This case is about the constitutionality of Criminal Code sex work provisions.
LEAF intervened before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
In 2014, Parliament passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). PCEPA established Canada’s current sex work laws after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the previous sex work laws in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford for violating sex workers’ Charter rights. The implementation of PCEPA not only criminalized clients, but criminalized the exchange of sex work for consideration (such as money) for the first time in Canada.
In March 2021, the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, along with individual sex workers and a third party provider, filed a Notice of Application at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to argue that the Criminal Code prohibitions of sex work violate their Charter rights guaranteed under sections 7, 15, 2(b), and 2(d). The Applicants provided significant evidence that the laws exacerbated harms to sex workers by facilitating constant police surveillance, lack of access to or difficulty maintaining housing, and/or barriers to accessing government supports.
LEAF argued that the Criminal Code provisions infringe gender equality guaranteed under s. 15 of the Charter and cannot be justified under s. 1.
As an intervener, LEAF emphasized the importance of taking an intersectional approach when assessing the impact of the laws. LEAF also argued that the illegality of sex work does not shield the laws from equality analysis. Any violation of the equality guarantee on sex workers cannot be justified by an abstract notion of “protecting women” that is somehow provided by causing demonstrable harm to marginalized members of this group.
This case was heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice during the week of October 3.
LEAF’s arguments are informed and supported by a case committee composed of academics and practitioners with expertise in relevant issues. The case committee in this intervention were: Gillian Calder, Julie Kaye, Ummni Khan, Kate Shannon, and Adriel Weaver. LEAF gratefully acknowledges their contributions to the arguments in this factum.
Download LEAF’s factum here.