With mental health benefits in mind, N.S. body artists calls for sector reopening

Click to play video: 'N.S. body art sector calls for reopening based on approved plan' N.S. body art sector calls for reopening based on approved plan
Nova Scotia body art professionals want their sector to be viewed in its own public health light when it comes to province-wide shutdowns. – May 25, 2021

The body art industry in Nova Scotia is calling on the provincial government to allow it to reopen during the province-wide lockdown.

“Why, for example, can a massage therapist or a dentist operate one-on-one, where we’re not able to work one-on-one? We have been trained, we’re regulated,” said Julie Taylor, a professional piercer since 1996 and member of the Association of Professional Piercers.

Taylor, along with dozens of other body art industry professionals, cosigned a letter to the Nova Scotia government asking for their industry to be considered on its own merit when it comes to sweeping lockdowns.

“We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t as hygienic and as sterile as we are,” said Becky Matheson, a professional tattoo artist in Halifax.
Becky Matheson is a Halifax tattoo artist who says the body art industry plays a significant role in improving the state of people’s mental health. Submitted / Becky Matheson

READ MORE: Nova Scotia set to deliver 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine ‘well ahead of schedule’

Matheson said in a public health approved plan, clients who enter tattoo and other body art studios must complete a thorough screening process and follow strict measures within those environments to limit any exposure risks.

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“Everything has a barrier control on it. So, there’s nothing that (clients are) touching that isn’t getting cleaned or thrown away,” she said.

The province has an approved list of sector-specific guidelines that must be followed in order for industries to operate during the pandemic.

Matheson questions why the Body Artist Guide is not considered suitable enough in the eyes of the province to allow the sector to remain open.

With these strict guidelines in mind, she said that the body artist industry should be considered in the same light as unregulated health professionals like massage therapists.

In April, the Nova Scotia government said that “regulated health professions such as dental and physiotherapy and unregulated health professions such as massage therapy and other complementary or alternative medicine providers can remain open as long as they follow the prevention plan for their sector.”

She emphasized that the impact the body art sector has on people’s mental health is a crucial factor in the sector’s work.

“To get a tattoo or a piercing is the way that they need to heal. There’s many instances where people have self-harm scars. So, for us to be able to cover those, or you can get a piercing as a way of taking back control from a certain situation,” she said.

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Julie Taylor is a professional piercer based out of Truro, Nova Scotia. Submitted / Julie Taylor

Taylor echoed that sentiment.

“Trauma informed body modification is a large part of what we do and people might not be familiar with it but it is an important part of people’s lives.”

For his part, N.S. Premier Iain Rankin said he’s consulted with small businesses and has strived to meet their financial needs by recently adding more funds to the Nova Scotia Small Business Impact Grants.

READ MORE: ‘A good sign’ — Nova Scotia reports 49 new COVID-19 cases, lowest number in a month

Following his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Rankin addressed concerns small business owners have raised over not being able to readily access all of these programs.

He said despite expanding the eligibility criteria for more small businesses to qualify for these grants, his understanding is that the ultimate ask is for an economic reopening plan to be presented.

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“They do want to see some certainty on how we’re opening up,” he said.

Rankin said the plan needs to be flexible so that it can adapt to necessary public health decisions based on provincial epidemiology and immunization rates.

He said because of those reasons specific dates won’t be part of the plan.

“Public health and myself, I don’t think that’s a responsible approach but we will have a plan soon. Likely, later this week.”

Rankin added the reopening plan will be done in phases, similar to how shutdowns are done in phases.

Both Matheson and Taylor said that regardless of the path forward, they want the safety measures of their industry to be a guiding force in the province deciding whether to shut them down if future lockdowns are deemed necessary.

“To have us looked independently, as our industry is regulated separately. We have our own regulations, we have a separate sanitized environment and we don’t want to be lumped in with other industries,” Taylor said.

Taylor states body art studios have adapted to meet public health-approved requirements to operate safely during the pandemic. Submitted / Julie Taylor

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