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By Alison Bradish

On September 23, 2019 the city of Regina voted to regulate ‘body rub establishments’ in a 6 to 5 vote despite most residents they heard from wanting a complete ban on the establishments.  Body rub establishments are places where people sell sexual acts.  In Canada it is legal to sell sex but to buy sex is illegal.

In a city planning meeting November 20th, a discussion took place about where body rub establishments could operate under the discretionary use provisions which aim to keep the establishments at least one city block from schools, churches, daycares and other massage parlours, and allow them only to operate in major arterial commercial zones or industrial zones of the city.  

Many of the city councillors who voted against banning body rub establishments claim regulating places where sexual services are provided is a form of harm reduction.  The belief is regulation gives law enforcement a better handle of the situation and maybe people will be helped to leave that line of ‘work’.

However, in many jurisdictions, such as the city of Toronto, establishments selling sexual services find ways to get around the bylaws and continue to proliferate.  According to a CBC report from April 2018, the city of Toronto still had a cap of 25 licensed body rub parlours, but 410 holistic health spas had opened, with a quarter of them being suspected of human trafficking.

City Councillor of Ward 4, Lori Bresciani voted for a ban of body rub establishments.  She said she reached out to women in the trade and to people in other cities to find out more information about the real costs of regulation. “This is about the trafficking of women and I think it is our job to ensure we are protecting our most vulnerable,” said Bresciani.  She said she understands prostitution is legal, but she says the reality of the trade is that women are abused, physically and emotionally.

“I know from speaking with women in the trade that have gotten out and are now advocating for women to get out of the trade, they don’t see regulation as a way to assist with harm reduction. They see it as you are opening up a whole new industry and saying, ‘this is ok’ and now it becomes regulated in some form and it sends a message also to men that now it’s regulated and it’s ok.”  

Bresciani also noted the city of Edmonton had discussions about stopping the licensing of body rub establishments the same week Regina voted to regulate them. The city of Edmonton changed its rules on body rub parlours in 2011 but September 18th, 2019 the city of Edmonton’s community and public services committee voted to investigate the benefits of a five-year exit strategy. 

Archdiocese of Regina Social Justice Coordinator, Tashia Toupin also feels the decision to regulate body rub parlours by the city was a mistake stating that our first priority should be to uphold the dignity of each person. “Most people are forced, or coerced to ‘work’ in the sex ‘industry’”, said Toupin. “Even the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that people who are ‘selling sex’ are not there because they are choosing to be there, but rather they have no other meaningful option.”

There are currently about 20 body rub parlours operating in the city of Regina.  Within the framework of public engagement, the city spoke to three “front-line workers” at these establishments through a proxy of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre.   Six operators of these establishments participated in a workshop session (what this session addressed was not mentioned). One provided a written response and four agreed to a private meeting.  These operators were known to be sole proprietors and told the city they were the only people working at their establishment.  Not all the body rub parlours spoke with the city and the city does not know how many people are currently ‘working’ in these establishments.

 

Alison Bradish lives in Moose Jaw with her husband and two children.  They attend St. Joseph’s Parish.   She earned Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at the University of Regina.  She is naturally curious about local and world events.  She writes from her home where she strives to bloom where she is planted.    She often feels pulled to the topics of religion, education and politics.

Page URL: http://archregina.sk.ca/news/2019/12/03/city-regina-regulate-common-fronts-human-trafficking