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Prostitution

Vancouver Prostitution Lawyers

If you have been charged with a prostitution-related offence, you should seek advice from a good criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Prostitution-related offences can be difficult to prove, and it may not be obvious to someone who has been charged that there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case or potential defences.

The laws of Canada relating to prostitution are somewhat contradictory and confusing. Although there is a social stigma associated with prostitution or the sale of sexual services, there is actually no offence in the Criminal Code that makes it illegal for one adult to perform sexual services for another in exchange for money. There are, however, a number of offences that indirectly restrict prostitution. Some of these offences are outlined below.

Communicating in Public for the Purpose of Obtaining Sexual Services

If a person is in a “public place” or “any place open to public view” and he “in any manner communicates… for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute”, he is in breach of Section 213 of the Criminal Code. In other words, it is illegal for people to engage in any type of communication in a public place if that communication is for purchasing or selling sexual services.

The term “public place” is defined more broadly than you might think, including not only the street, but also the premises of any business that is open to the public. Consequently, a discussion in the room of a massage parlour between a man and a female sex trade worker to facilitate the purchase and sale of sexual services by the man from the sex trade worker may very well be considered a breach of Section 213 of the Criminal Code. Conviction for an offence under Section 213 of the Criminal Code is punishable by a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Keeping a “Common Bawdy House”

The term “common bawdy house” in the Criminal Code refers to what is known in everyday language as a brothel. As formally defined in the Criminal Code, a “common bawdy house” is a place that is kept or occupied or resorted to by one or more persons for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency.

Under Section 210 of the Criminal Code, any person who, “as owner, landlord, lessor, tenant, occupier… knowingly permits the place or any part thereof to be let or used for the purposes of a common bawdy house” is guilty of a criminal offence. The maximum sentence for a conviction under Section 210 is two years in jail.

Profiting from the Avails of Prostitution

Under Subsection 212(1)(j) of the Criminal Code, every one who “lives wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person” is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of ten years. Living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution basically means earning money from the sale of sexual services provided by other people. Brothel or escort agency operators (also known as madams) and pimps fit into this category. There is at least one documented case of an operator of an escort agency in Ontario being convicted under this section of the Criminal Code.

Recruiting Women into Prostitution (in or out of Canada)

It is an offence under Section 212(1)(d) to ”procure” anyone to become a prostitute. The maximum sentence upon conviction is ten years. The term “procure” means to recruit. It is not considered an offence to recruit somebody who is already a prostitute. However, it is an offence to recruit somebody whether the recruiting takes place in or out of Canada.

Prostitution and Immigration

Sections 212(f) and (g) of the Criminal Code make it an offence to bring people into Canada to engage in prostitution. Specifically, Section 212(f) makes it a criminal offence simply to take or cause a person to be taken to a common bawdy house upon arrival in Canada, while Section 212(g) makes it an offence to cause a person to enter or leave the country for the purposes of prostitution. In either case, conviction is punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years in jail.

Considerations in Enforcement of Prostitution-Related Offences

It is no secret that numerous escort agencies and massage parlours operate in Vancouver and other cities throughout the country. In fact, these businesses not only operate in the open, but also have municipal business licenses under categories such as “adult entertainment business”, “escort agency”, and “body-painting/rub studio”. Based on the common perception that these businesses sell sexual services, people wonder why they are not shut down. After all, there are numerous criminal law offences for various prostitution-related activities.

Assuming that police and prosecutors can prove that these businesses are actually committing prostitution-related offences under the Criminal Code, law enforcement officials probably turn a blind eye to some of their illegal activity for some of the following reasons:

  • street-based prostitution is probably more of a priority for law enforcement since it is a public nuisance and a politically sensitive issue
  • law enforcement may believe that street-based prostitution would increase if escort agencies and massage parlours were closed down, and therefore might be willing to tolerate them as long as they:
    • obtain necessary municipal business licenses;
    • operate in commercial districts away from schools and residential areas;
    • comply with municipal by-law requirements pertaining to hours of operation, registration of personnel, dress codes, and building design;
    • keep the peace and avoid disturbing the public;
    • employ only adults;
    • do not import and exploit workers from other countries;
    • do not permit other criminal activity to take place at their businesses.