Vancouver Considers Overhaul Of Massage Parlour Licensing

World Journal B3 - June 25, 2011

Vision Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang says massage parlours offering sex would be reclassified to avoid being confused with actual massage therapists. Currently, both are licensed under the "health enhancement" classification.

Businesses under the new category would then be visited regularly by inspectors, who will offer condoms, health advice and support for workers.

"Under current laws you're supposed to charge the prostitute with solicitation," Jang told CTV News. "If she's there against her will and forced to do it, we want to be able to say to that person, ‘We can help you get out of the trade and be safe.'"

Jang acknowledged that the legality of prostitution remains up to the federal government, but said the city is merely taking an "urban health approach."

Many municipalities and law enforcement agencies have already settled into an uneasy truce with the industry. In Burnaby, a massage parlour CTV caught on video offering illicit services, The Hawaiin Spa, sits right next to a police station.

Insp. Tim Shields of the Burnaby RCMP said police know "exactly what's going on" in the establishment, but said there are limited resources available to do anything about it.

"We are also cognizant of… the amount of time, effort and money it's going to take to conduct an undercover operation to get in there and the amount of evidence that's needed," Shields said.

Along with the licensing overhaul, Vancouver is preparing for a possible legalization of prostitution. Five judges in Ontario's top court are currently considering whether Canada's anti-prostitution laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and endanger sex workers.