Justice Minister Peter MacKay will introduce a new bill tomorrow that would reform Canada's prostitution laws, according to government sources.

Supreme Court strikes down prostitution provisions

Sex-trade advocate Terri-Jean Bedford brought the case against Canada's prostitution laws before the Supreme Court of Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Last December, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the prostitution laws and gave Ottawa one year to draft new ones.

The Department of Justice then launched and completed online consultations with the public.

MacKay has said his department has examined several regulatory regimes outside Canada, including the so-called Nordic model, which has been touted by many groups.

In Sweden, Iceland and Norway, selling sex is legal but purchasing it is not. Police in those jurisdictions focus their attention on pimps and johns.

On Monday, MacKay indicated his government was headed that way, although insisted the forthcoming bill will be a "Canadian model."

Commenting on the results of the government's consultations, he said “a very clear message emerged. A very clear majority felt the purchasing of sexual services should be illegal, should be a criminal offence. And the other side of the coin, the selling of sexual services should not be criminal.”

Advocates for the sex industry, however, were quick to dismiss the results of the survey, saying there were no controls to prevent some from submitting multiple responses and suggesting the public shouldn't be involved in setting policy.

Opinions divided

In its unanimous decision late last year, the Supreme Court criticized the law for punishing everyone who lives on the avails of prostitution, and not distinguishing between those who exploit prostitutes and those who could "increase the safety and security of prostitutes," such as drivers, managers or bodyguards.

The litigants in the court fight were Terri-Jean Bedford, described as a retired dominatrix, and two former prostitutes, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch.

They argued that three provisions of the Criminal Code targeting prostitution were contributing to the dangers faced by sex trade workers.

Without revealing the details of the new legislation ahead of its introduction in the House of Commons, MacKay called it a proper and measured response to the Supreme Court ruling.

“We feel this is the best way to protect vulnerable Canadians, in particular, and the community at large," he added.

However, opinions are deeply divided on the issue, even among the law enforcement community