New legislation would criminalize the purchase of sexual services, crack down on those who benefit from prostitution and outlaw the sale of sex near schools and other places where children gather.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the “made-in-Canada” model targets johns and pimps while protecting the vulnerable. vancouver sun
The DOJ newser is a bit more explicit. Peter MacKay wants to criminalize speech as much as he wants to “reduce demand” for prostitute’s services. I quote at length as the actual legislation has not been tabled.
The proposed new prostitution-related offences are aimed at reducing demand for sexual services, protecting those who sell those services from exploitation, and protecting children and our communities from exposure to prostitution.
Purchasing sexual services – This new offence would prohibit the purchase of sexual services and communicating in any place for that purpose. Maximum penalties for purchasing sexual services would be 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and 5 years imprisonment on indictment. Escalating mandatory minimum fines for first and subsequent offences would also apply. There would be a $500 fine for a first offence and a $1,000 fine for a subsequent offence on summary conviction. These fines would be doubled if the offence were committed near parks, schools, religious institutions or other places where children could reasonably be expected to be present.
Receiving a financial or material benefit – This new offence would prohibit profiting from the prostitution of others, including through businesses that sell the sexual services of others online or out of venues such as escort agencies, massage parlours, or strip clubs that also provide sexual services. It would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Exceptions would be made for non-exploitative relationships.
Advertising the sale of sexual services – This new offence would prohibit advertising the sale of others’ sexual services in print media or on the Internet. It would give courts the power to authorize the seizure of materials containing such advertisements, to order an advertisement to be removed from the Internet, and to require the provision of information that would identify and locate the person who posted it. Maximum penalties for advertising the sale of sexual services would be 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and 5 years imprisonment on indictment.
Communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where a child could reasonably be expected to be present – This new offence would prohibit anyone from communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where a child could reasonably be expected to be present. The maximum penalty for this offence would be 6 months imprisonment.
This is pretty much the Nordic model with a few bits of censorship tossed in for good measure. It does not work very well in the Scandinavian countries.
First problem is that the effect of criminalizing the purchase of sex will tend to drive the trade underground. That might be the intention behind MacKay’s action but, oddly enough, a trade driven underground is a criminalized trade. Now, the logic underlying the SCC decision to strike down existing prostitution laws was that they put women at risk. It is difficult to see how criminalizing the purchase of sex will reduce that risk and, in fact, by criminalizing the purchase of a legal service the chances are that the purchasers will be extremely wary. In turn this is likely to increase the risk to prostitutes because the encounters will be far more furtive, customers will be less likely to be willing to be vetted, customers will use blocked numbers and customers will demand proof that a prostitute is not a police officer before money changes hands.
The entire question of what the actual transaction is will be a criminal defence lawyer’s playground. “sexual services” hmmm. A man goes to keep company with a woman in her apartment and things get a little heated. He receives a “service”. He is so grateful he gives her a gift. Has he “purchased” the service? Sigh.
Then there is the entertaining “communicating” provision. Vancouver went through this in, what, the early 1990’s where the girls were the ones not allowed to “communicate”. It is a futile task to criminalize “communication” when a nod is as good as a wink.
On to “receiving a benefit” for the sale of the sexual services of others. Easy to say, hard to draft, next to impossible to fairly enforce. There are girls who use Facebook, Linked-in and, for all I know, Twitter to advertise their services. Each of these internet entities make money. Will they be charged? And for outfits that are a bit more explicit, MacKay is offering a grand loophole “Exceptions would be made for non-exploitative relationships.” Snort. Prove that an escort agency “exploits” its escorts. I am not saying it doesn’t, what I am saying is that at a criminal level of proof the “receipt of benefit” is going to be tough to prove, but with the added requirement that the Crown has to demonstrate “exploitation” there will be no convictions of anything other than Richmond rub and tugs run by tongs using undocumented, forced, labour.
Finally, for extra laughs, we have this “This new offence would prohibit advertising the sale of others’ sexual services in print media or on the Internet.” On its face, and we’ll have to see the poor draughtsmens’ efforts, this is a rule against running ads for blowjobs. Now I know the poor, exploited women in the sex trade are universally abused highschool dropouts but, dumb as MacKay apparently assumes them to be, they will clue into the idea that “I’ll suck the chrome off your trailer hitch” should not appear in an ad. (Actually, I speak too soon, metaphor is not, apparently, banned as yet…no doubt in the regulations there will be a list of forbidden words and images.) This is a feckless idea which will do nothing at all to improve the safety of Canada’s fallen doves.
And, as the idiotic icing on a steaming turd cake, we have the “not in front of the children” provision. I suspect this is designed to prevent…what? Copycat behaviour? Mental anguish amidst the sexting 14 year old crowd. Mothers having to explain to their six year olds what that lady on the corner in the really short, shorts is doing. This is just moral posturing.
Like any stupid law the net effect of MacKay’s prostitution idiocy will be to bring the law into further disrepute. It will keep criminal lawyers busy, bring up lots of interesting constitutional issues, I mean can you criminalize metaphor?, and leave no one the least better off.
The Cons’ narrative is that women who are prostitutes are all, to some degree, victims of some sort of exploitation. This proposed law will not change that alleged fact one iota. But what it will do – as any good economist will tell you – is decrease demand at the margins which will, in turn, reduce price. The hundred dollar girl will have fewer dates at a maximum of $80 with the added cost of having to flash her tits to prove she’s not a cop. Now she will be an exploited victim with a little less money and much less dignity.
This is a tired Government. MacKay should go and get a job.
UPDATE: Michael Den Tandt thinks MaKay has made a mess of the prostitution law. But he attributes it to politics rather than stupidity.
The answer, likely, is that it creates a wedge, in an area where public opinion is mixed, between the Conservatives and opposition, in particular the Trudeau Liberals. The Grits really have no option but to oppose this. When they do, the Tories will portray them as a pack of drug-legalizing, prostitution-loving libertines, bent on transforming Canada’s placid, tree-lined playgrounds into havens of iniquity, debauchery and vice. Game of Thrones meets Don Mills.
It is, in sum, the Conservative party’s first big foray back towards the social conservatism of its Reform party roots, and away from the libertarian-leaning model that has worked for it for a decade. montreal gazette
UPPER DATE: I should think that under the terms of MacKay’s proposed Act, St. Jack of the Rub and Tug would certainly have been charged criminally…The Layton cock was not being tugged for free.
UPPITY DATE: In case you think I am late to the brothel, I wrote about this idiocy earlier here.