HALCO involved in landmark sex work case

The Appeal hearing in this landmark sex work case was heard in Toronto the week of June 13.  There has been a lot of media coverage, including articles in the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (Legal Network) and the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) have been granted intervener status in a landmark case before the Ontario Court of Appeal aimed at protecting the health and human rights of sex workers.  Renée Lang (staff lawyer at HALCO) and Jonathan Shime (partner and lawyer at Cooper & Sandler LLP) are representing the Legal Network and BC-CfE.

The Legal Network and BC-CfE will support Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott in resisting the Government of Canada’s attempt to overturn a lower court decision that could open the door to decriminalizing sex work.

Sex work itself is not illegal in Canada, but Criminal Code provisions on communicating, procuring, bawdy houses and living off the avails of prostitution make it all but impossible to engage in sex work without running afoul of the criminal law.  In September 2010, an Ontario trial court found that some of these provisions force sex workers into more dangerous situations and contribute to a greater risk of violence and other threats to their health and safety.  The Ontario trial court found the Criminal Code provisions to be unconstitutional.  However, the law remains in place until the Ontario Court of Appeal hears the federal Government’s appeal.

The Legal Network and BC-CfE are arguing that the current laws create legal prohibitions on the necessary conditions required for sex work to be conducted in a safe and secure setting, including limiting the ability to negotiate condom use, and, that the laws severely hinder sex workers’ access to adequate health care.

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