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Justice Minister Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Friday, March 5, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick)
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Friday, March 5, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick)

Ottawa contests prostitution ruling Add to ...

The federal and Ontario governments say they will appeal a controversial court judgment that struck down Canada's prostitution laws.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told the House of Commons on Wednesday that prostitution "harms individuals and communities."

"That is why I am pleased to indicate to the House that the government will appeal and will seek a stay of that decision."

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Ontario Attorney-General Chris Bentley quickly followed suit, saying the province will join in the appeal to the province's top court.

Mr. Bentley said the laws "protect people from being lured or coerced into prostitution, they protect people from being under domination of those who would prey, and they protect communities from the adverse effects of prostitution-related activities."

Prostitution is not illegal in Canada, but an Ontario Superior Court judge court struck down three provisions that criminalized most aspects of it.

Madam Justice Susan Himel ruled Tuesday that laws against keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and living on the avails "are not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice."

She also said the laws put sex-trade workers in danger.

The judgment is subject to a 30-day stay during which the law remains in place. The federal government can seek an extension of the stay period.

The governments will request that the appeal court stay the judge's decision and allow the current prostitution laws to remain in effect until an appeal can be heard.

Mr. Nicholson's announcement came shortly after Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urged the federal government to file an appeal.

Mr. McGuinty said the ruling "proposes some profound changes to the laws that have been on the books here for decades, and we look forward to supporting the federal government in that appeal."

The Crown had argued that striking down the provisions of the laws without enacting something else in their place would pose a danger to the public. But Judge Himel disagreed, saying the danger to sex-trade workers outweighs any harm to the public.

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