Backgrounder Article from
Archived - Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
The Government of Canada's comprehensive and "made-in-Canada" approach to address prostitution includes two essential parts, program funding to help vulnerable persons leave prostitution, and criminal law reform — the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act — in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Canada v. Bedford.
Programs to Address Prostitution
The Government announced new funding over five years (2015-2016 to 2019-2020) to complement the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act to help protect vulnerable Canadians and help victims leave prostitution. These new resources will be distributed through a call for proposals under the Victims Fund. In the near future under a call for letters of intent through the Crime Prevention Action Fund, funding will be provided to support those individuals who wish to exit prostitution and demonstrate the Government's commitment to support those exploited by prostitution.
The purpose of this funding is to support projects that provide or enhance services that assist vulnerable individuals leave prostitution. Projects that could be considered for funding may include some of the following elements:
- Providing victims with both short-term and long-term strategies to exit prostitution which includes services that can help them build skills and resilience, such as: trauma therapy; counselling and addiction recovery; skills building and education; employment training; financial literacy; parenting skills; life-skills programs; and empowerment;
- The use of emergency safe houses and drop-in centres for those contemplating leaving prostitution as well as mid-term and long-term safe transitional housing; and,
- Providing victims with the support needed to participate in the justice system including access to basic legal information.
Funding is also available for law enforcement agencies from across the country to provide new or enhanced support or outreach activities to assist those individuals wishing to leave prostitution, including victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Activities that could be considered for funding for law enforcement may include some of the following elements:
- Providing outreach services to build relationships of trust in order to assist those involved in prostitution access emergency and long-term services being offered by non-governmental organizations and/or governmental organizations, to encourage an exit from prostitution;
- Building connections and/or partnerships with organizations offering services to victims of sexual exploitation to help facilitate an exit from prostitution;
- Providing victims of sexual exploitation with assistance to reconnect with their families, friends or loved ones or communities to help facilitate their exit from prostitution;
- Adapting outreach approaches to be consistent with the new objectives of the criminal law reforms; and,
- Providing victims with the support needed to participate in the justice system, including access to basic legal information.
Objective of the Criminal Law Reform to Address Prostitution
The objectives of the new law are to reduce the incidence of prostitution, as well as to protect those who sell their own sexual services, vulnerable persons, and Canadian communities from the harms associated with prostitution.
To achieve these objectives, new offences have been enacted and existing offences have been modernized.
New Prostitution-Related Offences
- Purchasing sexual services
- This new offence prohibits purchasing sexual services and communicating in any place for that purpose. Maximum penalties are 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and five years imprisonment on indictment. There is a mandatory minimum fine on the first offence, which increases with subsequent offences. There is a $500 fine for a first offence and a $1,000 fine for a subsequent offence on summary conviction, as well as a $1,000 fine for a first offence and a $2,000 fine for a subsequent offence on indictment. These fines are doubled if the offence is committed near parks, schools, religious institutions or other places where children could reasonably be expected to be present. Purchasing sexual services from a child is an indictable offence that now carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a mandatory minimum penalty of six months imprisonment for a first offence and a mandatory minimum penalty of one year imprisonment for a subsequent offence.
- Receiving a financial or material benefit
- This new offence prohibits profiting from the prostitution of others, including through businesses that sell the sexual services of others online or out of venues, such as escort agencies, massage parlours, or strip clubs. The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment. Where the victim is a child, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment and the mandatory minimum penalty is two years imprisonment.
- Advertising the sale of sexual services
- This new offence prohibits advertising the sale of others' sexual services, whether in print media or on the Internet. Courts now also have the power to authorize the seizure of materials containing such advertisements, and to order an advertisement to be removed from the Internet. Maximum penalties are 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and five years imprisonment on indictment.
- Communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places that are or are next to specific locations designed for use by children, i.e., school grounds, playgrounds and day care centres
- This new offence prohibits communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places that are in or are next to specific locations designed for use by children, i.e., school grounds, playgrounds and day care centres. The maximum penalty is six months imprisonment.
Modernized Prostitution-Related Offences
- Procuring (also known as "pimping")
- This offence prohibits procuring, recruiting or harbouring another person for the purposes of prostitution. The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment and, where the victim is a child, a mandatory minimum penalty of five years applies.
- Child prostitution (and related offences)
- Child prostitution offences have been reformulated as aggravated forms of the purchasing, material benefit and procuring offences with higher penalties, as indicated above.
- Human trafficking (and related offences)
- Penalties for human trafficking have been increased to ensure consistency of penalties between trafficking and prostitution offences.
Exceptions to Proposed Prostitution-Related Offences
Prostitution is an inherently dangerous activity that poses a risk of violence and psychological harm to those subjected to it both from purchasers of sexual services and from third parties, regardless of the venue or legal framework in which it takes place. This is why one of the new law's main objectives is to reduce the incidence of prostitution.
Because some may remain subjected to prostitution, the new law does not prevent those individuals who are selling sexual services from taking certain safety measures noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Bedford decision, such as: hiring legitimate bodyguards; selling sexual services from a fixed indoor location; and, negotiating safer conditions for the sale of sexual services- except in public places that are in or are next to specific locations designed for use by children, i.e., school grounds, playgrounds and day care centres. With this approach, individuals selling sexual services, will be more likely to report problems,without fear of facing criminal charges for selling sexual services or communicating for that purpose.
The new legislation clarifies that sellers of their own sexual services have the same ability to conduct their own personal affairs as anyone else. The material benefit offence does not apply to persons who have entered into legitimate living arrangements with sellers of sexual services, such as spouses or roommates. Persons such as pharmacists, accountants or firms and individuals that offer security services are also exempt from the financial or material benefit offence, provided that there is no exploitation.
Other Amendments to the Criminal Code
To protect potential victims of sexual assault and assault, the law also clarifies that it is an offence to possess weapons of restraint with the intent to commit an offence. The definition of "weapon" in the Criminal Code has been amended to include anything used or intended to be used to restrain a person against their will (e.g. handcuffs, rope, duct tape). This provides greater protection to all potential victims of sexual assault and assault, including to sellers of sexual services, who are particularly vulnerable to violence and sexual assault.
Department of Justice Canada
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