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Professor Alan Young calls appeal of prostitution-decriminalization ruling ‘knee-jerk’

Professor Alan Young calls appeal of prostitution-decriminalization ruling ‘knee-jerk’

Last September, Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down three provisions in Canada's Criminal Code: living off the avails of prostitution; keeping a common bawdy house; and communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, reported the Kingston Whig-Standard Feb. 18, in a series examining the local sex trade:

“These laws," wrote Justice Himel, "individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." It was hailed as a breakthrough by those in the sex trade.

Until, that is, the federal and provincial governments appealed. A decision is expected this spring.

. . .

For Alan Young, the York University law professor [at Osgoode Hall Law School] who represented one of the sex workers in the superior court case, the communication section is "the least important aspect of the case."

"It was always about bawdy house," said Young. "The idea was to provide the safe house, a safe place to work. If anything is achieved by the case it's that. I also don't like living off the avails because it's overly broad."

In his years of fighting legal battles on behalf of sex workers, Young said he's discovered a flourishing underground economy — "you'd be surprised at some of these little businesses," he said — but even he doesn't have a handle on the number of workers across the country.

"Nobody knows," he said. "It's a very ill-defined profession."

Around the time of the fall ruling, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said prostitution was "bad for society."

Young describes the federal government's appeal of the ruling as "knee-jerk" and "ideologically driven." He's outspoken in his hope that by the time the ruling is given, the current government will have lost a spring election.

York Research covered Young's involvement in the initial ruling on September 30; Osgoode Hall students also played a role in the ruling.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.