Last edited: March 26, 2005

Solicitation Laws Bad, Say Young Liberals

Xtra, March 17, 2005
491 Church Street, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2C6, Canada
416-925-6665 or 1-800-268-9872

By Tanya Gulliver

While the subcommittee studies the solicitation laws, a motion at the Liberal Party’s recent policy convention proposing removing from the Criminal Code laws related to prostitution was significantly weakened by amendments.

The section in question, Section 213, is considered to be one of the most confusing pieces of legislation surrounding sex laws. Prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. You can choose to sell your sexual services in exchange for money or another currency (a ride, a meal, a place to sleep, whatever). What is illegal under Section 213 however, is “communicating for the purpose of prostitution”—that is having a discussion about the purchase or sale of sexual services in a public place.

This dichotomy often leads to sex workers being afraid to report theft, assault, rape and kidnapping to the police for fear of being criminalized by having to admit that they had been engaging in prostitution. It’s hard to tell the cops that a john didn’t pay you the agreed price for sex when you’re not supposed to be talking about in the first place.

“The issue isn’t about the subtleties of wording of the motion—the motion has never been extremely specific or lengthy. Our issue isn’t the wording, it’s been to bring the subject to the national political stage,” says Denise Brunsdon, national director of the Young Liberals, which is a group within the Liberal Party.

The original motion called for the removal of the laws dealing with solicitation but was amended at the suggestion of several Young Liberals and Liberals at large, according to Brunsdon.

The amendment saw the word “remove” changed to “review.” That’s basically what is already happening with the subcommittee hearings.

Brunsdon is glad that the latter half of the motion did pass. It reads: “Be it further resolved that should Section 213 be found to contribute toward violence against sex trade workers that the Liberal Party Of Canada encourage the government to propose new legislation that better protects sex trade workers.”

The motion was prioritized by the youth executive, and went forward to the justice workshop at the convention. It was put forth as the number one priority of that workshop (over decriminalization of marijuana) and passed by a vote of four to one at the convention.

“The Young Liberals Of Canada felt that it was time that the issue of sex workers’ safety and sex workers’ rights in the climate of recent deaths in Vancouver [where dozens of women went missing over the course of years] and Edmonton be addressed on the national stage.”

She says that it’s important that people who are not former or current sex workers get involved in bringing attention to the issue if anything is going to change.

“The goal was to have it discussed in a national forum and now people are talking.”  

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