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Vancouver Massage Bylaws May be Revised

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Guest W***ledi*Time

Jon Ferry reports for The Province, 13 June 2011:




After ruffling feathers over chicken coops and bikes lanes, The Province has learned that Vancouver City Hall now risks rubbing folks the wrong way over the potentially divisive issue of massage parlours.


Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang says the city is planning an imminent overhaul of the licensing and inspection both of body-rub parlours, which are often fronts for prostitution, and legitimate massage clinics with which they are sometimes confused.


Jang confirms that a city staff report recommending various bylaw changes should come before council either later this month or early next.


"I know it's with the senior management team now for final reading before it comes to council," he said.


Jang suspects these licensing changes will be controversial. But he believes council will deal with them before the fall municipal elections, with health and safety being the key: "You've got to make sure you don't spread a disease like HIV/AIDS and so, for me, that trumps everything."


City hall has been studying this issue -and the broader one of prostitution -since the last civic election in 2008. But it hit the national headlines recently with the resurrection of a report that, in 1996, federal NDP Leader Jack Layton visited a Toronto massage parlour. Layton said he received a massage from a legitimate therapist and didn't know the Chinatown location was a suspected bawdy house.


Jang noted Friday that both types of massage operations in Vancouver are currently registered with the city under a "health enhancement" category that includes a wide variety of services, including those in the popular "alternative health" field.


Now the city wants to split them into two classes.
"They are looking at being able to separate those that are accredited -health enhancement that's accredited -from health enhancement that is not accredited,"
said Jang, a psychiatry professor at the University of B.C.


Jang added that, if senior governments were to wind up making prostitution legal -which could happen if Ontario's highest court agrees with a lower-court ruling that Canada's anti-prostitution laws are unconstitutional -the city would still be in a good position to regulate massage parlours.


But the Vancouver Rape Relief Society says city hall is jumping the gun with its bylaw initiative.


"If the law continues to move toward decriminalizing Johns and pimps and bawdy-house owners, the city is going to have one helluva big problem," says spokeswoman Lee Lakeman.


Lakeman points out that serial killer Willie Pickton himself was a John. And she strongly criticized city hall for refusing to take a firm stand against prostitution.


"Calling prostitution a matter of health and safety presupposes that you're going to tolerate it and you're going to try and handle it as matter of simple regulations," she told me. "And the possibility of doing that are just about zero."


Other groups, such as the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities, take a totally opposite view about the world's oldest profession, saying sex-trade workers must be able to go about their business without harassment from police or other people.


Coalition spokeswoman Susan Davis, a longtime worker, says she's hoping for the best from the coming city hall report but that a recent police raid on a Broadway body-care business hadn't helped.


Davis adds that there are more and more workers on the street, and they are experiencing violence, not only from customers but from angry residents and business owners.


"It's just not acceptable the way things are going," she said.


Brenda Locke, executive director of the B.C. Massage Therapists Association, says there are 2,900 registered massage therapists in the province.


"It's a big profession and growing," said Locke, a former Surrey-Green Timbers MLA who agrees the public is sometimes confused about the role of these accredited health professionals.


Non-Partisan Association mayoralty candidate Suzanne Anton, a former Crown prosecutor, calls the issue a complex one with "no easy solution." I agree.

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susi's group has been working very hard with VPD and the city to try to get this sort of thing resolved in the city. Considering that Vancouver does have a city biz license that allows for the sex trade in an mp setting (the body rub license) I can see why they are coming at it from a POV that is going to allow the mps to continue to operate as usual. I think a lot of these places would prefer to have body rub licenses, but they know that would alert the city to what's going on, and there is no guarantee the license would be granted, and it isn't like they are going to say, well, ok then, let's get us a different kind of license then lol.


Hopefully they don't plan to charge 100x as much as other city biz licenses, which is what they currently do, because that too will be a deterrant to the mps getting the appropriate license. Not having the correct license is going to open them up to being shut down or raided which helps no one. Hopefully, recent raids on these businesses have shown them that exact thing.



(and that was post #800, a nice topic for a nice #)

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Guest W***ledi*Time

Jon Woodward reports for CTVBC, 5 Oct 2011 (with two videos; 3 min news and 4:46 interview with Tania Fiolleau (sigh)):




Federal law trumps Vancouver's sex trade strategy: expert


Vancouver's plan to make massage parlours safer for the people stuck in the sex trade could make some progress but ultimately will be handcuffed by Canada's criminal laws, according to a criminologist.


John Lowman says the city's heart is in the right place with a strategy to increase inspections of massage parlours, and change those business's licenses to better reflect what really happens inside.


But unless the city can offer some kind of amnesty for the criminal activities it's likely to find in those massage parlours, more women could be put in danger when the businesses are prosecuted criminally, he said.


"The municipalities' hands are tied by the current legal system. They're stuck," he said.


Last week Vancouver's city council voted to create a task force to examine how to tackle concerns that some of the roughly 2,000 sex workers in Vancouver were being trafficked or abused in massage parlours.


City councillor Kerry Jang told CTV News that he wanted to see educational programs to help some women realize they're being abused or trafficked, and help them out of the trade.


But he also wanted more inspections and greater co-operation between municipal inspectors and the police.


"We're trying to make sure that sex workers aren't being taken advantage of or being abused," he said.


But that doesn't mean a lighter hand from law enforcement, he said.


"It's business as usual for the police. If there is criminal activity they will investigate it," he said.


That puts the city in a no-win situation, said Lowman.


"The plan to acknowledge what is happening is a double-edged sword." Lowman said. "On the one hand, monitoring increases safety.


"On the other...all you've got to do is have a change of mentality in a police regime and use all that information, instead of making women safe, you just prosecute those locations," he said. "What's the guarantee that won't happen?


That makes it in the brothel's interest to hide from law enforcement and find another way around a licensing scheme, such as fake certifications, he said. If it's successfully shut down, the women may be put on the street, he said.


Jang acknowledged that any attempt to shut down a brothel using licensing rules could land more women in trouble.


"If it's not done properly, they might force the place underground. In which case the abuse can happen with impunity because we can't find them," he said.


Jang said he recognized the limitations of what the city can do, but he said it was still important to raise awareness of the vulnerability of women in the sex trade and do something to protect them.


"This is the first step that outlines broad strategies," he said. "We need to prevent businesses from becoming fronts for prostitution, and help these women out.

Edited by W***ledi*Time

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