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Prostitution bill outlaws purchase of sex, takes aim at pimps

Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford outside an Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto, Monday, Nov.22, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim.

The Conservative government has introduced legislation to criminalize the purchase of sexual services.

The long-awaited bill would also crack down on those who reap a material benefit from prostitution.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the “made-in-Canada” model is aimed at targeting johns and pimps while protecting the vulnerable.

The new prostitution-related offences are intended to reduce demand for sexual services and protect those who sell such services from exploitation, as well as shield children and communities, the government says.

The bill would create new offences for:

— The purchase of sexual services and communicating in any place for that purpose.

— Receiving a financial or material benefit from the prostitution of others, including through businesses that sell the sexual services of others online or out of venues such as escort agencies, massage parlours, or strip clubs that also provide sexual services.

— Advertising the sale of sexual services in print media or on the Internet.

— Communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where a child could reasonably be expected to be present.

The legislation is the government’s response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision in December that struck down key provisions of the country’s prostitution laws.

While the court ruled the laws were unconstitutional, it gave the government a year to replace them.

Under the old laws, prostitution itself was legal but almost all related activities — including communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and running a brothel — were criminal offences.

The new bill comes just two days after the Justice Department released the results of an online consultation which showed that a slim majority of respondents felt that buying sex should be illegal.

However, two-thirds of the more than 31,000 respondents said selling sex should not be an offence.