Charter Challenge Launched to Strike Down Prostitution Laws

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Charter Challenge Launched to Strike Down Prostitution LawsFor Immediate Release: August 3, 2007

VANCOUVERSex workers in Vancouver today initiated a charter challenge in the BC Supreme Court asking the Court to strike down the current criminal laws relating to adult prostitution.

The Charter challenge is being brought by a registered non-profit society called Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV), a group of current and former female sex workers from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. The group has been meeting since 2005 and one aspect of their mandate is to lobby for law and policy reforms to improve the lives and working conditions of women involved in sex work.

“It can’t continue like this. Working girls are dying down here. The laws are to blame and they need to be struck down,” says Sarah, a member of SWUAV. “We asked the government to do something and there has been no action. So now we’re going to Court to ask them to make the legal changes necessary to make us safer.”

The Statement of Claim, filed today in BC Supreme Court, states that the current criminal laws expose sex workers to significant harm – physical and sexual violence, lack of access to police protection, social stigma and inequality, exploitation and murder. SWUAV will argue that the current criminal laws violate the security, liberty, equality and expression rights of sex workers, as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Katrina Pacey is counsel for SWUAV and works for Pivot Legal LLP, a law firm that operates in conjunction with Pivot Legal Society. Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C. is co-counsel on the case and has argued many leading constitutional cases at the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We intend to call evidence that will show the harmful conditions experienced by sex workers under the current criminal laws,” said Katrina Pacey “Those laws create dangerous conditions that deny the basic human rights afforded to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

SWUAV’s challenge follows on the heels of another recent Charter challenge against prostitution laws, launched by law professor Alan Young in Toronto. No trial date has yet been set for either case.

The following sections of the Criminal Code will be challenged:
Sections 212(1)(a),(b),(c),(d),(e),(f),(h) and (j) and (3), and 213 of the Criminal Code of Canada

The Plaintiff will argue that these sections violate the following sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Section 7: life, liberty and security of the person
Section 15(1): equality
Section 2(b): freedom of expression

Katrina Pacey

A full statement of claim is available upon request. Please call Katrina at the number above or email her at kpacey at pivotlegal dot com.


About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. We believe that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law.

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