Enforcement of Ontario prostitution laws upsetting advocates



BARRIE – Lawyers and women’s rights supporters say they’re upset that hookers arrested in a recent “sweep” are being convicted even though Canada’s prostitution laws sit in limbo before the courts.

“It’s dead wrong,” says lawyer Angela McLeod, who represented a 19-year old woman convicted of communicating for the purpose of prostitution.

McLeod’s thin, frail client — sentenced to nine months house arrest — was one of 20 young women arrested during an undercover sweep in downtown Barrie.

The woman sat in the prisoner’s box wearing sneakers, pyjama bottoms and an oversized coat, rubbing her wrists after a police officer unsnapped handcuffs and released her into the custody of the Elizabeth Fry Society where she will remain under house arrest.

“I actually don’t know why it has to be a crime,” said the woman, shivering outside of court. “I never hurt anyone. I never take anyone’s choice away. I’m not stealing or robbing a store.”

The teen, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted using her money to buy Oxycontin — a powerful prescription drug sold on the streets.

The woman said instead of approaching men to ask if they want to buy sex, she roams choice streets until someone stops her.

“They stop, I get in the car and they ask me,” she said, adding that she always uses a condom.

In court, McLeod argued the arrest of her client was “sexist and gender-biased,” and asked for an absolute discharge.

“The laws are unconstitutional,” insisted Terry Soukup, assistant director of the Barrie Elizabeth Fry Society. “We should not be dictating how women choose to work and feed themselves or their children.”

Soukup said all cases should be put on hold until the validity of prostitution laws are ruled on by the Ontario Court of Appeal.