Toronto's iconoclastic NOW magazine says that it will defy the ban on advertising escort and other sex trade that took effect Saturday as part of the new federal prostitution law Bill C36. Long a source of classified ads in its back pages which promoted a wide variety of sexual services, the controlled weekly maintains it is on solid ground because it should not be asked to discriminate against workers in the sex trade. Editor and chief executive officer Alice Klein told the Canadian Press:
“Now Magazine started taking sex ads because we take ads, that’s how we support ourselves and we have always refused to discriminate against sex work and sex workers.
“We are committed to free expression and we don’t believe it’s our right to say which advertisers are allowed to advertise and which advertisers aren’t.”The new law was the government's response to the Supreme Court striking down Canada's old prostitution laws last spring; the old law had penalized prostitutes for selling sex. In response the government is criminalizing the purchase -- rather than the sale -- of sexual services; concurrently targetting those who profit from the sale of sex, including publication which carry such ads. Last July, justice minister Peter MacKay said
“We will hold those who are advertising — not the prostitute themselves, but those who are advertising these services either through papers or online — also to criminal account.”Klein, who said the magazine has taken legal advice from Alan Young, the Osgoode Hall law professor who led the charge against the old laws, said the constitutionality of the new law is highly questionable:
"NOW has benefited from the advertising dollars this category of business has brought in. But it has also paid a price in real dollars and cents, because there are many potential advertisers that won’t advertise and haven’t advertised as a result," she said in a published statement on NOW's website. "With costs and benefits on both sides of the ledger, NOW has made a principled choice to stand against discrimination and further marginalization of sex workers. As a publication in print and online, NOW stands for sexual freedom between consenting adults and for the normalization of the reality of sexual diversity....
"Supported by a substantive study of the wording of the law, we believe that running ads placed by sex workers themselves is still legal and we are transitioning our business to comply with this new regulation.
She told the Canadian Press: “This is another area of the law which just makes the lives of sex workers really difficult and of course attacks their ability to earn a living.
“But the law does say that sex workers themselves are allowed to advertise, and our legal advisers understand that to include the publication of their ads in our publication.”Alice Klein's full published statement.