The 2012 Prostitution Appeal Decision – An Expression of Gratitude

On March 26, 2012 five judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on the governments appeal of the 2010 decision of Justice Susan Himel, which struck down the three laws seeking to prevent prostitution, whatever that is. Those laws were against living off the avails of prostitution, keeping a bawdy house for prostitution and communicating for prostitution.

First, the court upheld Justice Himel on the avails provision, so basically prostitutes can now have security, chauffeurs, accountants, landlords and so forth. Second, they told Parliament it would have to rewrite the bawdy-house provision to remove the reference to prostitution within 12 months or the provision falls. And third, they left the communicating provision intact, although the judges split 3-2 on that.

The media recognized that the Court has essentially legalized brothels in Ontario and thrown the matter to Parliament. Remember, the communicating provision remaining intact is essentially to deal with street prostitution and the penalties so minor as to be on the level of a traffic ticket. Police officers sympathetic to us have told my supporters that they are no longer going to act against indoor prostitution because it is prostitution, whatever that is.

This is an historic victory because it shows that we were right about the laws being unfair for a whole host of reasons and have now ensured that the debate will not be suppressed and changes will come. In the coming weeks I will be writing about fairness in any new laws that might be brought in. However, for now, I want to express my gratitude to many wonderful people.

Professor Alan Young has worked on this case for a decade, and against these laws for years before that. He supervised, in my estimate, about 50 students who assisted as part of their studies. He had to advocate for funding. He devoted summers and worked extra hours when he had teaching duties. He did this on the heels of publishing his wonderful book profiling the terrible shortcomings in our legal system. He defended me in the past when I was arrested under these laws despite offering no sex. He has inspired scholarship and advocacy in an area of the law desperately crying out for attention from governments. The Order of Canada award was created for people like him.

My fellow plaintiffs Amy Lebovitch and Val Scott deserve the nations thanks for coming forward and exposing their private lives and taking a position, so as to make the challenge legally viable. They have stood against these laws for years prior to this challenge coming to maturity. They have walked the walk in every way. Val has also served as Executive Director of the Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), and as such has led others who have helped to work towards more fairness in these laws and in societys treatment of sex workers. Val has been an amazing spokesperson. Nikki Thomas has succeeded Val and has also spoken for the current initiative with amazing insight and effectiveness.

I also want to pay my thanks to lawyers besides Alan who have represented me and assisted me in the past, and generally enabled me to carry on and tell my story. As they defended me or represented me in appeals and other ways they too fought these laws. I will, as I have in the past, list them now in the order they participated and they all have my gratitude: Ken Danson, Morris Manning, Theresa Simone, Murray Klippenstein, Charlie Campbell, George Callahan, Leah Daniels, Paul Burstein, Justice David L. Corbett and Sender Herschorn. Their assistants and staffs are not to be forgotten either.

Finally, let us not forget the many activists from the past. There have been coalitions in the past seeking to amend the bawdy-house and related laws. In the middle 1990s Robert Dante headed up the coalition formed after I was raided. Andy Anderson and the late Richard Hudler and so many others over the years are not to be forgotten. Their stories will be told, and it is my intention to do so or see that it is done. This is their victory too. Long live freedom.

Terri-Jean Bedford

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