Montreal

Massage therapist's 'happy endings' incident spurs federation to take action

One of the federations representing Quebec’s massage therapists is putting additional supports in place for victims of sexual misconduct in the wake of a Montreal therapist's story about a client’s inappropriate behaviour and a police officer’s insistence that the encounter was “part of the business.”

Quebec group vows to do more to support members after Claudia Cavaliere's 'shocking' interaction with police

Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes is developing new training and offering individual support for massage therapists who experience sexual misconduct by clients. (Shutterstock)

One of the federations representing Quebec's massage therapists is putting additional supports in place for victims of sexual misconduct in the wake of a Montreal therapist's story of a client's inappropriate behaviour and a police officer's insistence that the encounter was "part of the business."

"I've been at the federation for 12 years and I can say that it's been brought to my attention fairly often," Sylvie Bédard, president of the Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes's (FQM) board of directors, said of sexual misconduct reported by its members.

"There are degrees of incidents, of course, but it happens. It's very unfortunate and always very shocking."

The FQM is developing a workshop that delves into the legal issues surrounding sexual misconduct and addresses risk factors for improper conduct by clients.

It's also setting up a personal support service for its members who have been victimized in the course of their job.

The federation says the idea is to ensure that members have someone to speak with and support them and to guide them through the process if they are ready to file a report with police.

"It's for them to feel confident and safe in their working environment, because massage therapists certainly work in spas, but also they work in clinics and there are other massage therapists who have their office at their homes or at client's homes," said Bédard.

Sylvie Bédard of the FQM said it's not unusual to hear stories from members about clients's sexual misconduct. (CBC)

Reaction from police 'sad' and 'wrong'

The move comes days after certified massage therapist Claudia Cavaliere came forward with her story of a client's sexual misconduct during a massage session and a recording of a police officer seemingly dismissing her concerns.

The client, who gave a fake name and phone number, masturbated in front of her during a session at the spa in Kirkland in Montreal's West Island.

In the recording of the interaction at the Kirkland police detachment, the officer tells her that it is unlikely the man will be found, that the punishment would be minimal if he were ever convicted and that the expectation of "happy endings" comes along with the profession.

Cavaliere insisted she wanted to file a report and left the station with forms to fill out, but said the incident left her feeling unsupported and scared to return.

She did return the next day accompanied by her boss and file a report with a different officer the next day.

A Montreal police spokesperson said the officer's reaction was "sad" and "wrong," but does not reflect the service as a whole.

Cavaliere said since CBC News first shared her story, a representative from the Kirkland detachment reached out to her to apologize on behalf of the police

It was not the officer she first met with, she said. 

I was shocked to see that a police officer had that perception, to say 'get used to it, it's part of the industry,' which is totally false.- Sylvie Bédard , Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes

Bédard said she was disappointed to see that the officer perpetuated a stigma the federation has worked hard to shed.

"I was shocked to see that a police officer had that perception, to say 'get used to it, it's part of the industry,' which is totally false," she said.

Cavaliere said she is pleased with the steps the federation is taking because she was hesitant to contact it after the incident happened.

Massage therapist Claudia Cavaliere recorded her conversation with a Montreal police officer when she went to police to file a complaint over a client's unwanted sexual behaviour. 5:55

"I didn't think they would understand or they would agree but no, on the contrary, they've been with me this whole time and supporting me," she said

All of the massage therapists certified with the federation already complete ethics and sexuality training as part of their initial education that has guidelines on what to do if a situation arises with a client.

The new training will be available to already-certified members and may eventually be offered online, Bédard said.

The federation represents 5,600 of the province's 20,000 massage therapists. It's one of 32 such associations across Quebec.