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Sex work laws in Canada: Constitutional challenge



TORONTO –Ontario’s Superior Court dismissed a Charter challenge launched by groups advocating for the rights of sex workers, ruling Monday that Canada’s criminal laws on sex work are constitutional.

In a 142-page decision, Justice Robert Goldstein wrote that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act — brought in by the former Conservative federal government — balances the prohibition of “the most exploitative aspects of the sex trade” with protecting sex workers from legal prosecution.

“I find that Parliament’s response to a pressing and substantial concern is a carefully crafted legislative scheme … The offences minimally impair the Charter rights of sex workers,” Goldstein wrote. “The offences also permit sex workers to take safety measures.”

Goldstein found that sections of the Criminal Code outlawing communications or the stopping of traffic for the purpose of selling sexual services were constitutionally compliant and do not prevent sex workers from taking safety measures, engaging the services of non-exploitative third parties or seeking police assistance.


The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform had argued in court last fall that the laws ushered in under former prime minister Stephen Harper fostered stigma, invited targeted violence and prevented sex workers from obtaining meaningful consent before engaging with clients — violating the industry workers’ Charter rights.

The alliance, which formed in 2012, represents 25 sex-worker organizations across Canada.

The new sex-work laws were passed in 2014, about a year after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down previous anti-prostitution laws. Even though prostitution was legal under previous laws, nearly all related activities — such as running a brothel, acting as a third-party manager and communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution — were against the law.

The new act made it against the law to pay for sexual services and for businesses to profit from it, and made communicating to buy sexual services a criminal offence. Sex workers themselves, however, are immune from prosecution for selling or advertising their services, as are non-exploitative third parties who materially benefit.

The sex workers’ alliance argued last October that the new laws are more restrictive than what they replaced and force sex workers, and people who work with them, to operate in the context of criminalization. Lawyers representing transgender, Indigenous and Black sex workers also argued the new laws disproportionately harm marginalized groups.

The alliance has said there shouldn’t be any criminal laws specific to sex work and advocates for a more regulated industry.

The federal government argued that legalization would lead to an in increase human trafficking, and the sex-work laws’ main objective is to “target and end the demand for sexual services.”

Goldstein wrote in his decision that decriminalization and regulation of sex work may be better policy choices, but that is up to Parliament, not the court, to decide.

“My duty is solely to determine whether the legislative scheme is Charter-compliant,” he said, also noting Canada’s approach mirrors those of what he called other free and democratic societies — Sweden, Norway, France and Israel included.

Among his key findings were that, when properly interpreted, the country’s laws do not prevent sex workers from working with each other or third parties who do not exploit them, such as security guards, or from seeking police assistance without fear of being charged for their work.

Goldstein wrote that much of the evidence provided in the case was coloured by limitations to available research on sex work in Canada, biases from witnesses on both sides as well as disagreements about the nature of the industry, like the number or percentage of those who enter or operate in the industry by choice rather than coercion or exploitative means such as human trafficking.

He further found that third parties can be exploiters or traffickers, as well as legitimate services such as security or booking services.

“Where a customer purchases sex, there is a significant possibility that the sex worker has been trafficked, manipulated, lured, forced and/or coerced into providing sexual services,” Goldstein wrote.

“Even where a sex worker has entered the sex trade by choice, there is a significant possibility that she has become subject to the control of an exploiter or a trafficker.”

Jenn Clamen, a co-ordinator with the sex workers’ alliance, said sex workers across Canada are “extremely devastated” by the ruling, finding it “not just insulting but also ignorant.”

“We find it extremely dismissive towards not just the systemic harms that sex workers outlined … but also that were outlined in the extensive record that we submitted,” through both research and testimony from sex workers, Clamen said.

The alliance took particular issue with Goldstein’s finding that there’s no “constitutional ‘right’ to engage in sex work” — which Clamen said they never legally argued — and his characterizations that sex workers misunderstand the laws, as well as conflations made between sex work and violence or human trafficking, Clamen said.

“It’s extremely patronizing to suggest that people who live in the application, the harms and the consequences of those laws every day don’t understand them,” she said.

The alliance plans to appeal the decision, Clamen said, while continuing to press the government to create a health-and-safety framework for sex work.

A government spokesperson said Attorney General Arif Virani was “carefully reviewing the decision.”

“Our government will always work to ensure that our criminal laws effectively meet their objectives, keep all Canadians safe, and are consistent with the Charter,” spokesperson Chantalle Aubertin wrote in a statement.

A House of Commons justice committee review last year of the new 2014 laws on sex work found the laws made sex work more dangerous. The committee asked the government to strengthen the Criminal Code by making additional resources available to victims and law enforcement combating exploitation.

Then-attorney general David Lametti acknowledged the laws were “divisive” and that more must be done to address the risks and harms sex workers face.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.


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'ET Canada' cancelled by Corus Entertainment, blames 'challenging' advertising market – CTV News



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Entertainment Tonight Canada to end after 18 seasons



A woman wearing a large pink dress holds a microphone and speaks to a camera while attending a red carpet event.
Cheryl Hickey, longtime host of ET Canada, speaks to the camera on the red carpet of the 2019 Canadian Country Music Awards at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. ET Canada will end on Oct. 6 after 18 seasons. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Canadian media company Corus Entertainment has announced it is ending flagship entertainment program Entertainment Tonight (ET) Canada after 18 seasons.

“The costs of producing a daily entertainment newsmagazine show in a challenging advertising environment have led to this decision,” read a statement posted on the company’s website on Wednesday.

“We recognize the impact this decision has on the dedicated team who have worked on the show and we thank them for their meaningful contributions over the years.”

The show’s final episode will air on Oct. 6, with reruns airing in the same time slot on Global TV until Oct. 31, a Corus spokesperson told CBC News.


The cancellation won’t impact Corus’s obligation to produce Canadian content under the rules set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the spokesperson said.

ET Canada’s website and social media platforms will also be shut down. The spokesperson declined to comment on how many people had been laid off as a result, but said the program’s hosts were impacted.

The network said it has no plans for another entertainment news show.


An hour-long, magazine-style show that focused on entertainment, celebrity, film and TV news, ET Canada began airing in 2005 on Global TV, which is owned by Corus Entertainment.

The program has been hosted by Canadian media personality Cheryl Hickey since its launch, with regular appearances by entertainment reporters, including Sangita Patel — a co-host since 2022 — plus Carlos Bustamante, Keshia Chanté and Morgan Hoffman.

The cancellation leaves ETalk, CTV’s weeknight show, as Canada’s lone major entertainment news program.

Andrea Grau, founder and CEO of entertainment publicity firm Touchwood PR, said ET Canada offered a Canadian perspective that made it stand out in the U.S.-dominated entertainment landscape.

“There was this great Entertainment Tonight brand that was going on in the U.S. — we all watched. And the idea of a Canadian arm of it was very special because it could give a different slant,” she said.

ET Canada’s demise comes during a major shift in the industry, she said, as publicists struggle to find entertainment outlets that can shine a spotlight on emerging Canadian artists and projects.

“Even though we share a language with the U.S. and we share pop culture, we are still Canadian and we have a different perspective,” Grau said, noting that ET Canada’s hosts were a mainstay on the U.S. press circuit.

“You see those relationships that have been built over the years of having Sangita [Patel] standing on a red carpet interviewing someone, or Cheryl Hickey interviewing someone. They’re recognizable to [celebrities] after all of these years, too,” she said. “They’ve created such a strong brand.”


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Canada just had its lowest number of births in 17 years. What’s behind it?



The number of babies born in Canada dropped to a 17-year-low last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a declining fertility rate, data shows.

A Statistics Canada report released Tuesday showed there were 351,679 births registered across the country in 2022, which was a five per cent decrease from the previous year. This was Canada’s sharpest drop recorded since 2005.

Before 2022, the lowest number of births recorded was in 2005, with 345,044 babies born nationwide.


While the number of births in all provinces and territories declined last year, Nova Scotia was the notable outlier with a 12.8 per cent increase in live births.

The biggest decrease was in Nunavut, with the number of births dropping 11.8 per cent compared with 2021.

Canada, like many other developed countries, has been seeing declining birth trends over the past several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many people’s plans to have kids, said Kate Choi, an associate professor of sociology at Western University.

“Although the fertility decline was indeed part of a larger trend of fertility decreases that have been occurring in Canada, the magnitude of the decrease is larger than what we would have anticipated in the absence of COVID-19,” she told Global News in an interview.

Click to play video: 'Infertility: Shedding light on a common problem'

Infertility: Shedding light on a common problem

The high cost of living has magnified the size of the drop in births, Choi said.

“It’s very expensive to have children and right now, when everything is expensive, it’s very hard for young adults to be able to have the type of lifestyle that allows them to have children, which is contributing to delayed and forgone fertility,” she added.

It’s a concerning trend for Canada, according to Choi, who said decreasing birth rates have the potential to exacerbate population aging issues.

Canada is considered a low-fertility country and its fertility rate has been declining over the past decade.

The latest Statistics Canada data from 2021 reported a fertility rate of 1.44 children per woman that year — marking a slight increase following a steady decline since 2009.

The fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of live births a female can be expected to have in her lifetime, according to StatCan.

As some couples delay their plans to have kids for a variety of reasons, egg freezing and other fertility treatments are on the rise in Canada.

Click to play video: 'More IVF babies born after summer egg collection: study'

More IVF babies born after summer egg collection: study

Lifestyle changes and work decisions are contributing factors, with a shift toward smaller families, said Mark Rosenberg, an expert in geography and professor emeritus at Queen’s University.

“I think mainly the factors we should focus on are first and foremost women’s decisions around the labour force and delaying birth until they’re in their 30s,” he told Global News in an interview.

There is also an increasing number of younger people living in single-person households, Rosenberg added.

Despite the drop in births, Canada’s population has been growing at a “record-setting pace,” surpassing the milestone of 40 million people earlier this year, due to a focus on increasing immigration.

Meanwhile, the StatCan report Tuesday also showed a rise in the proportion of babies who were born with a low birth weight — less than 2,500 grams.

Seven per cent of all babies had a low birth weight in 2022 compared with 6.6 per cent the year before.

Babies with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of complications, such as inhibited growth and development and even death, according to StatCan.

“When we see higher rates of low birth weight babies or higher rates of babies that are born who are overweight, those are issues that we should be concerned about because they reflect on people’s health,” Rosenberg said.

— with files from Global News’ Katherine Ward


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