Canada's Prostitution Laws

Bill C-36: The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA)
What are Canada's Laws?

Canada's laws on prostitution came into force on December 6, 2014. These laws—embodied in the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, or PCEPA—regards prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately impacts women and girls.

Canada's laws are based on Sweden's laws, known as the Nordic Model or the Equality Model. PCEPA follows the same approach as the Equality Model to curb sexual exploitation: buyers of sex and third parties are charged while individuals selling sex are given immunity from criminal prosecution. It recognizes that violence and psychological harm are prevalent regardless of where or how prostitution takes place. The goal is to reduce exploitation by diminishing the demand for paid sex and to offer alternatives and supports to those impacted by this harmful system.

Although adopted in late 2014, PCEPA has yet to be fully implemented and adequately enforced across Canada. However, there have been positive outcomes in the jurisdictions that have embraced it and this is an opportunity to expand application and supports across the country.

[PCEPA] seeks to protect the dignity and equality of all Canadians by denouncing and prohibiting the purchase of sexual services, the exploitation of the prostitution of others, the development of economic interests in the sexual exploitation of others and the institutionalization of prostitution through commercial enterprises, such as strip clubs, massage parlours and escort agencies that offer sexual services for sale. It also seeks to encourage victims to report incidents of violence to the police and to leave prostitution.

Government Fact Sheet on PCEPA

Recent Events

In September 2023, Justice Goldstein of the Ontario Superior Court ruled to uphold Canada's prostitution laws, dismissing the constitutional challenge made against the laws by sex industry advocates in 2021. Read his ruling and see our statement about the ruling.

The ruling has been appealed by the original applicants. The case will proceed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario at a date TBA.

Our Work

October 2022: Appeared as Intervenor in Ontario Superior Court hearing

On October 7, 2022, we intervened to assist the Court by drawing on our unique experience and survivor-informed expertise relating to sexual exploitation. The hearing was in regard to an Application brought by the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform and individual sex workers against the Attorney General. The Application is challenging the constitutionality of various provisions of the criminal code related to Canada's prostitution laws. We continue to await the judge's decision.

Learn More
March 2022: Witness to Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

On March 22, 2022 we were appeared as a witness to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as they reviewed PCEPA.

Feb 2022: Brief Presented to Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

In Feb 2022 we submitted a brief to the Justice and Human Rights Parliamentary Committee as they reviewed PCEPA.

Read Full Brief
July 2014: Brief Presented to Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

In July 2014 we presented a brief to the Justice and Human Rights Parliamentary Committee as they gave consideration to adopting PCEPA.

Read Full Brief

Our Position

We believe in a Canada:

  • that recognizes that every person has intrinsic worth and value and should be treated with dignity; every person whether rich or poor, whether male or female, whether living in a mansion or on a street corner, no matter their race or colour.
  • where it is not the norm to be able to purchase sex.
  • that protects all women and children from the inherent violence and oppression of prostitution.
  • that does not see prostitution as a solution to female poverty.
  • that works to end the systemic issues of poverty, homelessness, addictions and mental health concerns that are tied to prostitution.
  • that works collaboratively, with all people, to end prostitution.
  • where future generations will grow up knowing that no human being should be bought or sold.

On The Full Decriminalization of Prostitution

You may have heard arguments for the full decriminalization of prostitution such as exists in countries like New Zealand. It is clear that this type of system only expands the sex industry: as demand for sex buying increases, so too does the need for a "supply" of women providing sexual services.

"And who makes up this supply? Predominantly it is the poor, the racialized, and the vulnerable."
Trisha Baptie, Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating (EVE)

Far from being a vehicle for empowerment, the full decriminalization model undermines gender equality by legitimizing and commodifying male violence against women's bodies. This type of system is a gift to traffickers, pimps, and exploiters who will have financial incentive to try to skirt the law and make money off of victims. And it is a trap for poor and racialized individuals.

For further reading, check out Janice G. Raymond's paper 10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution.

Our video "End Demand, End Exploitation" features several sex industry survivors as well as a crown prosecutor discussing Canada's prostitution laws, as well as the reality of what full decriminalization would look like.