Final arguments are expected to wrap up today in the first court challenge to Canada’s new prostitution laws.
The case involves a London, Ont., couple who ran Fantasy World Escorts, which was raided by police and shut down in 2015.
Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar were charged with procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from the sale of someone else’s sexual services, all of which are illegal under revisions to Canada’s prostitution laws, which came into force in 2014.
But the couple’s lawyers say the law puts sex workers at risk by forcing them to do their work underground, therefore violating the workers’ charter right to security of the person.
The lawyers, James Lockyer and Jack Gemmell, say Canada’s prostitution laws are based on the flawed belief that sex work is inherently exploitative and harmful.
‘Need help to do this work safely’
The lawyers don’t deny that Anwar and Harvey ran the agency, but say they can’t be convicted because the charges are unconstitutional.
“We have to face who we are dealing with here, and that is people who need help to do this work safely. They don’t have the personal ability to do that themselves, and they don’t have the legal ability to get a third party to do it for them,” Lockyer said in arguments heard in April.
The Crown is defending Canada’s prostitution laws, saying the law isn’t meant to protect sex workers but rather criminalize those who buy sexual services and therefore decrease the demand for sex work, which is inherently risky.
The arguments are being heard in Kitchener, Ont., because the judge who was initially assigned the case was transferred there.
Justice Thomas McKay is expected to take several months before rendering his decision.