Quebec tattoo artists want industry regulated

Tattoo artists and body piercing experts in Quebec are worried because, unlike most other provinces in Canada, the province has no regulations governing their industry.

'Absolutely nobody is policing us here,' says owner of Montreal tattoo parlour

Tattoo artists and piercing experts in Quebec say their industry needs tougher regulations and regular inspections. ((CBC))
Tattoo artists and body piercing experts in Quebec are worried because, unlike most other provinces in Canada, the province has no regulations governing their industry.

They say despite repeated efforts to try to get Quebec to set up regular health inspections, for example, nothing has been done to monitor tattoo shops and the quality of the work being done there.

"I think it's unfortunate because people are left to do whatever they want, and not everyone knows what to do," said Frank Lewis, who co-owns the Derm FX tattoo parlour in Montreal.

He thinks his shop meets health and safety guidelines but, without a set of standards in place, can't be sure. Lewis also admits it's been a long time since he first learned his craft.

"Everything, to me, is in order, but my apprenticeship was a long time ago," he said. "Maybe I'm still doing some things I'm not supposed to?"

Chris Saliba said he practically begged Quebec and the City of Montreal to inspect shops that do tattoos and piercings.

"They just say ... 'We have nobody to come check up on you guys'," he said.

Saliba co-owns the Adrenaline tattoo parlour in Montreal. He also owns shops in Toronto, Vancouver and New Jersey, where he says inspectors carry out regular visits.

"Absolutely no one is policing us here in Quebec," he said. "It's scary because one thing happens in our industry, and we're frowned on for another 30 years," said Saliba.

Doctor thought I would lose my leg

Stefane Campbell had to go on an IV drip to fight a bacterial infection after he got a tattoo at a convention in Montreal. ((CBC))
Stéfane Campbell knows first-hand what happens when a tattoo is done in unsanitary conditions. About three years ago, he got a tattoo of a woman with flowing red hair on his right calf.

It was done at a tattoo convention in Montreal attended by hundreds of people.

"The day after, it got swollen, as it usually does, ... The day after [that], it got even worse, and I wasn't sure it was the normal process anymore, so I went to the hospital," said Campbell.

"The doctor, when he saw my leg, [he] told me 'Oh, my God, you're going to lose your leg'."
Campbell's leg was so swollen after he got this tattoo his doctor actually exclaimed he might lose his leg. ((CBC))

Campbell said his calf had almost doubled in size.

"It was ridiculously big. It was scary," Campbell said.

It turned out Campbell had gotten a bacterial infection called cellulitis. A week of antibiotics administered through an IV drip took care of the infection.

"I didn't get any tattoos since," said Campbell.

Quebec's Health Ministry refused an interview but did tell CBC News it does not see the need to carry out inspections to ensure health hazards are addressed.

A spokesperson said the province prefers to use educational campaigns, such as posters encouraging clients and owners to make sure equipment is properly sterilized