Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Blasts Harper’s New Anti-prostitution Law
“I am left with grave concern that the so-called Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will protect neither exploited persons nor communities.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s “grave concern” regarding Bill C-36, the Harper Conservatives’ new anti-prostitution legislation.
“I am not an expert, and I am not a lawyer, but as Premier of this province, I am concerned that this legislation (now the law of the land) will not make sex workers safer,” said Wynne in statement issued Sunday.
Bill C-36, the deceptively christened “Protection Of Communities And Exploited Persons Act,” came into effect on December 6, the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The Conservatives introduced the bill after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the previous law as unconstitutional about a year ago.
Sex worker advocacy and rights groups such as POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work Educate & Resist) have argued that Bill C-36 has repackaged the same laws the Court ruled unconstitutional.
In a statement issued Friday, Emily Symons, the chairperson of POWER, stated: “The deeply flawed and misleadingly named Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act not only reintroduces laws deemed unconstitutional in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court only one year ago — it actually makes them worse. These new measures will absolutely put sex workers in Canada at greater risk of violence, and that is totally unacceptable.”
In July, over 200 legal experts from across Canada wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to protest the bill. The experts argued that Bill C-36 was “likely to offend the Charter as well” as the laws it seeks to replace did.
Bill C-36 purports to follow the the “Nordic model” by shifting the penalties to johns.
“Such criminalization will continue to limit the practical ability of sex workers to screen their clients or negotiate the terms of the transaction,” said the experts in their letter. “Sex workers will continue to face barriers to police protection and will be prevented from operating in a safe indoor space.”
Last week, 25 Toronto city councillors signed a letter asking the Premier Wynne to take Bill C-36 to the Ontario Court of Appeal to determine its constitutionality.
Premier Wynne’s statement on Bill C-36:
Yesterday, on December 6, after months of hearings and public debate, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into effect.
When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code, they found that each of the impugned laws placed sex workers unnecessarily at risk in a way that violated their rights to safety and security under the Charter.
As I have said before, my priority in this debate is to ensure that our laws and institutions enhance the safety of those who are vulnerable — in this case, sex workers: a class of (mostly) women, who are disproportionately the victims of sexual and physical violence. So I believe that there is merit in considering whether the Conservative government’s new legislation meets that test.
I have listened to the debate that has taken place over the last year, and particularly since the introduction of Bill C-36. And I am left with grave concern that the so-called Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will protect neither exploited persons nor communities.
I am not an expert, and I am not a lawyer, but as Premier of this province, I am concerned that this legislation (now the law of the land) will not make sex workers safer.
The legislation was duly passed through a democratic process. The Attorney General of Ontario is bound to enforce the Criminal Code. And she will.
But I have also asked the Attorney General to advise me on the constitutional validity of this legislation, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Bedford case, and our options as a government in the event that the legislation’s constitutionality is in question.
We must enforce duly enacted legislation, but I believe that we must also take steps to satisfy ourselves that, in doing so, we are upholding the constitution and the Charter.
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