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Canada's highest court struck down the country's anti-prostitution laws Friday, a victory for sex workers who had argued that a ban on brothels and other measures made their profession more dangerous. The ruling drew criticism from the conservative government and religious leaders.

The court, ruling in a case brought by three women in the sex trade, struck down all three of Canada's prostitution-related laws: bans on keeping a brothel, making a living from prostitution, and street soliciting. The ruling won't take effect immediately, however, because the court gave Parliament a year to respond with new legislation, and said the existing laws would remain in place until then.

The decision threw the door open for a wide and complex debate on how Canada should regulate prostitution, which isn't in itself illegal in the country.

Robert Leckey, a law professor at McGill University, said the court found that the law did nothing to increase safety, but suggested in its ruling that more finely tailored rules might pass constitutional scrutiny in the future.

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