A city task force proposed a list of recommendations on Monday to make Edmonton's body rub parlours safer for those who work in the industry.
The conversation started in 2011 when some community members raised concerns about a body rub parlour located next to a daycare. The Body Rub Centres Task Force was created two years ago to study the impact the parlours have on the community and those working within the industry.
The research culminated in 26 recommendations across four areas, including health and safety, bylaw and licensing, community impact and availability of information for prospective practitioners.
City council imposed a moratorium to prevent more parlours from opening as it worked to decide how to regulate the industry. That moratorium expires on April 1.
'The bylaw isn't perfect'
The moratorium had some unintended consequences, including increased rents for parlour owners who aren't allowed to switch locations, said Ryan Pleckaitis, acting manager for Edmonton's community standards branch.
"The bylaw isn't perfect, but it does provide a number of different mitigators to reduce violence and give people, if they are in that business, opportunities to seek whatever assistance they may need and give them a pathway out," Pleckaitis said.
"As a municipality, we have a responsibility to ensure that our citizens are safe."
The recommendations brought by the task force Monday include requiring body rub centres to have security control and emergency response plans in place before licences are approved. They also suggest a reporting structure for staff to safely make complaints, on-site management at all times, and reducing the cost of licences to bring them in line with other businesses, such as nightclubs.
Increasing licence fees could act as an obstacle for those trying to get into a safer environment to provide such services, Pleckaitis said.
The city has issued 38 licences for body rub parlours, but some of those businesses have closed, Pleckaitis said.
Mayor Don Iveson said the task force's harm reduction approach is more effective than penalizing the industry.
"As imperfect a solution as that is, until larger laws change or trends change in terms of exploitation and human trafficking and so on, we need to do our best to support vulnerable people that find themselves in these industries," Iveson said. "And regulation seems to be our conclusion on that.
"Recognizing that this activity occurs and that if there are ways we can identify human trafficking when it's occurring, identify exploitation when it's occurring, support off-ramps for people who want to get out of the industry, all of those things are better than pretending it's not an issue."
Parlour owner wants moratorium lifted
Body rub centre owner Miranda Loyk was at the committee meeting on Monday, and said the current moratorium prevents her from relocating and pushes businesses like hers into industrial areas that aren't safe for employees.
Loyk, who has worked in the industry for 15 years, said although she wants the moratorium lifted, she worries new licences could end up in the wrong hands.
"There isn't just one solution," she said. "I don't think the girls should have to pay to be able to work inside of a licensed, secure, safe place. The girls shouldn't have to make sacrifices just to be able to be safe. And that's kind of what's happening."
The task force's recommendations will go before city council, where they could be passed by next week.