City of Regina Executive Committee Meeting
Body Rub Parlour Speeches
December 5, 2018
I want to thank the executive committee, administration, police and everybody else involved that have put the time into what we are discussing today. I am encouraged that the City is taking the initiative to address this topic. I appreciate the desire to engage all parties involved, and I trust that together we can come up with the best plan.
Over the last several years Freedom Catalyst has invested many dozens of hours researching and documenting various existing body rub parlour licensing bylaws all across Canada and also some into the US. We’ve documented what we believe to be examples of the best, most effective bylaws in other municipalities (similar to Appendix D in the City’s report but with more examples and detail). In addition we have also included new bylaw ideas that we have not seen anywhere else. While talking to a police officer from a county in the US that has some of the best bylaws that I have come across, and I shared some of these new ideas with him. His responded that they were very good ideas, and he was going to share them with his team. We would be more than happy to be part of the future consultation process to share our research and ideas.
Estevan has also recently incorporated new licensing bylaws. Along with many other bylaws, they have implemented a 1000 m barrier restriction from schools etc. (as compared to the 183 meters in Regina’s current zoning bylaw). They may be another good source to contact in the consultation process.
It is difficult to fully discuss within 5 minutes, but I would like to address the two options presented today. I believe they can be improved upon. I believe licensing should be considered in both options, and not just in the 2nd one in commercial areas.
I also want to discuss the safety aspect of being zoned in industrial vs. commercial zones, or in other words low traffic vs. high traffic areas. I believe there are still many underlying safety problems regardless of where they are zoned. For example, referencing a 2014 CBC article entitled “Regina Massage Parlour Worker Fears for Her Safety” it says:
“A Regina woman who worked at a massage parlour in the city says she suffered abuse and is struggling to escape that life.
Sarah said she encountered violence from customers. "I said no to a certain service and that's when he started. He almost raped me," she said. She recalls many occasions when johns would attack. "About over 10 to 15 times, being slapped,.punched, kicked or pushed."
Sarah said she is now in hiding, from her pimp, who has also beaten her.”
The City’s report says the 21 known parlours are infringing on the current zoning bylaws and are therefore already in these “high traffic areas”. Out of the 17 parlours I personally know about, my assessment is that 15 of them are in high traffic areas. Therefore Sarah’s story is more than likely already coming from an area of high traffic or a non-industrial zone.
As a result there are still major safety concerns regardless of where they are zoned. Most of the safety problems with the women occur behind closed doors. This cannot be observed from outside on the street with either high or low traffic.
Something else to discuss is whether a third option should be on the table if parlours should be allowed in any area. When researching bylaws across Canada, several were found not allowing them. These included Steinbach MB, Dauphin MB, Prince Albert, and Barrie ON. When we talked to several to ask why, they said body rub parlours essentially invite criminal activity and many other unwanted consequences, and they took a proactive approach to protecting their community. Therefore if Regina did the same thing, it would not be something new. This is something that could be addressed more in the consultation process.
In conclusion, as was evident in the 2015 strip club City Council meeting, there is strong support for no sexual exploitation in our city. This is coming from a position of love and care for all people involved. Our goal is definitely not to try and bring judgments on others, but simply to come from a heart of compassion and love for our community.
Please hear me out on this – what it really comes down to is this. We can all share our opinions from a policy related perspective, but when it comes down to the heart of the matter, these are real people, in real situations. Sometimes we become too far removed from it to fully affect our heart, but I can guarantee something for every person in this room.
If this came close to home, and one of our own daughters became caught in human trafficking, we would fight tooth and nail to get them free. Why? Because we love them and are deeply committed to protecting them. Can we do that for the others in our community as well? If we do, that is a sign of a good, healthy community that is actively loving their neighbour as themselves.
Please, members of City Council and all others involved, consider in your heart how to move forward, with the same intensity and concern, as if your own daughter was trafficked or being sexually exploited. Thank you.
I would like to speak to the idea of using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design concepts (CPTED) that is mentioned in the City’s report.
I don't believe zoning the parlours in the commercial zone will produce the desired results on safety and reduction in crime.
There are indeed drawbacks to zoning in the industrial area, such as a reduced sense of being caught by any involved criminals or clients attending the parlour.
However, this safety improvement pales in comparison to the safety concerns of what happens inside the parlours away from public view. CPTED principles have more limited influence on that.
I believe that when an activity is normalized and placed in an area where more people see it, it flourishes even more. If the City chooses to allow parlours in an area where families and children attend, community events occur, etc. this sends the strong signal that body rub parlours, sexual exploitation of women, and prostitution are normalized in our community. That is not something that we want.
If the parlours are in an area that are out of the public’s eye, this will in turn reduce clientele from attending. In other words they are out of sight, out of mind, and this reduces people from attending.
Since body rub parlours have such a high potential for criminal activity, it simply doesn't make sense to place them in a high traffic area so that more people are exposed to them.
It is best to step up the enforcement on illegal activity as opposed to taking steps to normalize it and expose the public to it even more.
I believe that with these parlours, the concept of "out of sight, out of mind" applies.
For someone who's not already purchasing prostitution, the temptation to try it for the first time, or to become a new regular john, is much higher if the brothels are on his way home from work.
We should be making access as inconvenient as possible in order to lower temptation, and in turn, demand.
If less parlours are then operating due to lower demand, this reduces the enforcement workload, saving time and money.
This extra time and money can then be spent on better enforcement for the parlours that still exist - meaning enforcement staff can be most effective rather than being spread thin.
The Broken Window Theory essentially means that if there are visible signs of crime, or civil disorder, this creates an environment that further encourages crime and disorder in that area.
The more broken windows exist in a neighbourhood, the more apathy sets in as it sets the tone for what's acceptable. As this progresses further, it creates more and more disorder and crime.
I believe that body rub parlours in our commercial areas are just like broken windows.
“As things like prostitution slowly make their way into a community, it signifies that the community cannot assert informal social control. As a result, citizens spend less time in the streets to avoid these subjects and feel less and less connected to their community if the problems persist.”
Regardless of whether we try to clean up the appearance of these parlours by regulating things such as signage - people still know they're there.
The City has been very engaged in trying to make downtown Regina a vibrant, community based area of the city.
Downtown BID has spent thousands of dollars over many years, on many initiatives - and they are doing a wonderful job!
Part of their vision is to “support the creation of a sustainable Downtown neighbourhood, where people thrive in an active, safe, accessible, inclusive, and beautiful public realm.”
I believe that allowing body rub parlours to be open in downtown (or any community minded area for that matter), would strongly compromise this vision.
It's extremely important and helpful for the public to be actively engaged in reporting crime when they see it.
We need to provide them with an easy way to do so, and with the knowledge that the police strongly support their reporting efforts.
One recommendation I have is that Regina could implement is an online “Report a John” feature, just like Edmonton succesfully has available.
In conclusion, I'm very encouraged to see the City placing a priority on this subject - we need to protect the vulnerable, trafficked women who are not in the very small minority that choose prostitution. They are the victims and it's our ethical duty as fellow humans to do whatever we can to rescue them.