City of Edmonton recommends continued licensing of body rub centres as the best approach to harm reduction

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Long-time body rub centre practitioner Mona Forya, which is her working name, said she agrees with the findings in the report and sees it as the start of shifting public perception on the differences between sex work and sex trafficking. Because the centres are licensed, Forya said they have good relationships with the police service and if any clients come in with ill will, the issues are typically quickly resolved without any violence.

“It’s been a long road, it’s been a work in progress, but most of the workers feel quite comfortable getting licensed now. It wasn’t always the case and now they feel comfortable speaking freely in front of any of the city officials when they are asked questions. So we have good working situations and we have regulations, so all of these things come into play,” she said.

Forya said there are several cases where women have been killed or violently injured in unlicensed situations and she fears those will only escalate if city oversight is revoked.

“(Body rub centres) keep the criminal element out because organized crime does not want to be structured. Everybody has to have a security clearance, including the owners, and organized crime typically has baggage when it comes to security clearances, so it does put a dent in organized crime within this industry, which makes it better for the workers,” she said.

Council’s community and public services committee will discuss the report and hear from speakers involved in the industry Wednesday before making any decisions on next steps. Coun. Jon Dziadyk, vice-chair of the committee, said he would like to see the industry phased out in the long-term but first would like to defer any decision until impending information on human trafficking is provided by the Alberta government. A human trafficking task force formed by the province is currently crafting recommendations on how to address the issue.

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