|Supporters rallied in support of sex trade workers outside the Supreme Court of Canada, Jan. 19, 2012, in Ottawa ON. Ladies of the night from multiple cities converged on Ottawa, asking for the right to challenge Canada's prostitution laws. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY)
TORONTO - Sex-trade workers hope a Supreme Court of Canada decision due Thursday will quash a federal appeal against legalizing bordellos.
Since the Crown applied this spring to fight the Ontario Court of Appeal's support of a two-year-old ruling striking down Canada's prostitution laws, police have "been pretty well holding off raiding bawdy houses," Sex Professionals of Canada legal co-ordinator Valerie Scott said.
Hoping the country's top court will uphold the original Ontario Supreme Court of Justice decision by Justice Susan Himel, "we're all kind of busy getting ready," she said in an interview. "Of course, we don't know the outcome yet."
Based on Himel's decision, even if the Crown's appeal request fizzles, brothels wouldn't be legal until March, she said.
A ruling upholding the 2010 decision would immediately end the ban in Ontario against someone living off the avails of prostitution, Scott said, adding her group has filed a cross-appeal seeking clarification of that term.
"It would then be nice if the municipalities and the provinces would stop pussyfooting around and meet with us" to discuss brothel sites -- which Scott said sex-trade workers do not want in residential areas or highrises, and oppose high business fees, which "only organized crime could afford."
After the Ontario appeal court upheld Himel's ruling on a constitutional challenge by Scott, a former sex worker, dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford and prostitute Amy Lebovitch, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson demanded federal lawyers appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Bedford was convicted in 1999 of running a bawdy house in Thornhill, Ont., north of Toronto. Known as Madame de Sade's House of Erotica, it was dubbed the "Bondage Bungalow."
"It is our position that the Criminal Code provisions are constitutionally sound," Nicholson said in March.
He said "it is important to clarify the constitutionality of the law and remove the uncertainty this decision has created. The Criminal Code provisions denounce and deter the most harmful and public aspects of prostitution."
Almost half of more than 1,600 people polled by Forum Research backed the Ontario Court of Appeal decision, with 36% of respondents opposed.
Federal officials want to "retry the case" based on outdated standards that leaves sex-trade workers open to exploitation by pimps and forces many to ply their trade on potentially dangerous streets without protective staff -- who could be charged with living off the avails of prostitution -- Scott said. "They're lost in the legal corner."