THE BODY POLITIC|
March, 1983, No. 91
City prostitution law overturned by courtOTTAWA -- Following a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a Calgary anti-prostitution bylaw is unconstitutional, the federal government is being urged:to amend the Criminal Code so that police forces can more easily crack down on prostitutes.
The Calgary bylaw was struck down Sanuary 25 because the city had infringed on criminal law which is under federal jurisdiction. So, once again, several municipalities are turning to Ottawa for help. They want the Criminal Code amended so that soliciting need not be (as it now must be) "pressing and persistent'' to be an offence.
Justice minister Mark MacGuigan, however, is reluctant to amend the Code because he's not certain that prostitution "is a national problem."
Other federal politicians, including Judy Erola, the minister responsible for the status of women, are determined to avoid changes in the law that would allow police to arbitrarily hafass innocent women and men. The "pressing and persistent" qualification was designed to prevent this kind of abuse.
Tor)r justice critic Ray Hnatyshyn favours amending the Code and thinks that MacGuigan is "copping-out" because "he government doesn't want to regulate social mores."
If the government is indeed shying away from regulating morality, it seems not unwilling to give that power to municipalities. MacGuigan said he is seeking a way for Ottawa to delegate its authority over some criminal law to local governments. This could mean empowering municipalities to pass bylaws such as the one defeated in Calgary.
Meanwhile, Calgary prostitutes are sporting "Yes We Can" buttons, and in Vancouver charges against 300 men and women laid under that city's anti-prostitution bylaw: have been dropped. In Toronto police continue their harassment of prostitutes by laying charges of loitering or counselling to commit an indecent act.
Prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada.
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