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More review needed on massage parlours: committee

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Winnipeg plans to do a more in-depth review of massage parlours amid concerns they should be labelled as body-rub or sex-trade establishments.

Council's downtown development committee asked the city administration Thursday to conduct further consultations in light of concerns of the Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba that massage parlours sell sex, not massage.

Last week, the city released an administrative report that recommended "holistic medical establishments" would not have to obtain a city licence as a massage parlour as long as owners can demonstrate their membership with a professional body that provides appropriate oversight. The term "holistic medical establishment" was a new way to approve businesses who don't want to be tagged with the sex-trade connotations of the "massage parlour."

Winnipeg decided to review its regulation process last year after the owner of Bliss Body Works, a downtown wellness centre, said he had no other choice but to label his business a massage parlour under the current licensing system.

Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba president George Fraser told members of the downtown development committee he finds the term "holistic medical establishment" problematic, and that the Winnipeg Police Service should be involved in discussions surrounding massage parlours. He said the provincial association receives several complaints regarding massage parlours every year, including a recent complaint from a woman who was propositioned for sex when she visited a downtown parlour in September.

"While the city licenses massage parlours, it has a great deal of difficulty in policing them," Fraser said. "We would call them sex-trade parlours."

Massage parlours are only permitted inside Winnipeg's downtown and employ massagists, who are different than registered massage therapists, as they have not graduated from a recognized school of massage therapy or equivalent educational program.

The City of Winnipeg regulates massage parlours by requiring them to get a licence that stipulates no one under 18 is allowed on the premises, and the parlour may not state, imply or suggest the service provided includes any form of sexual or nude entertainment.

Fraser said a recent investigation by Manitoba's physician regulatory body proves massage parlours flout these rules.

In September, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba suspended Winnipeg doctor Randy Raymond for trading OxyContin for sex with two women who worked at a massage parlour.

Other downtown developments:

Illegal parking lot: The owners of the Boyd Building have agreed to get rid of a parking lot on a vacant plot of land on Portage Avenue. In September, City of Winnipeg officials ordered the building owners, Boyd Building Inc., to remove all vehicles from the vacant property between 398 and 402 Portage Ave. City officials said failure to remove the vehicles would result in legal action. The building's owners appealed the order initially. On Thursday, city officials said the owners have withdrawn their appeal and agreed to get rid of the parking lot.

St. Charles Hotel: Council's downtown development committee laid over an appeal on the St. Charles Hotel until January. Ken Zaifman, an immigration lawyer, has been working on a plan to redevelop the property on Notre Dame Avenue as a boutique hotel since 2008. Officials have ordered him to comply with Winnipeg's vacant and derelict buildings bylaw, and Zaifman has appealed the order.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 A11

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