Even though some of the initial noise over its introduction has died down, the debate surrounding Canada’s new prostitution legislation (Bill C-36) is far from over.

The bill, titled the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, will continue its trek through the legislative process when Parliament resumes in the fall.

Macdonald-Laurier Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Perrin says the legislation, which echoes a lot of the recommendations in a paper he produced, takes the right approach by taking as its stated goal getting women out of prostitution.

However he recommends a number of changes that would both improve the bill's effectiveness and decrease the chances that it will be struck down as unconstitutional.

The right approach to prostitution legislation

In an op-ed published in the Globe and Mail, Perrin lauded the government for recognizing that women will never be truly safe as long as they are working as prostitutes. Most first fall victim to prostitution at a young age, usually between 14 and 20.

That’s why, says Perrin, the government is right to adopt mandatory fines and possible imprisonment for johns. This will help to choke out the demand that fuels the prostitution trade

Refining Bill C-36

As it stands now, though, Perrin says the government isn’t doing everything it possibly could to improve the likelihood that it will survive a constitutional challenge.

The legislation is in response to the Supreme Court’s Bedford decision, which struck down the bulk of the previous prostitution law as unconstitutional.

Perrin says that, without changes, the new prostitution legislation risks exposure to similar challenges in the future.

Clarifying Canada’s new prostitution legislation

One measure he recommends is to repeal existing sections of the criminal code that punish street prostitutes for stopping traffic or impeding pedestrians.

The government should also look at clarifying portions of the bill that prohibit the sale of sex in the presence of kids to be more specific about where those locations are.

Perrin would also like to see the proposed penalty for prostitutes lowered to the minimum. This is the only way, he says, to encourage prostitutes to seek help – the entire goal of the bill in the first place.

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