The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has once again demonstrated its ability to shape the debate about public policy in Canada, this time with its research on prostitution legislation.

The federal government’s recently unveiled prostitution legislation, Bill C-36, contains many of the recommendations MLI made in a paper released earlier this year.

The paper, titled “Oldest Profession or Oldest Oppression? Addressing prostitution after the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Canada v. Bedford”, argued that the harms of prostitution cannot be regulated away. Author Benjamin Perrin, a professor of law at UBC, therefore recommended that Canada’s objective should be to abolish prostitution.

This and other recommendations – including that johns, not prostitutes, should be subject to the most stringent penalties – were contained in Bill C-36 when it was released earlier this year.

But while Perrin applauds the government for attempting to get prostitutes in another line of work, he says there are improvements that could improve both the effectiveness and constitutionality of the bill.

The legislation, titled the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was in response to a Supreme Court ruling which struck down most of Canada's prostitution laws as unconstitutional.

In particular, Perrin recommends the government remove portions of Canada's laws that prohibit prostitutes from stopping traffic or impeding pedestrians. This is only going to present difficulties for making sure Canada's prostitution legislation can survive any constitutional challenge, Perrin says.

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.

Find out more about how MLI has shaped the debate about public policy in Canada, both with the new prostitution legislation and with other issues, on our MLI’s Impact page.

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