Mayor Iveson called 'pimp' for city's complacency in regulating body rub parlours
Controversy over body rub parlours heats up at city hall
Edmonton's mayor and city councillors were repeatedly called pimps at a committee meeting about body rub centres on Monday.
Four different residents accused council of profiting off prostitution and demanded the city shut down the controversial body rub parlours in the city.
"You are condoning and encouraging men's private access to women behind closed doors where violence can flourish unchecked," said Kylee Nixon with The Friends and Families of McCauley Society.
Nixon said body rub parlours increase demand for sex workers, put women at risk, and encourage crime in her neighbourhood.
She said the licensing fees and taxes the city gathers from body rub centres and workers makes council complicit.
Mayor Don Iveson said he was offended by the accusation that council condones prostitution or the exploitation of women.
"The reason we register the practitioners is so we can identify them, and be able to bring them programs, and off-ramps out of the life," Iveson said.
"I don't think anyone is comfortable with the city having anything to do with this. If we could pass a bylaw that ended sexual exploitation I would."
Council to consider another body rub moratorium
A task force looking into the issue of body rub centres released 26 recommendations earlier this month to make the city safer for workers and communities.
None of those recommendations included shutting them down. Coun. Scott McKeen, who served on the task force, said the body rub centres provide a safe space until the sex trade is eliminated.
"Everybody feels uncomfortable about this as an answer," McKeen said. "It's not the answer. It's a harm reduction solution."
Coun. Andrew Knack said he would like to see the city work to curb the demand for the centres added to the list of recommendations.
"If we don't address the men who are using the service and make sure they understand the damage they're causing this problem will continue on," Knack said.
The city does not sanction illegal activity inside the body rub centres, according to the mayor. But new federal legislation that makes it illegal to buy sex has complicated the issue.
Members of the task force could not agree whether the city's bylaws are in legal conflict with Bill C-36.
Councillors will get advice from the city's lawyers in January, when they vote on the future of the controversial establishments.
In the meantime, councillors will consider a moratorium on any permits for new body rub centres until they know which of the task force's recommendations they plan to implement.