Canada Has New Prostitution Law, Targets Buyers of Sexual Services

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | June 5, 2014 12:02 PM EST

Canada's Justice Minister Peter MacKay takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2014. Prostitutes in Canada will generally be allowed to sell their services but for the first time it will be a crime to buy sex from them under a government bill introduced by MacKay on Wednesday to replace legislation the Supreme Court struck down in December. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Canada's Justice Minister Peter MacKay takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2014. Prostitutes in Canada will generally be allowed to sell their services but for the first time it will be a crime to buy sex from them under a government bill introduced by MacKay on Wednesday to replace legislation the Supreme Court struck down in December. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Canada has a new prostitution law that targets more the buyers of sexual services rather than those who sell it.

Pimps and anyone else who pockets profits or advertises the sexual services of a seller are likewise targeted in the new law.

Convicted offenders who bought sexual services could spend up to five years in jail. Fines range from $1,000 to $4,000. And if the exchange happened in public places, in parks or near schools, more severe penalties could be slapped.

"We're targeting Johns and pimps, those that treat sexual services as a commodity," AFP quoted Justice Minister and Attorney General Peter MacKay.

"I'm devastated and heartbroken ... It's essentially full re-criminalization," Caroline Newcastle told the Star, pointing to the ban from advertising on a Web site or communicating online with clients regarding safe sex practices or fees for service.

Read: Survey Shows Canada Divided on Sex Worker Policy; Majority Thinks Selling Sex Should Not Be Considered Illegal

MacKay said the bill likewise aims to help women exit the prostitution trade. "The bill . . . recognizes that the vast majority of those that sell sexual services do not do so by choice. We view the vast majority of those involved in selling sexual services as victims."

However, a report by the Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, a coalition of Canadian prostitutes, obtained by the Star, said the new law will only further endanger the women already engaged in the trade.

Cida Vieira, president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, looks for clients along a street in Belo Horizonte, November 5, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 10 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'
Cida Vieira, president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, looks for clients along a street in Belo Horizonte, November 5, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 10 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'

The society's report focused on the Vancouver Police Department which has been targeting and arresting "clients" or "johns" over the past five years, essentially curbing street-based sex trade.

Prostitutes in Vancouver, however, found the scheme all the more dangerous for them because it exposes them to "significant safety and health risks" which include "displacement to isolated spaces; inability to screen clients or safely negotiate terms of transactions; and inability to access police protection."

But MacKay said the new legislation was not made to immediately end the trade.

"This will not be a legislative response that will answer all the ills associated with prostitution," said MacKay. "If there were a perfect black and white, simple answer, after thousands of years, I think it would have been discovered."

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(Photo: / )
Canada's Justice Minister Peter MacKay takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2014. Prostitutes in Canada will generally be allowed to sell their services but for the first time it will be a crime to buy sex from them under a government bill introduced by MacKay on Wednesday to replace legislation the Supreme Court struck down in December. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
(Photo: / )
Cida Vieira, president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, looks for clients along a street in Belo Horizonte, November 5, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 10 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'
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