Gwen Landolt

Christian groups join to intervene in prostitution appeal

  • May 12, 2013

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of Canada’s prostitution laws June 13 and several Catholic groups are among those prepared to argue against decriminalization on moral grounds.

The Catholic Civil Rights League and REAL Women of Canada are joining with the Christian Legal Fellowship to make a joint submission, as they had done at both the trial level and at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“We’re very glad our application to intervene was accepted,” said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry, who noted the three groups had been the only interveners on moral grounds when the prostitution laws were being challenged in the lower courts.

During the Ontario Court of Appeal hearings, the groups representing current prostitutes advocated decriminalization, while those representing former prostitutes “were not in favour of liberalization,” McGarry said. “They seemed to recognize prostitution is an exploitive business.

“The Catholic Civil Rights League takes the morality angle,” McGarry said. “The exploitation of people for sexual purposes is wrong.”

“There is something inherently wrong with men or women selling their body for money,” said REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt. “The laws are there to protect both prostitutes and society. They have to be protected. The question arises: do we want a brothel on every street corner in Regina and Toronto?”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has also been given leave to appeal.

“Our engagement is on the basis that prostitution and human trafficking are intrinsically linked,” said EFC vice president and general legal counsel Don Hutchinson. “The clear and recognized efforts of the Canadian government to abolish human trafficking would be compromised if the courts determine the laws of Parliament in regard to prostitution are unconstitutional.”

Terri Jean Bedford and two other women have been seeking to have the laws against keeping a “common bawdy house” or brothel, against communicating for the purposes of prostitution and against living off the avails of prostitution, or pimping, struck down as unconstitutional on the grounds they violate their Charter rights to security of the person. These laws force them to work on the streets where it is more dangerous, they argue.

“There is no evidence prostitutes are safer in a brothel than anywhere else,” said Landolt. Pimps would remain pimps even if they had new names such as “bodyguard” or “driver,” she said.

“If you want to remove controls on prostitution we would have a sexual free-for-all,” she warned. Canada would become the mecca for every pimp in the world.

McGarry questioned whether prostitutes are safer indoors, pointing the claims are unproven. Prostitution is an inherently dangerous activity, she said.

The selling of sex is not illegal in Canada, only activities around prostitution. But while the league and REAL Women will be defending the constitutionality of the current legal regime, they want tougher laws.
REAL Women of Canada’s position from day one is to make all prostitution illegal, said Landolt.

“It’s hypocritical to say it is only where it takes place that makes it wrong.” Whether it is on the street, in a massage parlor or an escort service, “it is wrong. It is not acceptable,” she said.

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