Edmonton is looking into whether or not it should stay in the business of providing licences to body rub centres.
The city changed the rules around body rub operations in 2011 but on Wednesday, city council’s community and public services committee voted to look into the merits of having a five-year exit strategy. A report, which will include information on education campaigns and strategies to reduce the demand for such services, is expected to come back to the committee in spring 2020.
Kate Quinn, executive director of Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, suggested the city look at an exit strategy and was pleased to see some movement towards one.
“It’s beyond what I was hoping for,” she said. “I’m really excited about the possibility of having diverse conversations and looking more fully at both why some men buy sex services in our city and what we might do as a city to look at strategies to potentially end licensing body rub parlours.”
Coun. Bev Esslinger, who put forward the motion, said the issue is very complex and the city has to look at all angles before deciding to stop issuing those licences. She said she hopes the city can get out of that business someday.
“Is it five years, is it seven years? I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know the exact number, but it seems to be something we’d really like to work towards. It’s really complex. There are different viewpoints.”
The city regulates body rub centres mainly by zoning and issuing business licences. There are currently 32 in the city. Practitioners must also get a licence from the city, although there is no fee. While nearly all body rub parlours in the city are following the rules, the committee heard illegal operations are finding ways to get around those regulations.
This raised a lot of questions from Coun. Scott McKeen.
He said he would support a new strategy.
“We want to protect communities, we want to protect the practitioners and this was a laudable attempt to do so,” he said. “We’re hearing now the system is bypassing all of that. I’m really not happy here. Five years to get out of this? That would be fantastic if we could do but I think we need to show a credible difference on the demand side.”
The committee also decided not to get annual reports on body rub centres since the last few have essentially been the same. Instead, the committee will be getting a memo outlining how things are going.