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Massage therapists push for end to "massage parlour" licences

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The organization representing registered massage therapists in Manitoba would like Winnipeg to stop licensing a handful of establishments as "massage parlours," preferring the city use a more candid term such as "sex-trade establishment" or "rub shop."

The Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba, which represents approximately 750 registered massage therapists, says the term "massage parlour" demeans trained therapists and occasionally confuses customers who unwittingly patronize establishments offering services they do not want.

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"It’s about time we got candid," said association executive director George Fraser, who appeared before city council’s downtown development committee this morning to oppose a new designation for "holistic medical establishment." Other Canadian cities use the term "adult entertainment establishment" or "rub shop" instead of "massage parlour," he said.

Fraser, a former city councillor, said his organization fields complaints from people who’ve been solicited at "massage parlours" and passes on those complaints to the Winnipeg Police Service. Fraser said some establishments operate under the cover of offering therapeutic services but actually offer sexual services.

Winnipeg licenses three "massage parlours," which may only operate in downtown Winnipeg. Last year, the owner of a new King Street establishment called Bliss Body Works complained to the downtown committee he had no choice but to label his business a massage parlour.

In response, the city prepared a report recommending the new "holistic medical establishment" category. Council’s downtown development committee voted Monday morning to delay approving the new category, partly to allow more time to consult with therapeutic professions. The city will take 90 days to consider the change.

Bliss Body Works lists "tantric relaxation massage" among the services it advertises on its website, along with acupuncture, martial arts and reiki.

No sexual services are offered at Bliss Body Works, said Inga MacKenzie, one of the partners in the operation. The tantric massage on offer is a full-body relaxation massage. She said she remains stuck with the "massage parlour" label because her staff are not registered therapists.

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