Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Making Bad Laws Worse

Jun 6, 2014

The federal government appears to want to take a bad situation and make it worse.

The proposed revamp of the prostitution laws announced this week in Ottawa conforms to Stephen Harper's tough-on-crime agenda. Instead of decriminalizing activities surrounding prostitution, it proposes to criminalize even more of them. Under the new legislation it would be illegal to buy sexual services -- but not to provide them -- or to advertise them.

The feds are responding to last year's Supreme Court decision that current laws concerning prostitution are unconstitutional, mainly because they put sex workers at risk. But I agree with those who argue that the new proposals will only succeed in pushing prostitutes deeper into the shadows where they are fair game for predators.

There are serious problems associated with the sex trade, mainly involving youth and on-street exploitation. But the proposed changes do nothing to improve the situation for those truly at risk, while creating a whole new class of criminals to fill Mr. Harper's jails.

(If you wish some historical perspective on these matters, might I humbly suggest you read my book Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver's Sex Trade?)