C a n a d a ' s C u r r e n t L a w s

Canada's current prostitution laws initially intended to keep prostitution illegal. Nevertheless, the law has been played out in such a way that technically it is not illegal to be a prostitute in Canada. Many activities related to prostitution are illegal and women bear the brunt of this. Illegal activities include soliciting, procuring, living off the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house, which are found in sections 210 to 213 of the Criminal Code. It is important to note that there are several provisions in the Criminal Code that could be used to protect women in prostitution but are grossly underused. Provisions such as laws prohibiting abduction, confinement, various types of assault, human trafficking, intimidation and theft are rarely used to protect prostituted women, while the burden of proof in an instance of rape remains on the victim. Before attempting to repeal the following provisions in the Criminal Code, Canada needs to make an honest attempt at using existing laws to protect all women from violence and Canada needs to use existing laws to prosecute johns and abusers effectively. Click here for more information regarding gender imbalance in the use of Canadian prostitution laws.

Keeping a Common Bawdy House: section 210 (1): It is illegal for an owner, landlord, tenant, agent or property manager to knowingly allow their property or any part of the premises to be used as a place for prostitution (sex for money).

Being an Inmate of Common Bawdy House section 210 (2): It is illegal to work or live in a space that is used as a space where sex for money takes place.

Notice of Conviction of Keeping a Common Bawdy House section 210 (3) (4): When a person is convicted of keeping a common bawdy house [section 210 (1)], the court serves a notice to the landlord, property owner or manager saying that the tenant or occupier has been convicted of this offense. The landlord is then expected to take all reasonable steps to evict the person charged, and if he or she doesn't and the person gets charged again then the landlord or property owner will also be charged.

Transportation of a Person to a Common Bawdy House section 211: It is illegal to take, offer to take, or direct anyone to a common bawdy house.

Procuring section 212 (1): It is illegal to influence a person who is not a sex worker to become a sex worker, whether inside or outside Canada.

Exercising Control, Direction or Influence section 212 (1) (h): It is illegal to control the movements of a sex worker or force a sex worker to work for gain or profit.

Living on the avails section 212 (1) (J): It is illegal for anyone who lives with or who is habitually in the company of a sex worker to live partly or wholly on the income made from a sex worker. The purpose of this law is to target pimps who receive a portion of a sex worker’s earnings.

An escort service is guilty of section 212 if it profits from the prostitution (most escort agencies say they only charge for the companionship and time) of its employees.

Communication for the purposes of prostitution section 213: It is illegal for a sex worker and client to talk openly in public about exchanging money for sex. Public places include vehicles, parking lots, restaurants/bars, hotel lobbies, streets, or any place that the public has access to or that the public can view. A non-public place would be a hotel room, apartment or house (apartments and homes can be at risk through the bawdy house laws). It is also illegal to stop or attempt to stop or impede motor or pedestrian traffic.

Indecent act -- section 173 (1): also called exposure. Most people think this only applies to flashers or other perverts, but if a john and a prostitute are engaging in a sex act in a public place they can both be charged with this offense if they intended to offend passerby, or if the act takes place in the presence of other persons. Other offenses that might apply are sexual interference (section 151) and even sexual assault (section 271) if the prostitute is under 14; invitation to sexual touching (section 152); sexual exploitation (section 153); anal intercourse (section 159); and, child pornography provisions (section 163.1).

Loitering: Loitering is not illegal. In the past, prostitutes could be arrested under vagrancy laws if they were standing for some time on a street corner. These laws were repealed some time ago. Police can only encourage prostitutes to move from a certain location. They cannot arrest them unless they are doing something illegal.

Criminal code summary borrowed from CIHS Toolkit.
Click here to view the full criminal code.