Sex Work By Law: Bedford's Impact on the Municipal Regulation of the Sex Trade

Elaine Craig


The recent Ontario trial decision in Bedford suggests three interrelated principles that municipal law makers should consider when formulating bylaws aimed at regulating sex work. These principles, if upheld on appeal, will inform the constitutionality of both current and prospective bylaws regulating sex work in Canadian cities.

In Bedford, Justice Himel concluded that the constitutionality of laws regulating the sex trade must be determined in a legal context which recognizes the violence faced by sex workers. She confirmed that laws that indirectly make sex work more dangerous and harmful must be consistent with those principles that our legal system, through its courts, have deemed fundamental to a just society. She recognized that in a just society a government is not entitled to jeopardize the health and physical safety of sex workers for the sake of reducing public nuisance. In order to ensure the constitutional validity of proposed bylaws, municipal lawmakers will therefore need to consider the impact their bylaws have on the safety of sex workers.


Constitutional Law; Public Law; Gender and Sexuality; SCC Cases

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