Winnipeg eyes licence fee cut for body rub parlours, escorts
Police recommendation aims to see more businesses licensed, prevent human trafficking
On Friday morning Jocelyn Fernandez woke up to more than 40 notifications on her cell phone, all from men wanting sex.
“It’s fast money, easy money,” said Fernandez. “I don’t want to wait for a two-week paycheque."
The 18-year-old said it's the only life she knows.
Cutting licensing fees in half could bring body rub parlours out of the shadows, keep women like Fernandez safe and help prevent human trafficking, Winnipeg police say.
That was among the recommendations presented Friday to the Winnipeg Police Board.
Parlours and agencies are supposed to pay an annual registration fee of $4,450; escorts and body rub practitioners, $263.
City council asked police in February to put together a report on the state of the industry after a motion from Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck.
She wanted to develop a strategy to protect vulnerable people in the business.
Havixbeck said few body rub parlours or their employees are licensed now because it doesn't make good business sense.
"Right now the license equals the fine," she said. "So if you are not licensed and you get caught, it ends up being the same fee. So the issue is how many are out there that aren't licensing."
It comes as massage therapists in Manitoba are calling for businesses in the adult entertainment industry to be renamed to disassociate them from massage therapy, which is health related.
Police said their counter-exploitation unit, which focuses on safety for people in the sex trade, inspects massage parlours and escort agencies on a regular basis.
The more that body rub parlours and escort agencies operate in the full light of day, the safer their workers will be, Havixbeck said.
"This is deemed where women and girls are trafficked, so we need to eliminate and create safe environments for girls to go to," she said.
Fernandez said its a tough life without many accessible exit strategies.
”I want to get out, but it's not that easy,” she said.
Winnipeg Police are not arresting women like Fernandez, but they are targeting those using their services.