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Bill C-36 Becomes Law - The EFC Responds

On June 4, 2014, the Government introduced Bill C-36, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. It was recently passed by Parliament, received royal assent on Nov. 6, 2014, and is now law.

This legislation is the federal government’s response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R v. Bedford in December, 2013, which found three key prostitution-related provisions of the Criminal Code to be unconstitutional. The Court gave Parliament one year to respond, if they chose to do so.

The Government acted on the view that prostitution is fundamentally dangerous and exploitive, and a violation of human dignity and gender equality. This aspect of the Government’s position is clearly presented in recent Government statements and in the preamble to the Act.

The legislation has three stated objectives:

  • Protecting those who sell their sexual services from exploitation
  • Protecting communities from the harms caused by prostitution; and
  • Reducing the demand for sexual services.

To achieve these objectives, the Government created new prostitution-related offences, and amended a number of others.

Bill C-36 created a new offence prohibiting the purchase of sexual services, regardless of location. In effect, this means that a sex buyer’s conduct is illegal wherever it occurs – whether on the street, in a private residence, massage parlour or similar venue. The legislation backs this up with significant fines and potential jail sentences that will have a real deterrent effect.

The Act also maintains and enhances prohibitions against pimping or profiting from the sexual exploitation of another person, as well as making it an offence to advertise the sale of sexual services of others in print media or on the Internet.

In the spirit and intent of the legislation, those who are prostituted are no longer seen as nuisances, but rather as vulnerable individuals, and so, except in specific circumstances, they are afforded immunity from criminal penalty. The bill created a new offence for the selling of sexual services where an individual under the age of 18 could reasonably be expected to be present.

The legislation is part of a two-pronged approach. In addition to reforming criminal laws relating to prostitution, the Government has made a $20 million commitment to support programs that will assist individuals in exiting prostitution. This new funding will be directed to a range of initiatives and efforts to assist vulnerable individuals in exiting prostitution.

See related EFC resources on Bill C-36 and prostitution law reform, including presentations the EFC made to committees reviewing the bill in the House of Commons (July 2014) and the Senate (Sept. 2014).

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) supports the approach reflected in this legislation. It is modeled after approaches used in some European countries, approaches supported by other national evangelical alliances like the EFC.

The EFC will be looking for assurances from the Government that education and awareness initiatives will be undertaken with law enforcement across the country to ensure that the spirit and intent of the law will be upheld when it comes to enforcement.

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