Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ontario Appeal Court Allows Religious, Conservative Groups to Intervene in Sex Workers' Charter Challenge

The Ontario Cout of Appeal has reversed a July 2009 decision by Superior Court Justice Ted Matlow that refused intervenor status to Christian Legal Fellowship, REAL Women of Canada and the Catholic Civil Rights League in a challenge by Canadian sex-trade activists of the constitutionality of Canada's prostitution laws.

An Ontario judge was wrong to prohibit two religious groups and a conservative women's group from supporting the country's prostitution laws at a coming constitutional challenge, the Ontario Court of Appeal said Tuesday.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeal court said that the groups have a legitimate contribution to make to an issue that has a clear moral dimension.

It ruled that Mr. Justice Ted Matlow of the Ontario Superior Court misunderstood the case and used flawed reasoning when he concluded that groups would be out of place making moral arguments during the trial.

...Scheduled to begin next month, the challenge was launched by three activists connected to the sex trade – Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott. They want the court to strike down laws against communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house.

The challenge will focus on whether prostitution laws violate a constitutional guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person by exposing sex workers to danger.

...Yesterday's ruling was issued by judges Stephen Goudge, Eleanore Cronk and Gloria Epstein.

See Mr. Justice Matlow's original ruling: Bedford v. Canada (Attorney General), 2009 CanLII 33518 (ON S.C.)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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