In cross-examination by police lawyer Tim Dickson, criminologist John Lowman told the inquiry that the current law on prostitution, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990, was intended to make prostitution less visible. Residents objected to the activity on their street. The police responded by pushing women to other neighbourhoods.
The Ontario Court of Appeal is due to release its decision on the constitutionality of Canada’s criminal laws around adult prostitution. Last year, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down these laws, finding that they significantly contribute to danger for sex workers. If the current laws are unconstitutional, what comes next for the regulation of prostitution in Canada?
VANCOUVER – Canada’s prostitution laws have quickly become the focus of the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case, not the police investigation that failed for years to catch the serial killer.
Yet another witness Tuesday questioned the wisdom of making sex work a crime.
Kate Shannon echoed earlier testimony that the law and the police officers who enforce it have made life more dangerous for the poor, drug-addicted prostitutes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where Pickton hunted for his victims until he was arrested in 2002.
Shannon, a researcher with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said police tactics designed to enforce the law push sex workers into dangerously isolated areas, which significantly increases the risks they face.
With the Supreme Court recently ruling as unconstitutional attempts by the federal government to shut down a supervised drug-injection site, at least one expert says it wouldn’t be surprising if a separate case finds prostitution laws are also unconstitutional.