The Good Governance of Empirical Evidence about Prostitution, Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking in Constitutional Litigation
56 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021 Last revised: 20 May 2021
Date Written: April 5, 2021
In Canada (AG) v Bedford, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a landmark decision unanimously striking down Canada's prostitution laws, finding that they violated section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, Parliament enacted the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), making prostitution itself unlawful for the first time in Canada. This paper considers the published peer-reviewed empirical evidence on prostitution, sex work, and sex trafficking in Canada since the PCEPA was enacted. Canada's new policy approach to prostitution focusses on the activity of prostitution rather than on the interests of sex workers, based in part on claims that prostitution cannot be made safe and is inconsistent with a gender equal society. This paper shows that the existing body of peer-reviewed empirical evidence about prostitution, sex work, and sex trafficking in Canada reflects what policy studies scholars call "issue bias." It makes suggestions for further empirical research and about how to ensure the legitimacy of the court processes, including constitutional challenges, in which this evidence is used.
Keywords: prostitution, sex work, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, expert evidence
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