London, Ont. court case could challenge Canada's prostitution laws

February 6, 2018

Canada's prostitution laws could be put to the legal test in a London, Ont. courtroom where two people are charged with human trafficking, advertising sex and profiting from the sex trade.

Hamad Anwar and Tiffany Harvey face more than two dozen sex-related charges each, including making money from the sex trade, advertising sexual services, and forcing someone into the sex trade. 

The charges relate to a bust made by London police at an escort service in November 2015. 

The accused are being represented by well-known Toronto lawyer James Lockyer. 

Court documents indicate he will launch a constitutional challenge to the charges on Tuesday. 

Lockyer declined several interview requests from CBC News.

'We always knew there would be a constitutional challenge'  

Experts have predicted it was only a matter of time before Canada's three-year-old prostitution laws, contained in Bill C-36, were challenged. 

The new laws criminalize the advertising and buying of sex — but decriminalize its sale. 

Proponents say it's the right model because it punishes people who buy sex, not those who sell it. 

But opponents say the laws force sex work further underground and criminalize advertising sex, which allows those in the sex trade to screen their clients ahead of a meeting. 

"Prostitution is male violence against women, which is a serious barrier to gender equality and is incompatible with the internationally-accepted principles of human rights," said Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre. 

"We always knew there would be a constitutional challenge. I think it's good to have some closure on this, although I recognize that getting to the Supreme Court could be years away. It will highlight the issues and I am confident that at the end of the day, the ruling will stand." 

Canada's new prostitution laws were passed at the end of 2014. 

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