On December 20th, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided to strike down legislation passed up from Parliament that would set various regulations on the prostitution industry. This legislation aimed, among other things, to make both brothels and publicly communicating with clients illegal. The Supreme Court, however, deemed that the wording of the bill was “overly broad and grossly disproportionate”, marking the first time “broad” and “gross” have been used inoffensively in a discussion about prostitution. I wonder if this surprises anyone else. After all, it seems impossible for parliament to create any legislation that isn’t overly broad. Though the topics are indisputably complex, it’s ludicrous that laws are dismissed at such a high frequency due to ambiguous wording and a lack of specificity. Speed limits are inherently arbitrary, yet the Supreme Court has yet to propose replacing speed bumps with the speed boosts from Mario Kart.
Yet again, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the anti-prostitution laws has shone a light upon one of the many pitfalls or safeguards of our constitutionally democratic system. As the primary interpreters of our inadequately worded constitution, the SCC can and does wield a vast amount of power. Whether or not that is beneficial is a debate that goes far beyond the scope of this story. As usual, there are countering views as to whether or not the striking down of the laws is a positive or a negative action. One of the major advocates for the passing of the laws – that is to say, against their striking down – is Don Hutchinson, the vice-president and general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a notably unbiased source. According to Hutchinson, “What we’re suggesting is that, for the first time in Canada, prostitution would be illegal. The purchase of sexual services or the rental of somebody’s body would become illegal”.
There is great debate, however, over whether or not a person should be allowed to use their own body as they choose, and if the government body (HA!) should have any influence on those decisions. An interesting take in favour of the striking down of the laws – that is to say, against their enactment – comes from Sex Workers advocate Valerie Scott, another unbiased party. She says, “The thing here is politicians, though they may know us as clients, they do not understand how sex work works. They won’t be able to write a half-decent law. It will fail. That’s why you must bring sex workers to the table in a meaningful way,” and not for the usual reasons. Hmm, okay. Once you’ve cleaned up the mess you’ve made by laughing hysterically over the first part of her quotation, take a look at the concrete value of the statement. Does it not seem logical that, in order to pass laws, there should be some form of discussion between the government and the parties interested? This point holds its own weight.
Perhaps the best way for lawmakers to improve their efficiency is to incorporate the needs and demands of the involved parties. Then again, perhaps not. Maybe the relationship between politician and prostitute should remain the way it is, secretive and almost undeniably comical. No matter how you feel about this topic, one point remains evident: politicians may know prostitutes as clients, but they don’t know them as people.