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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter speaks on April 8, 2014, in Austin, Texas.Ralph Barrera/The Canadian Press

A former U.S. president is urging Canada to go after pimps and buyers of sex when it revises federal prostitution laws.

In a May 16 letter to Canadian parliamentarians, Jimmy Carter encourages adoption of the so-called Nordic model, which imposes sanctions against those who exploit prostitutes while helping sex workers leave the trade.

Carter's letter, tweeted by Conservative MP Joy Smith, says prostitution is inherently violent, especially towards women and girls who are trapped in the industry and need protection.

"Your decisive leadership in this matter is critical in order for Canada to take this monumental step towards the preservation of human rights," Carter wrote.

"I hope that you will lead your nation towards the protection of prostituted women and girls."

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down key elements of Canada's prostitution laws in December, giving Parliament one year to come up with new measures.

Under existing laws, prostitution itself is legal but almost all related activities — including communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and running a brothel — are criminal offences.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the government is "exploring all possible options" to ensure the criminal law continues to address what he calls the significant harms that flow from prostitution.

The government is poised to release a report on public consultations about how to proceed.

A discussion paper published as part of the consultation notes countries have generally taken one of three approaches:

— Decriminalization or legalization (places such as Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia;

— Prohibition of both the purchase and sale of sexual services (all U.S. states, with the exception of Nevada);

— Abolition, or the Nordic model, which criminalizes clients and third parties but not prostitutes, accompanied by social programs aimed at helping sex workers (Sweden, Norway and Iceland).

The discussion paper poses several questions, including whether purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence and whether selling such services should be against the law.

It also asks those who support allowing the sex trade whether there should be limitations on where or how the activities can take place.

The paper also seeks input on the notion of someone making money from the prostitution of another person.