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The Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously – 9-0 – on Friday to strike down the country’s prostitution laws, which include prohibitions against keeping a brothel, making a living off prostitution, and soliciting on the street.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that Canada’s laws against prostitution do not hold with the constitutional guarantee of life, liberty, and security of a person.
“Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, “it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.”
Present for Friday’s decision was Terri-Jean Bedford – known previously as Madame DeSade of Thornhill, Ontario’s ‘Bondage Bungalow’ – a retired dominatrix who has been at the fore front of the debate to reform Canada’s prostitution laws, for the safety of sex workers.
“Great day for Canada, Canadian women, from coast to coast,” she said in Ottawa, clad in leather and carrying a whip. “Now, the government must tell Canadian – all consenting adults – what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our home, for money or not, and we must write laws that are fair.”
With Friday’s decision, the Canadian Parliament now has a one-year window to enact new legislation dealing with prostitution and sex work.
Bedford, along with Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, brought forward the case that directly resulted in the existence of today’s vote.
“Men shouldn’t be punished or criminalized, just like women, for obeying their natural instincts,” Bedford added on Friday. “People are having sex all over the place every day, and the minute the find out somebody got paid, or got a dinner or a dress for it, they’re a criminal or a hooker?
“I don’t think so.”
Bedford also joked that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had called her and offered her a job in the Senate, as a government whip.
She added: “There’s wrong with it (sex, prostitution), whatsoever. It’s very healthy and it produces a productive man. A very happy man makes a productive man.”
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Kim Pate, director the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry (video above) publicly disagreed with the opinions presented by Bedford, and offered the following words:
“It’s a sad day, that we have now confirmed that it’s okay to buy and sell women and girls in this country. I think, in generations to come, our daughters, their granddaughters and one, will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking in that time?’ to say that it was okay to continue to enslave women and girls.
“To say that it’s a choice, when you’re talking about the women we work with, is to say that, in fact, it’s okay to just exploit them continually.”