Pro-family groups are granted intervenor status in prostitution case

  • March 16, 2011
OTTAWA - Three pro-family groups have been granted leave to make a joint intervention in an appeal to a ruling that struck down prohibitions against prostitution, which is to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal later this spring.

“We’re very pleased an intervention in support of the dignity of women and of family will be heard in the appeal,” said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry. 

The league is making a joint-intervention with REAL Women of Canada and the Christian Legal Fellowship. The three groups intervened previously when the Terri Jean Bedford et al. vs. the Attorney General of Canada case went before the Ontario Superior Court last September.

In that ruling, Justice Susan Himel struck down sections of the Criminal Code that prohibited soliciting for the sake of prostitution, running a brothel or pimping.

The groups have warned of threats to neighbourhoods and to women who want to get out of the business should last September’s decision stand. Based on arguments about safety concerns, the judge determined the laws violated the prostitutes’ guarantee of security of person under the Charter.

“We’re looking forward to the case,” McGarry said. “We are looking forward to providing as strong a voice as we can to the morality that is shared by the vast majority of Canadians on this question.”

She said the dangers of prostitution are “inherent in the work” and by legalizing it “safety will not improve.”

“How are you going to help a victim leave the business if what a pimp who controls her is doing is no longer illegal? How are you going to be able to reach people?”

The groups’ intervention was the only one before the lower court.

Now a total of seven groups are intervening, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a coalition that includes the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and several other groups opposing violence against women, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and a group representing prostitutes from Ottawa and Gatineau.

“I can’t speak for all of them,” said McGarry. “I’m pretty sure we will be the only intervention that is completely in support of not making this change.

“I’m not suggesting these people aren’t speaking to moral issues, but perhaps in a more roundabout way.”

The pro-family groups’ intervention will take a direct approach, arguing that morality is the purpose of the law, she said.

McGarry said she recognized that some people are not going to agree with all the issues they raise, and some will argue in favour of being practical because they believe prostitution is impossible to regulate.

If the Appeal Court upholds the lower court decision, Parliament will have to try to draft new anti-prostitutions laws, she said.

McGarry expects the court to hear arguments in late May or early June.

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