Statement on Regulation of Body Rub Parlours

June 12, 2019

Presentation to Executive Committee

Re. Body Rub Parlour Regulation

Good Afternoon Mister Chair and Committee Members. My name is Shayna Stock and I’m here on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Heritage Community Association.

The majority of existing body rub parlours are located in the Heritage neighbourhood; as the organization that represents that neighbourhood, we’re glad to be a part of the conversation.

We understand that this discussion has arisen from the recent movement of sex work from the streets to indoors, and that this is due in part to changes in federal legislation that criminalizes the purchasing of sex work, making it more dangerous for johns and workers to negotiate in the open.

In a 2007 study done on our neighbourhood’s assets and needs, the community identified the sex trade as one of their primary concerns. In a recent update to that study, conducted in 2017/18, it was mentioned only once out of 91 interviews with residents. We suspect this is because, with sex work moving mostly indoors, it now has a much lower impact on most Heritage residents.

After much research, thought and discussion, we offer the following recommendations to the City:

  1. That insights and perspectives of body rub parlour workers be prioritized in any decision made by the City, since they are the ones most likely to experience significant risks to their health and safety due to any new City policy or enforcement efforts. We understand that City staff have connected directly with workers, and made efforts to make these engagements as safe and accessible for them as possible including providing interpretation when helpful. Due to high levels of stigma against sex work in our society, these workers have risked a lot to provide their input, and we request that City prioritize it above all other input.
  2. That demonstrable safety concerns of the immediate community also be taken into account. We have heard from some Heritage residents, living in very close proximity to body rub parlours, who’ve said that they or their family members have felt unsafe due to the sex work happening next door. This is mainly a concern for young Newcomer and Indigenous women, who may be mistaken for sex workers and approached by johns while coming and going from their home. We ask the City to consider the safety of these residents in their decisions.
  3. That the City not make any decisions based on moral grounds, because moral objection increases stigma, which decreases the safety of workers. It is well documented in academic research that any increase in stigma has a negative impact on the safety of workers. We encourage the City not to engage in any discussion that serves to increase anti-sex work stigma.
  4. That body rub parlours not be relegated to industrial zones, as this is likely to have a negative impact on the safety of workers due to lower visibility and more isolation. In other words, we do not support the enforcement of existing Zoning Bylaws, as it would not prioritize the safety of workers.
  5. That the City not consider banning body rub parlours, or sex work generally. Sex work will continue to exist whether or not we agree with it, and a ban is likely to result in greater health and safety risks for workers, especially those who are already the most vulnerable. This is well documented in the research.
  6. That the City work with trusted local agencies to provide comprehensive support to any workers who are negatively impacted by any new policies or enforcement efforts, and provide additional financial resources to those agencies if needed. We ask that the City create a plan for supporting impacted workers before any licensing structure or other regulatory efforts are implemented, including ensuring these supports are adequately resourced, and that workers are fully informed about them.

Thank you for considering these recommendations as you take your next steps. We appreciate the opportunity to weigh in, and I am available now for any questions you might have.