities struggle with today’s precarious economic climate, Canadian-based sex workers continue to struggle for factual and legal recognition and protection of their basic human and labour rights—asserted and recognized under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the respective Human Rights Codes adopted by the provinces.
Buy Me Love: Realizing the Economic Potential of Sex Work Decriminalization by MPI Researcher, Natasha Segal cites examples of social and fiscal gains for sex workers and the national economy through increased inclusivity, tolerance and recognition of sex workers’ labour and human rights. The paper further looks at how the current system of sex work industry criminalization isolates sex workers and exacerbates the stigmatization and vulnerability of their social positions.
It is important to ensure that the basic human and labour rights of employees regardless of their occupation are upheld as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms their respective provincial Human Rights Codes and also Human Rights International instruments to read why this is necessary. For further details, please read the full Buy Me Love: Realizing the Economic Potential of Sex Work Decriminalization report found here.
The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.