2013 SCC 72
The applicants in this case, who were current or former prostitutes, brought a challenge to three provisions of the Criminal Code which criminalized various activities connected to prostitution: communication for the purpose of prostitution (s.213 (c)), operating a bawdy house (s.210), or living off the avails of prostitution (s.212 (1)). No provision in the Criminal Code criminalized prostitution itself. The applicants challenged the constitutionality of the Criminal Code provisions, claiming that they violated the s.7 rights of prostitutes by forcing them to work in secret and preventing them from implementing certain safety measures (for example, by hiring security guards), with the result that they worked under an increased threat of violence.
The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled the impugned provisions to be unconstitutional and not saved by s.1 of the Charter. The provisions were found to be overbroad and grossly disproportionate with respect to Parliament’s objective, which had been to regulate nuisances connected to prostitution. This relied in large part on a finding that the provisions did not just impose conditions on how prostitutes operate, but actually impose dangerous conditions on prostitutes in violation of their s.7 rights. As remedy, the Supreme Court granted a one year suspended declaration of invalidity to all three provisions.
Faculty of Law Research and Commentary on Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford
Hamish Stewart, “Case comment: Bedford and the structure of Section 7,” (2015) 60:3 McGill LJ 575-594.
Kent Roach, “Dialogue between the Court and Parliament: a recent Charter trilogy,” (2016) 63 CLQ 251.
Kent Roach, “The changed nature of the harm debate,” (2015) 60 CLQ 321.