The Supreme Court of Canada has released its decision in Attorney General of Canada, et al. v. Terri Jean Bedford, et al., the case involving prostitution that has been before Ontario courts eight times. In a 9-0 judgment delivered by the Chief Justice the Court dismissed the appeal by the Attorney-General and allowed the cross-appeal by Terri Bedford.
From the headnote:
Held: The appeals should be dismissed and the cross‑appeal allowed. Sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code are declared to be inconsistent with the Charter. The declaration of invalidity should be suspended for one year.
The three impugned provisions, primarily concerned with preventing public nuisance as well as the exploitation of prostitutes, do not pass Charter muster: they infringe the s. 7 rights of prostitutes by depriving them of security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It is not necessary to determine whether this Court should depart from or revisit its conclusion in the Prostitution Reference that s. 213(1)(c) does not violate s. 2(b) since it is possible to resolve this case entirely on s. 7 grounds.
The summary of the case, taken from the Supreme Court site, is as follows:
The respondents, former and current sex trade workers, challenged the constitutional validity of s. 210 (keeping common bawdy houses) as it relates to prostitution, s. 212(1)(j) (living off the avails of prostitution), and s. 213(1)(c) (communicating for the purpose of prostitution) of the Criminal Code. The trial judge held that these provisions breach the respondents’ right to security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that s. 213(1)(c) breaches s. 2(b) of the Charter. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal in part. It held that it was not open to the trial judge to review whether s. 213(1)(c) breaches s. 2(b) of the Charter because that issue was decided in Reference Re ss. 193 and 195.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code (Man.),  1 S.C.R. 1123. It held that all three provisions infringe the respondents’ security of the person. It held that s. 213(1)(c) does not violate principles of fundamental justice and should remain in force and effect. It held that s. 210 should be struck and the limiting words “in circumstances of exploitation” should be read into s. 212(1)(j).
Slaw will have some reasoned commentary on this important case in the next few days.