News Brief For Escort Agencies and Independents in Canada

Progressive Escort Industry News Concerning the Laws for Advertising and Business Operations

News Brief For Escort Agencies and Independents in Canada

While we don’t consider escorts to be sex workers or prostitutes and we feel there is a clear distinction between the two professions, we acknowledge that escorts almost always have to be open minded because men are seeking full companionship. Like in most intimate relationships, there is usually an element of intimacy.

For this reason, the overturning of the laws associated with prostitution (not prostitution itself since prostitution was never illegal in Canada) is crucial to the advancement of the escort industry.

We would have preferred that the plaintiffs be escorts instead of sex workers aka prostitutes, but since that is not the situation, we can only deal with what we have.

For this reason, we encourage all people who are in favour of the escort industry (escorts, escort agency owners, clients of escorts, friends and family of people who work in the escort industry, or just supporters in general) to sign our petition while this topic is HOT!

The laws on the books now (mostly written in the 1960s, some much earlier)

Canadian law presents a paradox when it comes to prostitution.  While the act of prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada, the law severely restricts the manner in which prostitution may be practiced.  The laws were originally intended to reduce the blight (negative impact on neighborhoods) caused by street prostitution and to protect women from the violence and control of pimps. Unfortunately they have had the unfortunate effect of rendering any organized escort service illegal regardless of the improvements they provide both in the areas of safety and normal business operations.  In fact, government leaders have expressed no need to criminalize prostitution, since in virtually every case one or all of the following parties (the escort service owner, the escort herself, or the customer who hires her) has violated the law in some way when any act of prostitution occurs.

The primary laws that affect the business operations of escort services and independent escorts are the following:

  • Communicating for the purpose of prostitution

    This law is intended to curb street prostitution and customers propositioning women on the street which prevents any kind of solicitation in a public place.

    Courts have interpreted the “public place” requirement to mean any offers or soliciting that takes place on the street, in a public establishment such as a casino or hotel bar, or anywhere that involves one party in a vehicle while the other party is outside.

    Places and means of communication that have been held acceptable (not) “public” for purposes of this law are:  Hotel rooms, private homes, when both parties are within the same vehicle, direct telephone, text or e-mail communication, and any location where both parties would otherwise have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    “Communicating” generally does not include print or internet advertising, but is acceptable if done by the prostitute, not third parties such as escort agencies or others operating on her behalf.  Most law enforcement agencies in Canada believe that except in areas where escort agencies are allowed and regulated (generally in BC), virtually any advertisement by an escort service violates this law.

  • Keeping or being within a “Bawdy House

    Again, intending to curb neighborhood blight and concentrations of prostitutes –  the laws prohibit most forms of incall prostitution, whether involving the woman’s home or regular use of some other premises such as a particular hotel.

    Hotel operators or landlords with knowledge of prostitution activities taking place on their premises may be prosecuted, as well as others “found within” such premises who have knowledge of what is happening there.  Examples would include domestic partners and roommates.

  • Living off the profits (avails) of prostitution

    This law essentially makes it a crime for anyone other than the prostitute themselves to profit from the act.  Designed to protect women from street pimps, the law operationally makes the business of running an escort agency illegal since generally speaking, escort agencies share the fees paid by agency customers along with the escort and others.  If the escort agency owners know (or reasonably should know) that acts of prostitution are occurring, then receiving money is considered living off the avails of prostitution.

    This applies whether the money comes directly from the escort agency’s customers, or from the escort herself with the escort agency retaining some portion of the proceeds.

    As the law stood, it does not matter if the money being split with the escort service owner’s is to cover operating costs, driver’s fees, advertising, etc. Bottom line, any escort service owner or any non-escort support staff who receives earnings from acts of others’ prostitution falls under this law.

These laws combine to severely restrict the ability of escort agencies to advertise their services and create a difficult scenario where an escort service must adopt a business image similar to their counterparts in the United States.  In the US escort services can only operate by clearly advertising that the transaction is not for sex at all, but only for the time and companionship of the escort.

Escort agency owners must disclaim any knowledge of what happens between the escorts and the customers therefore potentially increasing the risk of harm to everyone involved (the escort, the escort agency owner and support staff).

Most escort services contractually prohibit their escorts from engaging in sex acts with customers for money and this denial increases the following:

  • the likelihood of disease
  • society feels it has carte blanche to make fun of, judge and degrade anyone involved in the escort industry
  • deep emotional scarring on the psyche of the escort – the denial of the reality of the escort industry convinces escorts and those around them that they are doing something morally and criminally wrong. This extreme stress leads to drug and alcohol abuse and most everyone hiding from society and living in fear. Stress and fear is no humane way to live life.
  • welcomes and encourages criminals into the escort industry and
  • potential physical harm to both the escort or the client (although it’s on the very low end of the scale, escorts who are raped or physically abused by clients or their buddies don’t often go to the police. Instead of being forced into only providing outcalls where the premise is unknown to the escort, if escorts and escort agency owners were free to provide incalls, there would be less potential harm to the escort.)
  • armed robbery of either the escort’s money or the escort agency’s money
  • extorting (blackmailing) money from either the escort or the escort agency owner (examples of who extorts is the mafia, biker gangs, dirty cops, etc.)
  • some customers think they can abuse escorts physically, sexually and emotionally because the escort industry is closeted and cloaked in shame. Studies have never been done to determine how many escorts are raped or gang raped because people think “they have it coming”

In order to comply with the law, escort agencies in Canada seeking to advertise whether over the internet or in print media, will need to take a purely “money for time and companionship” stance in their communications.  Independent escorts are generally not held to these standards.  In Canada there are ample examples of individual escorts advertising in print media and on the internet stating specific acts and prices.  In Canada, almost everything that involves third parties then becomes a crime.

The Great News Regarding Changing the Prostitution Laws

On September 30, 2010, Judge Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court, the highest Court in Ontario, ruled in a case involving three current or former sex workers who self-identify primarily as street prostitutes.

The judge stated that the three criminal laws outlined above violate the Canadian Constitution in various respects.  Essentially the Court’s findings determined that these laws impaired the ability of women to safely practice prostitution (a legal occupation in Canada) and operate as legitimate businesses.

How this helps the escort industry:

  • if it is no longer illegal for a third party to accept proceeds from an act of prostitution, escort services will be able to operate openly and without the legal fiction they now require.
  • Advertising will become much less of a gray area, and women who choose to associate with escort agencies will be on a level playing field with independents.

What has taken place since the laws were overturned

The Justice Minister has appealed this decision on behalf of the Federal government.  As a result, implementation of this decision has been stayed until February 12, 2011. This has been conditional based on the parties agreeing to an expedited appeals process that would permit the appeal to be heard and decided by that date.  In the event the appeal is not over by that date, it is anticipated that the mandated changes will go into effect, though another decision by the courts could still reverse even that result so we end up back right where we started from.

At about the same time, the highest Court in British Columbia agreed to change course and permit an advocacy group for sex workers to intervene in a similar case that has been pending there since 2008.  Although some cities within that province have licensing and regulatory schemes in place that permit escort agencies to operate and advertise openly notwithstanding the Federal laws described above, there has been a push by sex workers and advocacy groups in the province of British Columbia to have those laws reversed with the effect being that all escort agencies and escorts can operate in an open free society.

Escort agencies as well as independent escorts are well advised to keep in touch with The Escort Law Review as we come across developments in these cases.

While the affirming (or upholding) of the Ontario decision will only affect that Province initially, because the Canadian Supreme Court (the federal governing body) is now involved in the case, a positive ruling by them could well have national effect.

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