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Testimony continues in constitutional challenge of Canada's prostitution laws

Testimony continued during hearings into the constitutionality of Canada's prostitution laws on Wednesday.

Case focuses on effectiveness of laws designed to protect people working in the sex trade

At last count, in 2015, there were 109,000 people advertising sexual services in Canada, a London, Ont., court heard Wednesday. 

How the country's prostitution laws protect or harm those people is at issue. 

It's part of the first court challenge of Canada's three-year-old prostitution laws, also known as Bill C-36. 

Two people, Hamad Anwar and Tiffany Harvey, were charged with more than two dozen offences after an escort agency they were running, Fantasy World Escorts, was raided by London police in 2015. 

But their lawyers, including Toronto heavyweight James Lockyer, are arguing that parts of the law under which they were charged should be considered unconstitutional. 

He wants the parts of the law that criminalize procuring, advertising and making a profit from sexual services struck down. 

On the stand is Chris Atchison, an academic from the University of Victoria, who has studied Canada's sex industry, and the sex industry in other countries, such as New Zealand and Sweden. 

Canada's law is based on a 1999 Swedish law, which essentially criminalize the purchase of sex, but decriminalizes its sale. 

Atchison is being cross-examined Wednesday by Assistant Crown Michael Carnegie. 

Both said today that stigma around the sex industry predates any new legislation, and continues to exist in places where it is legalized, such as New Zealand. 

Advertising online is very efficient and enhances safety because it's a quick way to vet clients and gauge expectations, Atchison said, but the coded language that has to be used because of the criminalization of the sex industry makes it more dangerous. 

The arguments were heard yesterday and today, and will continue next week for two days. 

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