A new poll was released on Wednesday outlining the average Canadian's opinion on the country's new prostitution bill and, while it wouldn't be fair to call it an all-out rebuke, the response certainly wasn't positive.
The Angus Reid Global poll found that only 35 per cent of Canadians supported Bill C-36, the Conservative government's controversial response to the Supreme Court of Canada deciding the country's previous prostitution laws were unconstitutional.
Just under half – 47 per cent – of respondents said they opposed the bill.
But while support for the legalized sale and purchase of sex was generally split, the question of morality was a bit more one-sided, with more people thinking prostitution should be legal than those who consider it morally justified.
Under Canada's current, but soon-to-be expunged, prostitution laws, selling sex is legal but the laws that surround the practice make it untenable. In December, the Supreme Court ruled those laws would be removed and gave the federal government one year to replace them.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay unveiled the government's response last week. Under the proposed bill, prostitution would remain legal but the purchase of sex would be against the law.
The new bill would also make it illegal to sell sex in public places, where children could be present. It also bans the advertising of sex for sale.
Despite the tepid level of support evident in the Angus Reid poll, Canadians generally support many of the specifics in the new bill. Specifically, 89 per cent of respondents supported the prohibition of prostitution in public areas.
A total of 51 per cent of respondents said selling sex should be legal, while 45 per cent said buying sex should be legal.
But beyond the questions of legality, wording and all the political games played on the topic, there is an underlying question of morality.
Is it right to for men or women to sell their bodies to make a living? Is it wrong for government officials to dictate how and where and when that can happen? Is prostitution something Canadians can justify?
The Angus Reid poll found that more Canadians were willing to legalize the buying and selling of sex than those who felt the actions were morally justified.
In total, 21 per cent of respondents said selling sex can "always be justified." A slightly lower percentage felt buying sex was justifiable, with 17 per cent saying it was morally justifiable.
In short, while half of Canadians think the government should allow the sale of sex, only about one-fifth consider the act above moral reproach. And while 45 per cent say buying sex should be legal, just 17 per cent say it is morally justified.
It should be noted that there is a fairly steep gender divide on the question of morality; men were twice as likely to offer moral support to the buying and selling of sex, 27 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women said selling sex was always justifiable, and 23 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women say buying sex is always justifiable.
That disparity between what people believe should be legal and what people see as moral is perhaps the target the government's new bill is trying to hit. MacKay, after all, went out of his way to describe johns as "perverts" when announcing the new measures, and blithely stated the government wasn't forcing anyone to sell their bodies, when asked about the dangers these new measure would place in front of prostitutes.
With a bill intending to create a legal framework for Canada, the government has managed to implement its moral stance. But average Canadians seem to understand there’s a difference between what they would do and what should be legal.
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So instead of cops running in hookers they'll be booking johns. Two adults, consenting, should be able to do what they choose with both their money and their bodies. And I can think of more important things for the police to occupy their time with too.