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Canada Supreme Court strikes down anti-prostitution laws

The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Friday struck down [judgment] three of the country's anti-prostitution laws, finding that they violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. While prostitution is not illegal in Canada, the laws at issue banned keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and street-soliciting. Opponents of the laws had argued that their implementation forced sex workers onto the streets and into unsafe situations. The court concluded that the laws violated the charter, stating "[p]arliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes." The court's decision upholds in part a decision [JURIST report] by an Ontario court which invalidated two of the three laws. The court's decision will not take effect for one year in order to give lawmakers time to enact new regulations in light of the ruling.

In April 2012, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced plans to appeal [JURIST report] the Ontario court decision to the Supreme Court. In March 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to review a BC Court of Appeal [official website] decision allowing a challenge to the country's anti-prostitution laws. In 2007 the Sex Professional of Canada [advocacy website] initiated an application [JURIST report] with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice [official website] challenging the three provisions on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Charter. The challenge came on the heels of the trial of Robert Pickton [CBC case backgrounder], who was accused of murdering 26 women [indictment text], mostly prostitutes, in the Vancouver area in the 1990s. Pickton was convicted of six counts of murder [Globe and Mail report] in late 2007.

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