Saskatchewan

Regina city council approves licensing regime for body rub establishments and workers

After a lengthly debate, Regina city council has passed a report on licensing body rub establishments and workers.

Nearly all delegates who spoke were opposed to the establishments even existing

Administration is recommending a licensing regime. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

After a lengthy debate, Regina city council voted 8-3 to license body rub establishments and workers.

Council passed the city's recommendation as written except for one amendment on hours of operation. Administration recommended licensing the establishments, but having some requirements for workers, like age verification, proof of permanent residency, submitting a list of all aliases and pseudonyms, and a licence fee of $100 for each worker.

Establishments will have to pay a $1,200 licensing fee and operators must also meet some of the same requirements as workers, like being able to legally work in Canada, criminal record checks, and completion of an education program.

The hours of operation will be limited to 11 a.m. to midnight, after an amendment by Coun. Jerry Flegel was carried.

In December of last year, council decided that body rub parlours within the city should be allowed to operate within industrial zones only.

Body rub parlours outside of those acceptable zones have to relocate or shut down, Fougere said at the time. Owners said that would force nearly all the parlours to move.

Mayor Fougere said he had been opposed to having these establishments in the community at all and said there are compelling arguments on both sides for how to handle body rub parlours.

"Council has a perspective that, we've already determined that we're going to have them ... and to not provide the licensing for them would mean that [it] would be the wild west related to how we would regulate these establishments," Mayor Michael Fougere told reporters after the meeting.

Fougere said the the regulation is so tight now that he's not sure how many of the businesses will even survive once the bylaw is passed, probably at the next council meeting.

Regina police wanted this regime in place, Fougere said, because it gives them the opportunity to do regular checks and see what's happening inside the establishments.

Coun. Sharron Bryce put a motion forward to refer the licensing report back to administration to do more work on it with police. It was defeated.

"I would like to see these shut down in our community. I don't think there's a place for them so I'm very disappointed with the outcome of today's meeting," she said. 

Delegates strongly opposed

Around 20 delegates spoke at the meeting. Nearly all of them would prefer to see body rub establishments banned. A few of them were disappointed with the communication from the city on this and felt they missed the opportunity to voice their concerns.

Fougere said the city can always do better, but that there had been a lot of discussion in the last year and a half on this. 

Almost all of the delegates' concerns were about the legality of licensing the owners, and human trafficking. Many of them brought up the federal Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which "prohibits purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose," among other things.

One of the people who spoke said she was a survivor of sexual exploitation and worked in body rub parlours. April Eve Pearl Wiberg said licensing establishments doesn't prevent sexual trauma like what she experienced.

One Alberta massage therapist, Christy Kasur, said licensing body rub establishment endangers massage health professionals, and that she's experienced that first hand.

Andrea Heinz's communication was read aloud by the city clerk. Heinz was a sex worker and also owned and operated a licensed body rub parlour in Edmonton for four years. 

Part of her communication read: "Giving legitimacy to owners is a big concern in protecting provider autonomy. While it is not infracting against the federal law (PCEPA) to allow sellers of sex to advertise and sell their own services, it is 100% against the law to allow third-party individuals to do so," she wrote. 

"Cities honour every federal law, except when it comes to that which is intended to protect women from sexual exploitation. Why is that?"

The city solicitor added that the City of Regina itself does not enforce the criminal code, the Regina Police Service does. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter/Associate Producer

Emily Pasiuk is a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton. She has filmed two documentaries, and reported in Saskatchewan before coming to Edmonton. Tips? Ideas? Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

With files from Alex Soloducha

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