Teens skirting tattoo rules, says Winnipeg industry insider

At least one tattoo industry insider in Winnipeg says teenagers are often getting tattooed without their parents' consent.
Teens are getting tattoos, often without their parents' consent, according to a Winnipeg industry insider. 2:08

At least one tattoo industry insider in Winnipeg says teenagers are often getting tattooed without their parents' consent, either by going to someone working from a home or by going to parlours willing to bend the law.

"There's lots, and I mean lots, of underage people getting things done," said Eric Johanson of Soul Survivors Body Art in Winnipeg.

Johanson lobbied for years to get the City of Winnipeg to bring in tougher rules.

"The age was a big one," he said.

"We had people coming into our shop that had been to other locations that had procedures done terribly wrong."

In most Canadian cities, there are no laws preventing teens from getting tattoos, only guidelines recommending teenagers obtain parental consent.

In a CBC News test in British Columbia, two out of three tattoo shops would have allowed a teenager to get a tattoo without parental permission.

Johanson said many of the botched jobs he has seen were on teenagers.

"We just said, 'This is not ethically the right thing to do,' so they'd go down the street [and] get it done, get it done poorly, then come back to us," he said.

Brandon shop charged

Government records show there are five approved body modification shops in Brandon and 33 in Winnipeg.

At least one tattoo studio in Manitoba has been charged recently with an offence related to tattooing an underage client.

Innk Blott Tattoo and Piercing Studio in Brandon, Man., was charged earlier this year under the City of Brandon's body art procedures bylaw, which requires shops to get parental permission for minors.

Innk Blott owner Goldwin Teskey told CBC News that although the teen's parents had given permission, the required paperwork under Brandon's bylaw was not on file at the studio.

Brandon's bylaw enforcement staff laid charges after getting a tip about concerns over underage tattooing and inappropriate record keeping at the Brandon shop.

Teskey said the employee involved has since been let go, and he paid three fines of $100 each for not having the proper paperwork on file.

Only one of the three clients was under 18, he added.

Most Winnipeg shops follow rules

Meanwhile, a survey of Winnipeg tattoo shops by CBC News has found that most shops contacted are respecting a city bylaw requiring parental permission for clients under the age of 18.

Twelve out of 14 studios told CBC News a parent would need to go to the studio and sign consent forms in person, as required by Winnipeg's body modification bylaw.

However, some were willing to bend the rules. Two of the 14 establishments contacted did not insist that a parent attend the studio in person, but instead would allow the teenager to bring a note from the parent and copy of the parent's identification.

"I'm disappointed about that. It shouldn't be happening," said Mike LeBlanc, manager of the health protection unit for Manitoba Health, which enforces the city bylaw.

The 2006 Winnipeg bylaw also requires the parent to be present when the tattoo work is being done.

'Kitchen magicians'

In Brandon, Teskey said he does support the need for bylaws to protect the public.

Teskey said the real problem is clients of any age getting tattoos by someone working out of a house without proper sanitation.

"There's a lot of places like that in Brandon. People call them scratchers and 'kitchen magicians,'" he said.

"People get tattooed and they're very unhappy about the result," he said, adding that those "kitchen magicians" are the operators enforcement officials need to target.

"When there's some guy sitting there at home, drinking a beer or smoking a joint while he tattoos you … it's totally disgusting and gross," Teskey said.

"A lot of times, they prey on those minors that need their parents' consent and are afraid to ask for it."