Sex Work

Canada's Disappointing New Prostitution Plan Would Make Selling Sex There Illegal for the First Time



Canada is indeed inching toward the "Nordic model" of sex work prohibition, which nonsensically makes paying for sex a crime, but not selling it. An anti-prostitution bill introduced yesterday by Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General Peter MacKay draws from this model—popular in the likes of Norway and Sweden—with additional "made-in-Canada" elements, as MacKay described them. It would officially make selling sex for money illegal in Canada for the first time. 

The bill, called the "Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act," is predicated on the paternalistic idea that "the majority of those who sell sexual services" don't do so by choice. "We view the vast majority of those involved in selling sexual services as victims," MacKay said in a statement.

Victims who could still face up to five years in prison for trying to earn a living, but hey, any time spent in jail is at least not time engaging in sex acts and business transactions that politicians disapprove of, right? MacKay says his bill would "introduce tough action to crack down on pimps and johns," but it would still criminalize "communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where a child could reasonably be expected to be present," a measure that—much like our "manifesting prostitution" laws in parts of America—could get women picked up for suspiciously waving to passing cars. The punishment for this criminal communication could be up to five years in prison. 

In addition, the bill make it illegal to advertise sexual services online or in print. Though there would be no criminal liability for "those who sell their own sexual services" via advertisements, the bill offers no such qualified immunity for third parties, like the websites or newspapers that run the ads. MacKay also tacked on $20 million in funding for programs to help sex workers get out of the business, increased penalties for child sex trafficking, and—the centerpiece of the proposal—new penalties for "purchasers of sexual services," pimps, and anyone else who "procures others for the purpose of prostitution." 

About two thirds of Canadians do not believe selling sex should be illegal, according to a recent online poll conducted by the Justice Department. But a majority do think that purchasing sex should be prohibited. 

I wrote yesterday about a new study shunning this Nordic approach. While not fining and throwing sex workers in jail quite as much is a positive development, it's a modest one. Criminalizing clients still drives sex work underground, making it less safe for everyone involved. And because police are still out targeting johns and pimps and "traffickers", it doesn't cut down on the overall number of arrests (sex workers who don't or won't conform to the victim narrative are often arrested anyway, along with their accomplices).

But MacKay, apparently taking his cues from a Victorian-era newspaper, said his new proposal would "protect and safeguard (Canadian) communities—in particular women, children, and those who are at risk of being drawn into prostitution—from the dangers associated with prostitution, including violence, drug-related crime, and organized crime." 

Until recently, prostitution per se wasn't a crime in Canada, though keeping a brothel, "communicating in public about acts of prostitution," or "living off the proceeds" of prostitution (aka pimping) were. In December 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down these statutes (in Canada v. Bedford), giving the country's parliament 12 months to rewrite prostitution legislation. 

NEXT: Garrett Peck on How Not To Legalize a Drug

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  1. Canada is indeed inching toward the “Nordic model” of sex work prohibition, which nonsensically makes paying for sex a crime, but not selling it.

    They’re outlawing marriage?

      1. rimshot

        That’s $20CDN extra.

        1. How much in real money?

          1. We’re actually right at about parity now. 1.09 CAD to the USD.

  2. when you do not have authority over your own body, how free are you. Rhetorical question.

    Guess if paying for sex will be made criminal, the john will make payment in return for conversation, a drink, companionship, and a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with actual sex. “One thing led to another, judge; happens all the time between men and women.”

  3. About two thirds of Canadians do not believe selling sex should be illegal, according to a recent online poll conducted by the Justice Department. But a majority do think that purchasing sex should be prohibited.

    How the fuck can people live with that kind of cognitive dissonance? To whom would the sex be sold if not to… purchasers of sex? Fuck.

    1. That ‘poll’ is total bullshit. It wasn’t a random sampling the government put up questions on a website and let anyone fill them out. McKay consulted with the mirror and that’s all he needed.

      1. So are you our go-to Canadian around here?

        1. I think we’ve actually got 3 or 4 Canadian regulars ’round here. Rufus J. Firefly in particular I recall is a business operator in the great white north and often brings us the unique perspective of a victim in the Canadian regulatory shuffle.

          1. Me, too. I’m a Canadian. We have a different type of nanny state up here. But, we have one all the same. It has less ludicrous stuff being proposed, like the California college sex rules being proposed, but some slightly less ludicrous stuff is not even debated, but accepted by tons of people. We also have ‘human rights councils’, which are actually let’s strip people of ‘human rights councils’.

        2. Why not.

    2. That asymmetry is not at all uncommon, and more reasonable when you think of other examples. Usually it’s the other way around, where it’s illegal to sell goods or services (absent certain conditions) but not illegal to buy them; the vast majority of biz regul’n works that way. Why not criminalize the purchaser as well? Because the purchaser is seen as the victim, and someone who is not in an equal position of knowledge about the goods or services traded. But it applies even where the purchaser does know?for instance, if you went out of your way to buy non-flame-retardant pajamas for children.

      It also applies in many biz regs that are for environmental purposes, such as the selling of phosphate detergents. The thinking there is that the sellers are few but the buyers many, and that each seller deals in a vastly greater volume than an individual consumer, so that enforcement against buyers would be impracticable and not worthwhile.

      In this case, the prostitute is seen as the victim to the purchaser. You would criminalize the keeping or taking of slaves, but not the slave hirself, so you should understand the thinking. Also, given the amount of time involved and the relatively low volume of business, the aspect of it as an environmental regul’n skewing the practicality of enforcement toward sellers isn’t as great as with Freon or detergent.

      1. The slavery example is the only one that makes much sense, and even that isn’t a good example since slaves generally didn’t participate in selling themselves into their situation (indentured servitude contracts, of course, but those generally expired after the terms were met). If people can accept that it should be legal to sell sex it is baffling how they would think it should be illegal to buy it. Regulating the terms of sale is one thing, but legalizing one half of a transaction while outlawing the other is just ridiculous.

  4. There is a great brothel in Houston where all the girls are under 30 and 8+. Great lap dances and booze and more if that’s your thing. If that is wrong I don’t want to be right.

  5. Canada is indeed inching toward the “Nordic model” of sex work prohibition, which nonsensically makes paying for sex a crime, but not selling it.

    You buy the professional lady dinner and she throws in the sex for free.

    How can buying someone dinner be a crime?

    1. If that dinner is cooked in a home kitchen.

  6. Je me souviens de la tour du monde…

    1. con carne

  7. We joke, but isn’t this really mysandry run amuck? What are these laws other than the forcible control of male sexuality? Why is it a crime for a man to buy sex? Because we don’t want men out paying for sex. We want them home having sex with their wives and girlfriends as is their societal duty.

    This policy also manages to rare trick of being misogynistic at the same time. By declaring men who buy sex criminals and the women who sell them the sex victims, you are saying women are less than human. Women, even if they are adults, are apparently incapable of consenting to selling their bodies. This law makes prostitution the same sort of crime as statutory rape and reduces women to the status of children.

    1. Yep. There’s something to insult everybody here!

  8. I inched towards a Nordic model once.

    Then her boyfriend came back.

  9. Canada is indeed inching toward the “Nordic model” of sex work prohibition, which nonsensically makes paying for sex a crime, but not selling it.

    In Scandinavia, land of all that is pure and sweet in socialism?! This must be a misprint.


    1. In socialist countries the government provides all necessary services. That’s why they fuck you vigorously, all the time.

  10. The Supreme Court will almost assuredly strike this piece of crap down, but that might take years. I hope there’s a way for them to launch a pre-emptive strike and ideally find the government in contempt of the previous ruling.

  11. The Supreme Court will almost assuredly strike this piece of crap down,

    I will be very surprised if they do.

    1. I know very little about Canadian law, but that seems to be the general consensus from Canadians writing about it (that the court will strike it down).

    2. That’s because you are unaware of the events leading up to now. The SC struck down the laws that made activities surrounding/associated with prostitution illegal because it endangered the safety of the sex workers. The Nordic Way undoubtedly does the same thing. It is a complete blatant disregard of the SC’s ruling. Harper has been getting wrecked at the SC lately and this will be no different.

  12. I don’t see how you can square legal pornography with a prohibition on prostitution. If it is a crime to pay a woman for sex, how can it not be a crime to pay her to have sex on camera?

    1. I’m sure a lot of anti-prostitution folks would be all too happy to make porn illegal too (or maybe to make the watching of porn illegal, but not the producing of it…)

      1. I am sure they would Elizabeth. And that is my point. I really think this whole thing ends with them trying to make viewing adult porn illegal. If it is illegal to buy sex from a woman because it victimizes her, then it is equally wrong and should be illegal to support victimization of women by creating a market for pornography. That is where this leads.

      2. Yes, indeed. Last year, a Canadian Conservative MP named Joy Smith proposed national Internet filtering as a way to “protect” children from exposure to porn. But the idea didn’t take off.

        The National Post carried this story last December:…

  13. In December 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down these statutes (in Canada v. Bedford), giving the country’s parliament 12 months to rewrite prostitution legislation.

    So it’s a fucking free-for-all in the meanwhile?

    1. There was a stay, unfortunately.

    2. Same thing happened with abortion. Only it has gone on for years now. Zero rules.

  14. I would love to hear these assholes explain how legal and regulated Prostitution means human trafficking. Every other legal job doesn’t seem to have a problem with their workers becoming slaves, why would legal prostitution be different?

    1. It baffles me that people don’t understand the concept that something can be “bad” or “wrong” or in some sense undesireable while still being the best of the options available.

    2. Human trafficking = catch all for people moving into activities I don’t like.

    3. Actually there’s been a tendency now for 2 centuries to see employment other than self-employment as wage slavery. In some countries that led to communism, in others to more or less restrictive labor laws. All it took was the add’l weight of the societal revulsion against sexuality to tip the scale to making prostit’n illegal.

      People ask what objection there is to sex-for-payment: Do people oppose sex, or do they oppose payment for work? The answer is that many people oppose one or the other, and the confluence of both in one act is enough to maintain a coalition against prostitution.

  15. “Your honor, I purchased a pair of tacky sunglasses. There was no financial transaction for the sex.”

    Problem solved.

    1. And all she has to do is stand at the curb wearing two pairs of sunglasses. Obviously one is for sale!

  16. WRONG WRONG WRONG !! THIS IS F@CKING BULLSH@T !!!!! How can selling sex be legal, but buying sex be illegal ?! This makes no sense at all !! It doesn’t protect women at all ! What about the women who CHOOSE to do this line of work ? How are they going to make a living ? Why is using a legal service a crime ? Prostitution should be a legitimate job that includes paying taxes,has health benefits, regular check ups, and takes place in a brothel.Yes, human trafficking is a serious issue and should be stopped; therefore this law should only apply to men paying for sex with underage girls.Prostitution and sex slavery are NOT the same thing. The demand for prostitution will never go away and laws like this will only create more of an underground black market which is the problem in the first place.

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