Prostitution laws cause struggle for prosecutors
National teleconference planned this week to discuss best practices after Supreme Court ruling
Prosecutors from across the country are planning a teleconference this week to discuss best practices for dealing with sex trade workers and their customers in light of a recent Supreme Court decision, according to New Brunswick's assistant deputy attorney general.
Luc Labonté said many jurisdictions are struggling with how to respond to last month's unanimous ruling, which struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws.
In its Dec. 20 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada gave Parliament one year to come up with new legislation.
The confusion comes from the fact that the anti-prostitution laws remain part of the Criminal Code for the next year, while the government decides what to do.
Labonté expects the majority of prostitution-related offences before New Brunswick courts will be withdrawn until the legislation is rewritten. The exception would involve cases of exploitative relationships, he said.
Following this call, I expect to further review whether or not there is a need to amend our present course of action.- Luc Labont é , New Brunswick assistant deputy attorney general
On Monday, Crown prosecutors in Moncton dropped prostitution charges against six men who were accused of trying to hire prostitutes in light of the ruling.
Last week, Saint John Police Force Chief Bill Reid said his officers won't be charging people with prostitution offences until federal laws are clarified.
"I think it would be a bit of a fool's errand right now to start laying charges, certainly in lieu of the decision by the attorney general's office not to go down that way."
Reid said his officers have resorted to sending registered letters to suspected 'johns' that explain their vehicles have been seen in an area that is frequented by prostitutes.
Once the heads of prosecution across Canada discuss the matter, Labonté said he expects to "review whether or not there is a need to amend our present course of action."
As head of the downtown business association, he wants to find alternate ways to deal with prostitution in the core.
"I guess it's not entirely a surprise, it's a disappointment and I don't know where we go from here," Forbes said.
Debbie Warren, executive director of AIDS Moncton, works with sex workers in the city and is pleased that charges are no longer being laid.
"If you were a group of people that had been charged unconstitutionally, I would say it's good news," Warren said. "It's freedom.
"It's a waiting game to see what governments are going to do and how are they going to consult. We would hope they will consult with the community and the grassroots level and the people who are in sex work," she said.