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Research Paper

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Bill C-36; Supreme Court of Canada


Bill C-36 (Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act) marks a turning point in Canada’s approach to addressing prostitution that was spurred by the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, which declared the old approach unconstitutional. This proposed legislation was recently passed by the House of Commons and has already been pre-studied by the Senate. It is expected to become law in the coming weeks. Under the new approach, prostitution is no longer considered merely a nuisance, but is recognized as inherently exploitative. While “johns,” “pimps,” and human traffickers are criminally liable, prostitutes generally are not. This is the right approach to this complex issue. It represents a major shift in how the harms of prostitution are characterized and confronted in the criminal law. It will require substantial work from governments, police, and civil society to ensure effective implementation. This brief Commentary highlights the major differences between the old and new approaches to addressing prostitution in Canada, discusses the anticipated Charter challenge to this new legislation that advocates for legalized/decriminalized prostitution have threatened, and identifies the next steps that are needed to ensure the effective implementation of Bill C-36.


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