After rigorous scrutiny (and extensive review), Canada’s prostitution bill, C-36, has been amended for legislative action. At its core, the bill aims to punish those who purchase sexual services, and treat those who provide them as victims. Offenders can be sentenced to jail for as long as 5 years.
The bill itself does not state the definition of “sexual services,” which is going to make for some really awkward court debates and family dinners. As a society, we still have no widespread agreement on baseball metaphors for sex. Forget about getting to third base (what does that even mean?), lap-dances and violating oneself in a massage parlour apparently fall under the category of sexual services. Stripping and producing pornography, however, remain bastions of solitude for the lonely.
Despite the government’s efforts to label C-36 as a bill that targets buyers of sexual services, there are situations in which the law can also punish prostitutes. Amendments to the bill have made discussing sexual services in certain areas illegal. Be warned, playground-roaming hookers and Toys-R-Us patrolling call girls, your prime, client-rich real estate is gone.
Those who receive financial or material benefit deriving from the services of a sex worker will also be liable for criminal charges, but people who have “living arrangements” with sex workers are exempt. What does that even mean? More importantly, has CBS based a sitcom on this? If not, what are they waiting for?
The new law also prohibits advertising sexual services (goodbye, Craigslist). However, sex workers are still allowed to advertise their sole, individual services, whatever that means. The bill had originally listed any place “once could reasonably expect to find children,” including playgrounds, churches, and schools, as venues where prostitution could not be advertised; the amended bill retains these conditions, apart from the churches. So, if you’re looking for a quickie in a confessional, you don’t have to worry. You should, however, feel extremely guilty.
The bill also amends the definition of a weapon under the Criminal Code, by including anything that is “used, designed to be used or intended for use in binding or tying up a person against their will.” Did they really have to introduce this change with a prostitution bill?
The bottle of fun that is the C-36 debate was unleashed when the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s prostitution law. The Conservatives’ motivation behind this bill is really to prevent Canada from having non-existent prostitution laws (which would be the case if no laws were made to replace those struck down), likely resulting in all-inclusive brothels, like in Berlin.
Despite all the moral debates, ideological badgering, and tense interactions, we can all agree on one thing: it’s been fun as hell to watch Peter MacKay squirm uncomfortably every time he is forced to say “prostitute.”