While the City of Regina looks into whether or not a members-only strip club, Club 151, is violating city bylaws, many massage parlours operate in the city. Like strip clubs, massage parlours are also classed as adult entertainment establishments under chapter eight of the zoning bylaw.
Both Mayor Michael Fougere and Chief Evan Bray said there is an important distinction between registered massage therapists and these massage parlours.
“This isn’t rehabilitation massage, these are massage parlours that are for all intents and purposes offering sexual services,” Bray said.
These types of establishments are not new in Regina. It doesn’t take much to go through certain parts of town and notice neon “open” and “massage” signs in buildings late into the night and the early morning hours.
Bray said he believes there’s around 20 of these establishments in Regina.
Fougere said the city is in the process of drafting a report that will be presented to council sometime this fall on how to handle massage parlours.
“We’re looking at enforcement, whether we want to have a licensing mechanism or a way to identify where they’re at or where they should be. If there’s a zoning issue would be things we look at as well,” Fougere said.
“We don’t want to prejudge the report, other than we will have a report coming to council soon.”
Fougere said part of the reason it has taken so long to bring in a dedicated bylaw were the 2014 changes to Canada’s prostitution laws. This made illegal to purchase sexual services, but charges are not placed on those selling sex.
“We’ve had public complaints about them, but certainly before we decided the way in which we’d respond there was a change, a while ago, to the definition of prostitution; what that actually means and the change in the criminal code,” Fougere explained.
“We needed to understand what that meant in terms of the application of the law, how the police would enforce that and does the city look at the zoning of that and other criteria. So that’s taken some time.”
The Regina Police Service (RPS) are working closely with the city on this report and future bylaw.
“The goal of the bylaw is really to enhance the health and safety of not just the neighbourhood, but also the vulnerable people who are employed in these environments and making sure certain criteria are met. Not only to keep them safe and health, but also to provide them with an exit strategy if working in that field isn’t an area they want to work in,” Bray said.
“I think the chief is exactly on mark here. We need to look at the workers and the conditions under which they’re choosing to work in this industry and how do we make this as safe as possible place for them,” City councillor Andrew Stevens said.
With this discussion going to council in the near future, Stevens said it’s time to open the door to modernize how the city handles adult entertainment establishments.
“From a zoning perspective we need to look at how modern legislation and bylaws should actually be crafted. I think a lot of the temperance and prohibition approaches that we’ve seen in the past need to go to the side. We need to look at this in a way that’s respectful and mindful of the safety of the workers in these industires,” Stevens said.
Registered massage therapist Bryan Evans currently works for Kyla Will Massage Therapy, and he’s worked in spas in the past. He’s hopeful a bylaw could help further the distinction between therapists and massage parlours.
“Having your whole career closely intertwined with illicit services is frustrating,” he said.
Evans said it’s not uncommon for female colleagues to face harassment with people pursuing sexual services on top of a therapeutic massage.
“It’s disheartening. Having extra ways to sort this out can be beneficial,” Evans added.
The RPS Vice Unit also currently works on the massage parlour file. Some of their main goals include ensuring people are not victims of human trafficking, missing or being exploited.
“All of those things do exist, and we do uncover that when we do those investigations,” Bray said.