TORONTO – Significant parts of Canada’s prostitution law that ban advertising in the sex trade or making money from sexual services are unconstitutional, an Ontario court judge ruled on Friday in a case involving a couple who ran an escort agency.
In addition, Judge Thomas McKay said the ban on procuring sexual services also violates the charter.
Because the judgment is from a provincial court, it is not binding, and the law remains in effect unless an appellate court sides with McKay in the event of an appeal.
Nevertheless, a lawyer for one of the accused praised what he called a precedential decision.
“Today is a good day for the safety and protection of sex workers,” lawyer James Lockyer said in an interview.
At issue are parts of the law enacted by the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper in November 2014, after the previous law had been struck down.
The new law criminalized the purchase of sex and communication for that purpose. It also outlawed related advertising.
“We argued the new law made it even less safe for [sex workers],” Lockyer said.
In this case, police charged Hamad Anwar and Tiffany Harvey, of London, Ont., for running an escort agency known as Fantasy World Escorts. Their business employed several adult women in the city.
Evidence was that the couple advertised their business and used their website to recruit both new clients and new employees, promising an average salary of $2,500 to $5,000 a week, paid annual vacation, benefits and help with tuition and book payments for students.
Anwar set the fee schedule for clients and the business also maintained a code of ethics for clientele.
The couple challenged the constitutionality of the legislation under which they were charged. Among other things, they argued the law prevented sex workers from using third parties for protection, and stopped them from forming their own associations to look out for one another.
They also argued the law violated their freedom of expression and their right to be free from unreasonable government interference.
While the prosecution conceded the law infringes on the rights of those in the sex trade, it argued the violations were justified in a free and democratic society. It maintained the law aims to reduce prostitution while striking a balance for sex worker freedoms.
McKay, who noted the bill treats sellers of their own sexual services as victims, disagreed with the prosecution. After hearing eight days of evidence at the trial in Kitchener, Ont., he found the three provisions did violate the charter and could not otherwise be justified.
The judge found a wide variety of reasons that adults engage in sex work, with money a primary motivator. Many of them are self-employed or work independently much of the time, he found.
While some third parties might be abusive partners or predators, most aren’t, McKay said. They do administration, offer training and support, and security, he said.
“Canadian research suggests that coercion and control of sex workers by third parties is not pervasive.”
The judge found that the rules against procuring further isolates already marginalized or inexperienced sex workers, who are “effectively prevented” from approaching their more experienced peers for advice or support.
The third-party ban, McKay said, makes it all but impossible for most sex workers to work co-operatively with others, whether for health and safety reasons or sharing staff.
It was not immediately clear if the prosecution would seek to appeal.
This week ‘critical’ for Canada’s fight against coronavirus, officials say. Here’s why – Global News
As Canada continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, officials say this week will be “critical” in the country’s fight against the outbreak.
“This is a really critical week in our fight against the coronavirus,” Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, said at a press conference on Monday, urging Canadians to continue physical distancing.
“I know that it is hard, but we all must stay strong and stay at home unless we are doing essential work like stocking the shelves in our grocery stores, like working on the frontlines of our health-care system.”
Freeland’s remarks echoed those from Canada’s chief public health officer, who on Sunday said this week would be “very, very important” to understand trends in the pandemic and to determine whether physical distancing has been effective.
Dr. Theresa Tam said she would be keeping an eye on what’s happening in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta — where there has been community transmission of COVID-19 — to see if there has been a drop in new cases, like what has been reported in B.C.
Across the country, federal and provincial health officials have banned large gatherings, closed non-essential businesses and advised Canadians to practise physical distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, health officials in B.C. released modelling that showed the province’s rate of increase in cases had dropped from about 24 per cent to 12 per cent.
B.C.’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the results left her feeling “cautiously optimistic” about the future.
Tam noted, though, that Canada is a “big country” and different regions are experiencing different timing of the pandemic, with different periods of acceleration and deceleration.
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Dr. Suzanne Sicchia, an associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said this week and next are important because they will give health officials a “better sense of whether the measures we’ve taken to flatten the curve have been effective and to what degree.”
“To these ends, the experts will be watching to see if there is a decrease in the rate of new, confirmed cases,” Sicchia wrote in an email to Global News.
She said health officials will “no doubt” use this evidence to inform the ongoing public health and health-care responses to the virus.
Dr. Jeff Kwong, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto, told Global News that based on mathematical models and what we know about the virus’s incubation period, this would be the week many may begin having symptoms.
“It’s going to be this week or the next week that we’re going to see a wave of people who are really sick,“ Kwong said.
Kwong said this has already begun, with hospitals across the country already treating patients infected with COVID-19.
But he said what we have seen so far is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
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“We know there’s lots cases out there — most are mild — but how many of all these cases are going to be severe?” he said. “That’s what we’re going to start to see this week.”
On Monday, Tam said 6,671 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Canada.
Of those cases, Tam said approximately seven per cent require hospitalization, three per cent are critically ill and one per cent of cases have been fatal.
Tam cautioned, though, that these rates could fluctuate as more cases are reported.
According to Kwong, this week will also provide important insight into whether Canada needs to implement more stringent physical distancing measures.
He said if Canada sees fewer cases of COVID-19 than modelling has predicted, it will show that Canadians have done a good job.
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If there is a dramatic spike in cases this week, Kwong said more stringent measures may be justified in order to prevent the health system from “collapsing in another three to four weeks.”
“I hope it does doesn’t come to pass, but, you know, it’s hard to say,” he said. “I mean, who knows what’s going to happen?”
Asked about the data from B.C., Sicchia said it is “promising,” but that we need to be “very cautious in making any definitive claims and even more so when it comes to generalizing these findings to other provinces.”
She said, though, that if the trend continues in B.C., we will know that we have been effective in flattening the curve in that province, and “that bodes well for us all.”
But Kwong said regardless of whether the rest of Canada sees encouraging results, the country “can’t afford to let up on physical distancing.”
He said it is likely the measures will need to stay in place “for months.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
In Canada and abroad, COVID-19 super-spreaders could be anywhere – CTV News
You may have heard of “patient 31” in South Korea, a woman who was thought to be the source of thousands of COVID-19 infections in that country. Or more recently, a man in India who had returned from Europe and reportedly infected people in more than a dozen villages. They are known as “super-spreaders” – individuals who can infect a large number of people easily.
The World Health Organization estimates someone with COVID-19 can infect between 2 and 2.5 individuals, but super-spreaders infect a large number of people, often in a crowded and busy environment like a church or a conference.
“In a weird way, that seems to be the pattern for this disease. It’s not just that it spreads universally across the landscape,” said CTV News’ science and technology specialist Dan Riskin.
“You get these hot spots where a whole bunch of people get infected at once, and when that happens you can call that person a super-spreader.”
In Canada, while no specific individual has yet been identified as super-spreader, there have been clusters, or hot spots, from coast-to-coast involving a significant number of people.
More than 60 cases of the 135 cases identified in Newfoundland and Labrador are tied to two wakes held at a funeral home on March 15. The funeral home has since been closed as the investigation continues.
“Many of our numbers right now are related to this one cluster, either directly or indirectly, and that will have an influence on what we see,” Dr. Janice Fitzerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health told reporters over the weekend, when asked when she might expect to see cases peak in the province.
On the other side of the country, up to 32 people infected with the virus could be tied directly or indirectly to the Pacific Dental Conference held in Vancouver earlier this month, according to the province’s medical health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. One of those attendees has since died.
Some of the factors that can make a patient a super spreader may be related to biology – if they produce more of a virus, for example, or if they take longer to recover from an infection and spread the virus over a longer period, according to experts.
Historic research showed that Mary Mallon, a cook in New York City infamously known as “Typhoid Mary”, was the source of a typhoid fever outbreak in the early 1900s that infected thousands, despite never having any symptoms herself. Scientists are researching how much of a role silent carriers of COVID-19 – those who exhibit no symptoms – play in unknowingly spreading the disease.
This is why self-isolation is important, Riskin said.
“It’s a reminder that for Canadians, we all have to take this seriously, because you don’t know if you’re that one person who unknowingly could infect thousands.”
Majority of Canadians think COVID-19 pandemic will get worse: Nanos – CTV News
A majority of Canadians say they are pessimistic about the outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic but support the federal government’s response to the crisis, according to the latest survey from Nanos Research
According to results of the survey released Sunday night, 67 per cent of Canadians believe the coronavirus crisis will get worse in the next month, while 17 per cent believe it will get better, 10 per cent said it would remain the same and six per cent were unsure.
Those in households of five or more, or who frequently check the news, are more likely to think the situation will worsen, the research firm reported. Nearly six-in-ten Canadians say they check news about the new novel coronavirus several times a day.
Nanos Research said it found most Canadians think the federal government has had a good or “very good” response to COVID-19.
Two-thirds of Canadians say the Trudeau government’s handling of the outbreak has been very good (22 per cent) or good (40 per cent). Residents of Atlantic Canada reported the highest approval of the government’s response at 48 per cent, while Quebec has the lowest at 16 per cent.
To minimize bias, the survey’s questions related to physical distancing and financial security asked respondents to comment about their neighbours, rather than themselves. Nanos said the responses should be considered a likely proxy for personal behaviour.
The survey found that fewer than three-in-10 Canadians believe their neighbours are following public health guidelines.
It also found that four in five Canadians believe their neighbours are strictly (29 per cent) or “somewhat strictly” (51 per cent) following health authorities’ advice including avoiding crowded places, limiting non-essential gatherings and keeping a distance of at least 2 metres from others. Fewer than one-in-five think their neighbours are not following this guidance.
Worries increased with age, as nearly 87 per cent of respondents over 55 said they were concerned about their neighbours’ physical distancing practices. About 80 per cent of responders aged 35 to 54 said the same, while fewer than 69 per cent of Canadians under age 34 agreed.
When it comes to employment, more than six-in-ten Canadians say their neighbours are worried (34 per cent) or “somewhat worried” (28 per cent) about losing their job due to COVID-19.
Almost two-thirds said their neighbours are worried (33 per cent) or “somewhat worried” (32 per cent) about paying bills.
The survey found the majority of financial worries were reported by Canadians living in the Prairies, where 68 per cent worried about job loss and 72 per cent worried about their financials.
Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,013 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between March 24th and 27th, 2020 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.
The margin of error for this survey is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
This study was commissioned by CTV News and Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.
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