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Judge to rule today whether parts of Canada's prostitution laws are unconstitutional

A judge is expected to decide today whether some of Canada's prostitution laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case is the first major test of Canada's 2014 laws that decriminalized selling sex but outlawed buying it

Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar ran Fantasy World Escorts in London, Ont. and are at the centre of a case that challenges parts of Canada's prostitution laws. (Kate Dubinski/ CBC London )

A judge is expected to decide today whether some of Canada's prostitution laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

The case revolves around a London, Ont., couple who ran Fantasy World Escorts. 

The agency was busted in 2015 and Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar were charged with procuring, advertising and profiting from the sale of sexual services of others — all illegal under Canada's 2014 prostitution laws. 

Harvey and Anwar say the laws are unconstitutional because they violate sex workers' Charter right to "security of the person." 

Their lawyers argue that the laws drive sex work underground and make it more dangerous, and that escort agencies, like the one run by Anwar and Harvey, help protect those in the industry by offering a central location, screening services, protection and camaraderie. 

Sex workers "can't make themselves safe and they can't hire third parties to do it for them" without being charged, lawyer James Lockyer argued before Justice Thomas McKay last year. 

'Greater good'

Anwar and Harvey admit they ran the escort agency, but their lawyers say they shouldn't be convicted because the charges are unconstitutional. 

The challenge is the first case of its kind of the 2014 prostitution laws enacted under Prime Minster Stephen Harper's government. 

But Crown lawyers say the laws were not meant to protect sex workers, but rather to penalize those who buy sex and third parties who profit from its sale, and to discourage people from entering the sex trade, which is inherently risky. 

Crown lawyers have asked the judge to consider the "greater good and the public good" when making his decisions. 

"Society itself is harmed by the commodification of sexual services," Crown Attorney Michael Carnegie said in his closing arguments. 

Appeal likely

It will be up to McKay to determine if there is a constitutional violation, which he will do in a Kitchener, Ont., courtroom on Friday. 

If he rules that parts of the law are unconstitutional, Harvey and Anwar will be acquitted. If not, the pair will be sentenced. 

It's unclear how much time they might face. The law includes no mandatory minimum sentence, and neither side has made sentencing submissions.

The case is being closely watched by both those who support Canada's prostitution laws and those who oppose them. 

Legal experts expect whatever the outcome, the case will likely be appealed, possibly all the way to Canada's Supreme Court. 

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