Ontario barbers forced to learn women's styling techniques

Barbers in Ontario are facing the prospect of being forced back to school to learn how to do things like highlights and perms, some of them after decades of experience cutting men's hair.

Barbers must learn haircutting, styling to be licensed in Ontario

Barbers upset

9 years ago
Duration 2:33
Barbers are upset they need to learn how to cut and chemically alter women's hair to be certified.

Barbers in Ontario are facing the prospect of being forced back to school to learn how to do things like highlights and perms, some of them after decades of experience cutting men's hair.

New provincial legislation forces about 300,000 tradespeople to be certified and licensed in their trade, from electricians to home contractors.

In 1998, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities grouped all trades related to hairstyling — including barbers — under the trade name of hairstylist.

Sam Lou says he lost about $6,000 after he was told to shut down his barbershop for operating without a licence. (CBC)

Then, in April of this year, the Ontario College of Trades took over the licensing of barbers and other tradespeople, and began enforcing the licensing requirements.

Those requirements had been in place before the change in April, but were rarely if ever enforced. Because they were unenforced, many barbers have operated without licences.

Now, operating without a licence costs employees a $195 fine and employers a $295 fine for first offences.

To get a licence, barbers have to learn the new combined curriculum for hairstylists, including perms, colouring and more.

'Why do we have to go through this?'

Frank Olszynko, who has been cutting hair since the 1960s and has a licence from Quebec, thinks there should be a grandfather clause.

"We're barbers, we're not neurosurgeons," he said. "Why do we have to go through this?

"Now you have to go to school, you have to put in 2,000 hours, you have to pay $5,000, you have to learn how to perm and colour and bleach and wave and God knows what. I don't even know any of that stuff, and I don't want to know."

Sam Lou said he's been cutting men's hair for 15 years and opened his own shop last month. The Ontario College of Trades enforcement officers found him without a licence and asked him to shut down.

Barber Frank Olszynko says he plans to go to court if he's asked to pay a fine for operating without a licence. (CBC)

"I'm very angry. ... I feel like nobody supports me. The government wants people to be successful, open up a business and make a job, create jobs. I created a job, they came and shut it down," Lou said, adding that he's lost about $6,000.

The ministry said it will be seeking the industry's input on the topic of creating a distinct trade of barber, separate from hairstylists.

The consultations are set to take place in the next two years, but until then, barbers are required to be licensed.

"Personally, I'm just going to carry on like I always have," Olszynko said. "... I don't really care. I'm going to court, definitely. I'm not paying a fine. I'm not abiding by this stupid law."

Poll question


  • A previous version of this story stated that the change to ministry documents and certificates of qualification didn't happen until earlier this year. In fact, the Ontario College of Trades took over licensing of barbers and other provincial trades, and started enforcing the licensing requirements.
    Nov 06, 2013 12:54 PM ET


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