Saskatchewan

Regina city planner outlines possible new rules for body rub parlours, seeks feedback

The City of Regina wants residents to weigh in on how massage body rub parlours are regulated. Two options have been suggested, but the city maintains it's open to all suggestions.

Zoning, safety, and licencing all up for debate

There are more signs like this around Regina than there were a decade ago, Regina Police say. (CBC)

The flashing lights of body rub massage parlours could soon move to more industrial areas of Regina. But, before anything happens, the City of Regina is looking for feedback.

There are two options for regulation right now: moving everything to industrial areas to minimize impacts on surrounding neighbourhoods or licensing the businesses and workers and allowing them to stay in more commercial areas with higher foot and vehicle traffic for their safety.

"I think there's pros and cons to both, that's why we're going out to the public," said Diana Hawryluk, Executive Director City Planning & Community Development with the City of Regina.

The so-called massage parlours have been legal in industrial areas since the bylaw was put in place in 1992, but many operate outside those zones. At last count, the city believes there are 21 of them currently operating across the city.

"We've heard both sides, where we've heard some people say that they don't even want this use allowed in the city and to the other end where we hear people saying, this is the way to go to help the workers for safety, those sorts of things, and also to regulate it in a more comprehensive way," Hawryluk said.

While the choices are quite different, the city maintains they're not mutually exclusive.

"Part of the idea is to make sure that we change the terminology from therapeutic massage to the new terminology to differentiate and call it body rub, so the two different types of uses are separate," she said, adding that's consistent across the country.

If there's no regulation, Hawryluk says it creates issues when illegal operations pop up and the city tries to enforce the laws and bylaws.

"If we regulate it through a licensing regime, they're we're able regulate a little bit more, such as set back distances, hours of operations, and those kinds of standards -- what kind of signage they can have -- all of those sorts of things. Right now we're not allowed to do that," Hawryluk said.

Licensing workers would involve getting a criminal record check, proof that they are at least 18 and legally able to work in Canada, and potentially training about personal safety and how to exit the sector. 

There are three public information sessions where the city will gather feedback between March 18 and 20. To attend, people need to register on the city's website. Or, people can share feedback by email by March 22. 

After the feedback is gathered, a report will be presented to city council for consideration before the end of June. 

MTAS pushing for change

The Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan (MTAS) has been pushing for municipalities to change the language around massage parlours since 1995.

MTAS would like to see the word "masseuse" changed to "registered massage therapist" or "massage therapist" because that clarifies medical, clinical therapeutic massage.

Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan Executive Director Lori Green says that changing the language around massage therapists and so-called "body rub" parlours has made a big difference in Saskatoon and hopes the same will happen in Regina. (Don Somers / CBC)

"Patients that were looking for actual massage could open a telephone book and under massage you would have both adult services and legitimate massage therapists in the same column," said MTAS executive director Lori Green.

Green says many people would find themselves in surprising or embarrassing situations on the phone, or, worse yet, if they just walked in to the establishment. She maintains the differentiation in language has made a big difference in Saskatoon, and she hopes for similar results in Regina.

"I think they're definitely on the right path and we're happy with the direction it's moving," she said.

As for where she thinks the body rub parlours should eventually be located in Regina, Green says she'd prefer to see them moved out of downtown or off of "main strip" areas and be approved only for industrial areas. 

"I really notice a difference to Saskatoon's downtown and  Regina's downtown with the adult services," she said.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Morning Edition

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