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Offence of Keeping a Common Bawdy-House in Canadian Criminal Law

NCJ Number
Ottawa Law Review Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: (1982) Pages: 270-313
J S Russell
Date Published
44 pages
Canadian criminal law contains a broad and intrusive definition of 'bawdy-house' (a brothel). The Government will change this out-dated statute if it is truly concerned about protecting the individual's right to private, consensual sexual activity.
The offense of keeping bawdy-houses represents an unnecessary restriction to the right to privacy. The offense does not create a serious enough degree of social harm to warrant the sanction of criminal law. Canadian criminal law has long held everyone keeping a disorderly house commits a common nuisance. Constant emendations have broadened the definition of the offense. Current law designates owners, landlords, tenants, agents, or anyone in charge of the house as guilty of keeping the house. Interpretation of 'acts of indecency' tends to reflect the standards of the contemporary community. The place in which the offense of prostitution occurs need not be a building. Virtually any place -- for example, a parking lot or a circus tent -- can constitute the place referred in the law. The general community reputation of a place should be the requirement instead. The courts have expanded the boundaries of the law in cases regarding homosexual steambaths and bars. Currently, gay rights groups are lobbying for reform of the section about use of buildings. It is this section that lawyers primarily use when prosecuting homosexuals. The offense of keeping a bawdy-house is victimless, for neither keepers nor clients sustain serious harm. A total of 210 notes are included.


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