Prostitution offences in Canada: Statistical trends, 2014
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Police services reported 1,073 prostitution-related incidents in 2014, accounting for less than 0.1% of all police-reported criminal incidents that year. This translated into a rate of 3 prostitution-related incidents per 100,000 population in Canada, the lowest rate since 1982. Prostitution-related crimes have been declining over the past three decades, coinciding with a period in which overall police-reported crime has also declined.
There has been a recent change in prostitution law in Canada. New legislation was passed in December 2014 that changed the focus of the law from targeting both sex workers and their clients to penalizing primarily those who purchase sexual services from others.
Prior to this legislative change, prostitution-related violations included a number of offences, primarily: communicating for the purposes of sexual services, procuring, living on the avails of prostitution and keeping a bawdy house.
A Juristat article released today, titled "Prostitution offences in Canada: Statistical trends," examines trends in prostitution-related offences up until the new legislative changes came into effect. Moving forward, information reported on prostitution-related incidents will reflect the new legislation.
Over two in five persons accused of a prostitution offence are female
There were 16,879 prostitution-related incidents reported by police over a six-year period from 2009 to 2014. The majority (82%) of these were for communicating or attempting to communicate with a person for the purpose of engaging in or obtaining sexual services.
The study also found that prostitution-related offences involved a female accused more often than any other type of crime. Over the six year period analyzed, females accounted for 43% of those accused in an incident where a prostitution-related offence was the most serious violation. In comparison, 23% of persons accused of any criminal offence were female.
Prostitution offence rates decline for both males and females from 2009 to 2014
From 2009 to 2014, prostitution-related offence rates per 100,000 population declined for both males (10.2 to 2.1) and females (8.4 to 0.6). Although females were more often the accused in prostitution-related offences than in other types of offences, in 2014 the rate of females accused (0.6 per 100,000) was less than one-third of the rate for males (2.1 per 100,000).
Females more likely than males to have repeated contacts with police for prostitution-related violations
Females accused of a prostitution-related offence from 2009 to 2014 were nine times more likely than males (27% versus 3%) to have come into contact with police for a subsequent prostitution incident over this six-year period.
Homicides of sex workers more likely to be unsolved than other homicides
This study also examined homicide data to look at the characteristics of victims of homicide who were identified by police as a sex worker. From 1991 to 2014, there were 294 homicides of sex workers in Canada, almost all (96%) of which involved a female victim.
Moreover, one-third (34%) of homicides of sex workers remained unsolved as of 2014, compared with 20% of unsolved homicides that did not involve a sex worker as a victim.
About one-third of individuals accused in prostitution court cases found guilty; most sentenced to probation
There were 7,837 completed court cases involving a prostitution-related offence as the most serious offence from 2008/2009 to 2013/2014. Cases involving prostitution-related offences were less likely than other cases to result in a guilty finding. Specifically, about one-third (30%) of prostitution-related cases resulted in a guilty finding, which is less than half the proportion for criminal court cases overall (64%).
Almost all (99%) prostitution-related court cases were completed in adult court. Of these prostitution-related adult cases, 37% of those with a guilty finding resulted in a sentence of probation, while 26% resulted in a custody sentence, 22% resulted in a fine and 10% resulted in other forms of sentences.
Females more likely than males to be found guilty of a prostitution-related offence
A considerably greater proportion of prostitution-related cases with a female accused resulted in a guilty finding (54%) from 2008/2009 to 2013/2014 than cases with a male accused (19%). Of those found guilty, males (29%) were more likely than females (16%) to receive a fine as their most serious sentence. In turn, females were more likely than males to be sentenced to custody (30% versus 22%). However, their sentence lengths tended to be significantly shorter. The median sentenced length of custody for females found guilty in a prostitution-related case was 3 days versus a median of 270 days for males.
Note to readers
This release is based on a Juristat article that presents information on police-reported prostitution-related incidents in Canada. This report is primarily based on data drawn from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR), an annual census of all crime known to and substantiated by police services.
Within the UCR the unit of count is the incident, which may have multiple victims/accused as well as multiple violations/offences related to the event. For this report, some of the analysis focused on those criminal incidents where at least one of the offences within the incident was related to prostitution whether or not it was the most serious offence.
Fluctuations between years or across police services are common and may reflect changes in police enforcement of prostitution laws as opposed to actual prevalence of prostitution in a given year or community. Furthermore, when new laws are introduced, it can result in a temporary increase of police-reported prostitution offences. On the other hand, the anticipated introduction of new legislation can also influence a temporary decline of police-reported prostitution offences until legal direction is clear.
The Juristat article "Prostitution offences in Canada: Statistical trends" (85-002-X), is now available. From the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and justice, and Juristat.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).