New Brunswick's deputy attorney general is standing by the province's decision to drop most prostitution cases, despite criticism from the federal justice minister.
Although the Supreme Court of Canada left anti-prostitution laws in place for the next year, the province's public prosecution services determined it would be "unfair to request a person to answer to charges that we now know have been deemed unconstitutional," Luc Labonté stated in an email to CBC News on Thursday.
The decision is "similar to other jurisdictions," he said without elaborating.
New Brunswick will continue to prosecute other relevant sections of the Criminal Code that remain valid, such as acts of indecency, said Labonté.
The province will also continue to monitor how other provinces deal with prostitution and "should the need arise will re-evaluate the impact of its decision in New Brunswick," he said.
Labonté's comments come on the heels of a statement issued by Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay, who said not enforcing existing prostitution laws is "not an option."
"While the administration of justice is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, Canadians expect criminal laws in this country to be properly enforced so long as they remain in force," MacKay said on Wednesday night.
In its Dec. 20 ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws, but gave Parliament one year to come up with new legislation.
MacKay contends the Supreme Court made it clear current laws were to remain in force until then.
Still, New Brunswick public prosecution services, which operates independently from the political arm of government, has decided to terminate all prosecutions related to bawdy houses and communicating for the purpose of prostitution, and is advising police not to lay such charges, said Labonté.
It is also terminating all prosecutions related to living off the avails of prostitution, except if there is evidence proving there was an exploitative relationship vis a vis the sex trade worker, he said.
"It is important to note that in New Brunswick we average approximately 30 prostitution-related charges a year out of the 23,000+ criminal charges we prosecute," said Labonté.
Moncton council challenges relaxed approach to issue
Moncton city councillors want to know why New Brunswick is relaxing the rules on prostitution.
The province is the only one in the Maritimes where Crown prosecutors are no longer pursuing cases against prostitutes and their customers, or `Johns.'
The justice departments in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island say they are taking advantage of the one-year grace period and still pursing prostitution changes.
Coun. Charles Leger questions why New Brunswick is taking an approach that's different from the other Maritime provinces.
"If other jurisdictions are all maintaining the status quo, then I wonder why New Brunswick has decided to go in a different direction," said Leger.
Coun. Shawn Crossman also wants to know what's going on.
"That's unacceptable in my mind," he said. "As the father of a 13-year-old daughter, I mean that is truly unacceptable, to know that our province has taken that mentality."
Crossman wants to know how the province expects the police and the municipality to deal with street prostitution.