By Paul Fitzgerald
“Bad for women, bad for residents, bad for local businesses; being progressive does not mean simply permissive when it comes to protecting women,” says Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti
Tucked away in a small section of the city staff’s recommendations is a change to the definition for the City of Toronto's body rub parlours that would expand the types of services allowed as permitted activity in these places.
While the Toronto Star runs exposes on prostitution problems in Cuba, others say “just look out your front door.”
On March 6, 2013, the Planning & Growth Management Committee approved that any newly approved massage parlours should be allowed to permit services for “sexual or erotic appetites.”
This legal liberalization of definition for permitted activity in massage parlours creates an obvious contradiction and clear dissimilarity to permitted activity currently defined in the City of Toronto Act for the city’s current body rub parlours.
“This whole thing is irresponsible. The city has a massage parlour problem and it appears that the staff’s solution is to merely allow these activities to take place in these places. Since this whole matter is still before the courts, it would be more prudent to wait until the high court has made their final decision on this matter before attempting to move forward”, states Mammoliti.
There are 25 licensed body rub parlours and the city also has over 400 operations guising under the term as “holistic centres.”
It is estimated by the city’s licensing unit that at least twice as many of these places exist as illegally running and non-licensed operations. Results of independent reviews have revealed numerous violations of existing by-laws.
“It would be obviously irresponsible for staff to hand over legal designation to these types of rogue operations who have been in violation of many by-laws for years,” says Mammoliti. “I would like to know what has prompted the city staff to actually recommend this change. Was it a request from their industry or was it from someone else?” questions Mammoliti.
“I have received some first-hand reporting from police that many underage girls and other exploited young women may be at work in these places. It would be highly irresponsible of us, as a city, to neglect our responsibility and obligation to them. Council is winking at exploiters of women without adequate concern for environmental safeguards, deterrence and regulation,” he says.
Councillor Mammoliti is currently seeking a broad coalition/awareness campaign prior to a City Hall vote for final approval April 3, 2013.