03/26/2012 09:50 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Prostitution Ruling Backed By B.C. Lawyers

An Ontario court ruling on Canada's prostitution laws is a partial victory for sex trade workers in B.C., says Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society.

Litigation director Katrina Pacey said she is pleased Ontario's highest court has ruled that provisions banning brothels and living off the avails of prostitution puts prostitutes at risk and are therefore unconstitutional.

The decision from Ontario’s Court of Appeal said that sex workers should be permitted to work in safer locations, and should be able to pay others to help protect them.

The decision also said that living off the avails of prostitution would remain illegal in circumstances where exploitation is present.

"From the perspective of Pivot Legal Society, this is a partial victory," Pacey said.

"We of course support laws that prevent and protect against exploitation," she said. "Our concern is: who defines what exploitation is?"

Pacey said that sex trade workers themselves — and not public opinion — need to be able to define what constitutes 'exploitation' in this context.

Ban on street trade upheld

Pacey said that Pivot Legal is extremely disappointed the law against soliciting for the purpose of selling sex was not thrown out by the Ontario court, which leaves a ban on street prostitution in place even if the other provisions are challenged in federal court.

Pacey said the law as it stands prevents sex trade workers from working safely.

"Basic measures to be safe, such as taking time to screen clients, working in well-lit areas, working collectively with other sex workers — these are very fundamental activities that can make a substantial difference to whether a [sex trade worker] makes it home at the end of the night," she said.

"We acknowledge and know that unfortunately, as a result of poverty, street-level prostitution will continue and it must be made safe as well."

Pivot Legal Society intervened when the Ontario and federal governments appealed an Ontario ruling that found laws in that province endangered sex workers by banning brothels and other aspects of the sex trade.

The ruling will almost certainly be appealed to Canada's Supreme Court.

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