Regulating Sex Work in Canada

Public Law, Issue 3, pp. 387-396, July 2012

11 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2012 Last revised: 23 Jun 2013

See all articles by Suzanne Bouclin

Suzanne Bouclin

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: July 2, 2012


Recent developments in Canada provide geographic and social specificity to a policy discussion occurring around ‘sex work’ throughout the global North. The policies in various jurisdictions highlight and reinforce the ontological and epistemological disagreements between abolitionists and sex workers’ rights advocates and their respective policy proposals – neo-abolition or decriminalization. Both regimes elicit strong criticism. The former uses shaming tactics against sellers and forces transactions into more remote, poorly lit areas. The latter may require workers to register with municipal authorities and carry identification yet still enforce strict penalties for people working in the illegal and unregulated sector. With these other models in the fore, I give an overview of legal and political landscape regulating sex work in Canada. I discuss the policy proposals informed by diverging feminist understandings of sex work. I encourage a reorientation in Canadian policy approaches that moves away from these artificial binaries, or what has come to be known as the agency v. constraint debates.

Keywords: sex work, Bedford, feminism, agency, criminal law

Suggested Citation

Bouclin, Suzanne, Regulating Sex Work in Canada (July 2, 2012). Public Law, Issue 3, pp. 387-396, July 2012, Available at SSRN:

Suzanne Bouclin (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5

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