Members of council's executive committee approved changes Wednesday to how the city regulates the massage industry.

City administration has proposed separate licensing categories for legitimate massage therapists and people who work in adult body rub shops.

Body rub workers will have to undergo criminal record checks, take a city-run course on sexual exploitation, and get yearly medical check-ups for sexually transmitted diseases.  

Mayor Stephen Mandel said there's no point pretending body rub parlours don't exist.

"We need to deal with it in a rational effective manner," he said. "One of the oldest professions in the world ... we just can't shy away from the realities of things."

The city would also like to set up a team to regulate body rub parlours the same way the Public Safety Compliance Team regulates bars.

A number of agencies, including Canadian Border Services, RCMP, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Immigration and Employment, would be involved to deal with immigration, health and employment issues.

Kate Quinn, executive director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation [CEASE], calls the city's proposal to change the regulations a good first step.

"Our hope is that by bringing things out more in the open, we can all become aware of both the risks and dangers and then the possibilities to help people," she said.

Quinn supports the city's proposal to review the regulations in a year to make sure they haven't pushed vulnerable workers further underground.

"That's why we need to monitor," she said. "Is this workable bylaw tool doing the job or is it having negative, unintended consequences?"

The final decision on the regulations could come at next week's city council meeting.