Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good Decision? Striking Down Prostitution Laws: Natasha Falle Doesn't Thinks So

Former prostitute 'shocked' by Ont. court decision

A former sex-trade worker who now helps prostitutes trying to leave the trade, says an Ontario court's decision to strike down Canada's laws surrounding prostitution was a terrible move.

Natasha Falle, who runs StreetLight, a non-profit organization that provides support services for sex workers, and works with the Toronto Police's Sex Crimes Unit, says she was "shocked" by Tuesday's court decision to strike down three provisions of the Criminal Code surrounding prostitution.

"It was very disappointing for me that a judge would determine that this is the best solution for protecting people in the sex trade industry," Falle told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday morning.

The laws prohibited communicating for the purposes of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house, and living on the avails of the trade.
Justice Susan Himel wrote her in 131-page decision that the laws, "individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Those who wanted the laws to be quashed say they forced hookers to work the streets, instead of in the safety of their homes. But Falle says decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution is not the solution.

"I don't think Canadians understand what this means. This means, if this decision is to carry through… your next door neighbours can run a brothel right beside you. Your children could be exposed to condoms left on their driveway, johns propositioning them," she said.

Falle also worries that by normalizing prostitution, it gives children the idea that prostitution is a good and acceptable way to make a living.

"Thirteen to 16 years old is the average age that someone enters prostitution. So when do we start referring to them as sex workers?" she said.

Ron Marzel, one of the lawyers for the women who challenged the laws, says he was "thrilled" with Tuesday's decision which he says will protect for sex workers, who should have the right to practice their profession safely.

"Certainly, we need social programs to make sure that children in the profession; however,the reality is there are consenting adults who want to go into this profession," he said on Canada AM.

Falle grew incensed at this, insisting that 97 per cent of prostitutes aren't in the sex trade by choice. She says the voices of the overwhelming majority of women who want to get out of prostitution are being drowned out by a vocal few.

"The voices we are hearing right now are the minority voices and they are only strong because of circumstances in Ontario. All the other provinces are not on board with this."

Tuesday's decision is subject to a 30-day stay during which the laws remain in place; the federal government can seek an extension of that period.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday that he would be surprised if the federal government did not appeal the ruling.

McGuinty says the ruling proposes some profound changes to laws that have been on the books for decades, and Ontario "looks forward" to supporting the federal Conservatives in the expected appeal.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson signalled last night that the Conservatives are seriously considering an appeal. He said Ottawa would "fight to ensure that the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to both communities and the prostitutes themselves."

A (slightly edited by me) email from the Bench:

Thanks for the blog Itzik. I happen to agree with you; we apply s. 25 "to at least minimum standards of law." There is nothing in my view that gives us carte blanche to do anything we decide provided it meets the test of "good conscience." Do you remember old adage about "equity being equal to the length of the Chancellor's foot..." (or something like that) from law school?

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