Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to uphold a lower Ontario court decision that ruled this country’s current laws surrounding prostitution are unconstitutional.
Conservative groups including those in religious camps*, followed by decrying the court rulings as an attack on the women. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum were saying the same thing when the laws were in place.
MPs like Joy Smith were emailing out after the SCC ruling (read it in full) lamenting how the landmark decision was a step in “legalizing prostitution”. I saw many in social media circles cry out about the, “sad day…making it OK in this country to buy and sell girls.”
Hang on. The court ruling did NOT legalize prostitution nor does it condone exploitation in any way, shape or form. What’s with the empty rhetoric?
I think it’s calculated. On one hand, to appease the conservative ideal and placate those who know little about the subject, and then on the other hand to setup the true scheme–implementing the ‘Nordic’ model for future legislation.
Here’s what the SCC ruling was about.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a lower court ruling that deemed the current laws against living off the avails of prostitution and operating a bawdy house to be unconstitutional because they infringed on more basic human rights of protection for sex workers.
Bear in mind in Canada it has never been illegal to buy or sell sex between two consenting adults. The idea this ruling affects the vulnerability of women is off the mark completely. What is does, however, is highlight how inept previous legislation was. The decision doesn’t leave the country hanging either, as new legislation is already in the works. Police and others with their news releases stating the decision won’t leave sex workers better off ignores the plain fact that the one year grace period before the current law is removed will never expire; new legislation will take its place.
What’s interesting about the eventual impact is the charade with organizations who have ‘grave concern’ over the ruling yet springboard their concern in a completely different direction–lobbying lawmakers to implement together the new legislation. Make no mistake, new legislation is already in the works, and it also includes the ‘Nordic’ model which seeks to criminalize the purchase of sex, and decriminalize the sale. This is a curious move since it goes against many facets of conservative culture. Fundamentally the model may not work in Canada. Why? Culturally we’re different than ‘socialist’ Sweden. In order for the Nordic model to work Canadians need to be OK with viewing prostitutes as victims, and also the solution to prostitution social program and NOT jail.
That will be a tough pill to swallow for the Conservative government.
The reality is, the ruling is the greatest opportunity from all camps looking to impact the future laws of prostitution in this country. And all the groups have long ago recognized it as such–a chance to shape this country and ultimately reduce exploitation.
How we get there will undoubtedly take careful navigation around existing paradigms and selective change in areas where those perspectives inhibit effective legislation.
* I think the lack of clarity partially has to do with history. I think it has to do with history. Conservative groups, including the religious camps, have not always been interested in justice issues like prostitution. Social justice was thought to be a liberal hippy thing. That’s mostly changed in the past 10 years. Now we have all sorts of groups working hard to right injustice. Conservative groups are among the mix and largely formulated from a political position first. But sometimes that gets in the way of the ‘greater good’. So in the case of prostitution you have a historical conservative position that prostitution is bad and prostitutes should be imprisoned, balanced with an effective approach of the now popular ‘Nordic’ model of prostitution that looks to criminalize purchase and decriminalize sex work.