Lap Dancing in Strip Clubs
Legal Status Upheld By Canadian Supreme Court
The laws in Canada and enforcement focus on protecting community standards, protecting individuals from exploitation, yet at the same time upholding individual rights, including adult individual sexual rights. No where does the law seek to prevent anyone from being or using the services of an adult prostitute. But does lap dancing in strip clubs violate community standards? Are lap dancers being exploited? These are difficult questions. After conflicting lower court rulings, the Supreme Court of Canada made a landmark decision on the lap dance question in late 1999 and it supported individual sexual rights as long as it isn't taken too far.
The bottom line is touching dancers by customers including sexually is legally supported as long as it does not involve "masturbation, fellatio, penetration or sodomy."
Here are some news articles reporting on the Supreme Court Decision. Theses excerpts, with full credit, is being shared under the Fair Use provision of the U.S. Copyright laws and International treaties for educational purposes and for no financial gain.
Tuesday 14 December 1999
Top court swings toward lap dance
In a victory for strip clubs, the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday refined the meaning of public indecency in a ruling that allows lap dancing and sexual touching in bars.
The court, in a quick ruling from the bench, overturned a 1998 Quebec Court of Appeal decision that found bar-owner Therese Blais-Pelletier operated a strip club akin to an illegal bawdy house by permitting an "interactive" show of sexual touching between dancers and customers.
The unique adult entertainment - called the "danse a dix," or the $10 dance, in Quebec - takes place in a partitioned area in about 250 bars across the province and is comparable to what is better known as lap dancing in dozens of communities in the rest of the country.
Justice Louise Arbour, speaking on behalf of a 3-2 majority, declared that Blais-Pelletier, co-owner of Chez Jean-Pierre in Joliette, didn't violate the community "standard of tolerance" that would make her bar illegally indecent under the Criminal Code.
The decision, which builds on a 1997 ruling that set limits on lap dancing in Toronto, draws a line for strip bars across Canada by making it clear that the courts will tolerate more than simple strip acts as long as dancers and clients don't go too far.
"I'm very pleased and very impressed, I'm between the Earth and the sky," said Rene Thibert, president of Le Group des Dix, an organization of about 12 strip-bar owners who have been battling police raids and charges for about 15 years.
"A lot of bars have been shut down, and not necessarily the worst of them but bars that haven't had enough money to defend themselves," Thibert said.
The Supreme Court, which two years ago declared that lap dancing at Cheaters Tavern in Toronto was indecent, took less than two hours yesterday to conclude that the act in the Quebec bar wasn't as lewd.
The late justice John Sopinka ruled in June 1997 that Cheaters was degrading to women because of the oral sex and masturbation involved in the tavern's lap dancing.
At Chez Jean-Pierre, on the other hand, customers are allowed to touch the breasts of a topless dancer, but the rules do not permit them to go any farther.
"This is extremely important for all bars," said Robert La Haye, Blais-Pelletier's Montreal lawyer.
"It's a huge industry worth lots of money, and this is going to help the bar-owners to respect some limits," added La Haye, a specialist in handling cases where people are accused of bawdy-house charges. "The principle to consider is whether it goes beyond the threshold of tolerance in Canadian society."
He suggested that the latest ruling "clarifies the gray zone of what's indecent and what isn't. It fixes parameters for dancers and bar-owners coast to coast."
La Haye, who in 1993 won another high-profile case involving Les Salons et Spectacles Erotiques Pussy Cat, called this judgment "an evolution of society's definition of decency."
In her oral judgment, Arbour said only that the court was reinstating a 1994 decision in Quebec Superior Court that found allowing dancers and customers to touch each other is not illegal under the Criminal Code.
"The court is of the opinion that the sole fact of touching does not constitute an act of prostitution," said the earlier judgment. "The touching has to constitute a sexual exchange like masturbation, fellatio, penetration or sodomy."
Crown lawyer Robert Rouleau failed to convince the Supreme Court judges yesterday that sexual touching offends a sense of public decency.
"Once sexual touching is tolerated for a fee, it seems to me it is damaging to the image of society and the image of women," he argued. "I'm not sure the average Canadian would like other Canadians to witness such an exhibit."
Justices Frank Iacobucci and Michel Bastarache agreed.
"We find the behaviour indecent due to the sexual touching between the dancer and her client and the fact that the acts weren't private in nature," Iacobucci said in an oral dissent.
On hearing the news, Jean-Francois Beaulieu cried out to his half-empty downtown Montreal club: "Danses a dix encore!"
The few dancers in the Chateau du Sexe on Ste. Catherine St. W. didn't believe it at first, then seemed pleased by the decision.
Some Montreal strip-club workers wouldn't talk about it, wanting to make sure the news was true before expressing an opinion. Others were much more forthcoming.
"It will mean more customers and much better tips," a dancer at Chateau du Sexe said. "With the police so strict here, it's hard to compete."
"The club is half-dead these days," Beaulieu agreed. "It's good news for us because it means more people will come. For me, the way it's been, it was easy to get in trouble. I don't make any more money with it, and maybe some girl does it and I end up going to jail. Now I won't have to watch for it any more."
Someone on alt.sex.prostitution said:
>forget about Tampa & the biblethumpers!
>the Unger ground Railroad just re-opened!
Amen! It's not against Community Standards in Canada! Not even fondling and sexually touching the dancer,...
In Canada, attempts by police to crack down on laps has varied widely. The issue has been unclear since the 1997 case and it looks like nude laps at least were "indecent" But the earlier case involved full handjob services given by the dancers and full sex as I recall.
This clarifies the situation across Canada. Previously it was more a matter of local standards whether clubs would be shut down for lap dancing or not based on the uncertainty at Federal level.
Now that is changed. Reminder that unlike in the US., the Canadian Criminal Code is the law of the land, not local or provincial laws. If nude lap dancing with client touching dancer is the law (as the Supreme Court just ruled) that is the law in ALL OF CANADA!!
It is so nice that bible thumpers have not controlled community standards in Canada..at least by a 3-2 vote of the Canada Supreme Court..but that makes it the rule of law in Canada!
Lets see how fast clubs like in Vancouver start doing laps again. Still up to the club, but at least they have that option now without legal worry.
But what is the Canadian definition of Prostitution? The Difference Between Canadian and U.S. Clear Definitions
It is clear that sexual touch has been ruled not an indecent act under the Criminal Code.
But how about "prostitution" in a bawdy house? I am too use to the very broad U.S. legal definition so I am trying to find the Canadian definition of prostitution. Whatever it is we know its legal except in a bawdy house.
In doing a word search of the entire Canadian Criminal Code I find no place where "prostitution" is actually defined. Webster's English Dictionary defines prostitution as "sexual intercourse for pay". Am I missing something or is this the very limited definition of prostitution in Canada vs. in the U.S. Of course we know Canada has much more adult sexual freedoms with their law based on English law which is similar to that of most of Europe and many other countries.
In the U.S. most state prostitution laws are far broader. For example in Arizona:
"Prostitution" means engaging in or agreeing or offering to engage in sexual conduct with another person under a fee arrangement with that person or any other person. "Sexual conduct" means sexual contact, sexual intercourse, oral sexual contact or sadomasochistic abuse. "Sexual contact" means any direct or indirect fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast.
Yes, even "indirect fondling" is an act of prostitution in Arizona and in most places in the U.S. This is far broader than the Canadian non-defined prostitution, which seem to only leave us with the English dictionary definition which only means sexual intercourse.
BUT Many Dancers & Some Cities Are Not Pleased
Many Dancers Don't Want to be sexually groped!
Solution: Different clubs with different touch rules!
While Montreal culture seems more open and accepting, this is not the case in Ottawa and Toronto
Lap Dance Canadian Supreme Court Ruling Doesn't prevent ban by cities
It's war on lap dancing Chiarelli vows to stamp out 'demeaning' practice after the ruling. The $20 grope is over. Police will stamp out lap dancing in Ottawa's strip clubs, Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli vowed yesterday. Mr. Chiarelli was supported in his statement by Staff Sgt. Mike Flanagan, head of the Community Response Unit, which deals with prostitution crimes.
"This act is demeaning to women. It's absolutely unacceptable. It verges on prostitution," Mr. Chiarelli said. "We need to pull together and ensure the level of enforcement we've had continues."
On Dec. 14,1999 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a bar in Montreal that permitted lap dancing did not violate community standards of tolerance, and that lap dancing was not an indecent act under the Criminal Code.
Following that ruling, some clubs reinstated lap dancing and all over Canada clubs reported big increases in customers when they allowed lap dancing.
Lap dances are performed in private cubicles called "champagne rooms." The dancer strips naked, then sits on the patron's lap and writhes to music piped in through speakers. The patron, who pays $20 for the dance, has free rein to touch the woman practically anywhere except on the genitals.
Since the clubs started allowing lap dancing, dancers who are against the practice have argued that it is unsafe, unhygienic, and tantamount to prostitution. "It's prostitution, that's what it is," says Sylvie Lauzon, a 20-year-old exotic dancer. They would prefer to return to the old "look, but don't touch" rule between dancers and clients. "In some bars, a girl will be naked on top of a man's lap and she's riding him until he gets an erection and ejaculates into his pants," said Steve Campbell, an agent who books exotic dancers into clubs and who opposes lap dancing. "They can sugar coat it all they want, but that's sex for sale."
While prostitution is legal in all of Canada, it can not be done in a public place and if prostitution was done in a strip club it would be in violation of the bawdy house law.
Quebec Crown Prosecutor Robert Rouleau, who was involved in the Supreme Court case, said the ruling doesn't annul any municipal law such as a no touch law. "That bylaw is still in force and there's no reason it shouldn't be followed," Mr. Rouleau said. Police vowed yesterday they would enforce the no-touching bylaw. "The community standards have not decreased and we still consider these acts demeaning towards women," said Staff-Sgt. Flanagan. "We will be aggressively monitoring all the strip clubs."
Source of quotes: The Ottawa Citizen January 31, 2000
Dave notes these are licensing only bylaws and not criminal. As in the case of Brampton trying to pass a restrictive touch bylaw for body rubs, bylaws which unreasonably restrict what is legal can be challenged. The Ontario Superior Court in 2005 voided the Brampton bylaw restricting nudity because it had no business regulating what was legal under the criminal code. Toronto has a very ressttictive no touch strip club law but it isn't enforced probably since they know it would not hold up to a Court challenge. On the other hand the B.C. Liquor Board does have a no contact bylaw which clubs follow in B.C.
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