Assessing Evidence, Arguments, and Inequality in Bedford v. Canada

86 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2012 Last revised: 9 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014


Until recently, Canada criminalized anyone who lived "wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person,” and anyone who kept, controlled, or knowingly permitted a “bawdy-house” for prostitution. The Supreme Court of Canada found that these laws prevented brothel management, escort agencies, bodyguards, or drivers from enhancing the safety and well-being of prostituted persons in indoor locations. This article assesses the evidence relied on by courts to strike down the laws, finding that evidence was misrepresented and misevaluated, thus did not support their decision. Empirical evidence shows that prostitution is an unequal practice of sexual and economic exploitation to which prostituted people generally lack real or acceptable alternatives. Pimps and brothel-owners in general make their situations worse, not better. The two invalidated provisions facilitate prosecution of pimps and other third party profiteers more effectively than existing trafficking laws. By invalidating these provisions, Canada will expose prostituted people to predators while protecting their exploiters. Their decisions overturn previous precedents that shielded prostituted people from abusive pimps, and violate Canada’s commitment to promote equality among historically disadvantaged people, such as those in prostitution. Charter principles of substantive equality call for retaining laws that put exploiters — pimps and brothel-owners — out of business, while invalidating any fines or criminal laws imposed on prostituted persons, measures that preclude their opportunities and exit. Civil damages actions on behalf of prostituted people and effective criminal laws against purchase of people for sex would also promote their substantive equality.

Note: © Max Waltman 2012, 2013, 2014

Keywords: Prostitution, Trafficking, Exploitation, Inequality, Canada, Charter, Section 15, Substantive Equality, Intersectionality, Multiple Disadvantages

Suggested Citation

Waltman, Max, Assessing Evidence, Arguments, and Inequality in Bedford v. Canada (2014). Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, Vol. 37, pp. 459-544 (2014)., Available at SSRN: or

Max Waltman (Contact Author)

Halmstad University ( email )

Department of Political Science,
School of Education, Humanities, & Social Sciences
Halmstad, 30118

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