The head of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies says aboriginal communities are "terrified" that young women will be lured to Halifax to serve as prostitutes when shipbuilding ramps up in the city.
Kim Pate made the comments as she criticized a Supreme Court of Canada decision on Friday to strike down the country’s prostitution laws.
"I was just in Halifax talking to people about what's going to happen with Irving Shipbuilding going in there, and the fact that aboriginal women, aboriginal communities are terrified that young women are going to be lured into that area to service the men," Pate told reporters.
The high court said the laws concerning keeping a brothel, living off the avails of prostitution, and street soliciting violated the charter guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person.
The federal government has been given a year to come up with new laws.
The court decision is also being welcomed by some. One organization in favour of the ruling is Stepping Stone, a Nova Scotia group that helps sex workers.
Fiona Traynor, the chair of Stepping Stone, says the group believes the ruling recognizes the inherent dangers people in the sex trade face, and that their rights to protection are not being upheld.
She cites cases like that of Steven Laffin, who was sentenced this spring in a Nova Scotia court for killing a prostitute. He hunted and injured at least two others.
"When you have people who are working on the street, or inside, who don't have the ability to work safely, who don't have the ability to hire security personnel, who don't have the time and the resources to vet people who are purchasing their services," Traynor said.
"They have to do it on the fly, they have to do it quickly, they have to do it in the back allies. That's not OK working conditions. None of that is acceptable. And this ruling, hopefully, will put that to rest."
Nova Scotia’s justice minister says she agrees with that assessment and has instructed her department to study today's ruling and draw up a thorough response.
"There's a need to have protection for any type of a worker," Lena Diab said. "That's definitely our ultimate aim. Safety of all workers is our priority here. Doesn't matter what the trade is."