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Public Opinion on Prostitution Law Reform in Canada

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 54 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2012 Pages: 245-260
John Lowman; Christine Louie
Date Published
April 2012
16 pages
This article examines whether the results of public opinion surveys support the Canadian Government's position that the general public favors prohibition of prostitution in Canada.
This research note examines prohibitionist claims about public opinion on Canadian prostitution law. It focuses on (1) the Christian Legal Fellowship, REAL Women of Canada, and the Catholic Civil Rights League (CLF) factum to the Superior Court of Ontario in Bedford v Canada (2010), which claims that most Canadians support prohibition; and (2) Prime Minister Stephen Harper's assertion that most Canadians support the prohibitionist stance underlying his government's decision to appeal the Superior Court of Ontario's decision to strike down several prostitution laws (Bedford v Canada 2010). A review of seven national public opinion polls conducted between 1984 and 2011 reveals that, contrary to the CLF and the prime minister's claims, since 2005 a small majority of Canadians favor some form of decriminalization of consensual adult prostitution. The surveys reveal marked gender differences in attitudes to prostitution law reform, with men being more likely to favor decriminalization than women. Three Angus Reid surveys (2009, 2010, 2011) suggest that there is little support for the "Nordic model" of demand-side prohibition. (Published Abstract)