A Winnipeg couple is furious their 16-year-old daughter was able to get her belly button pierced at the Red River Exhibition last week without their knowledge despite a bylaw making parental consent mandatory.
The business that performed the piercing says it followed all the rules.
Darcy Jeanson and Cheryl Radcliffe found out Sunday their daughter had the piercing June 17 at the Phase II Tattoo and Body Piercing mobile unit at the Ex after a consent form was signed by her 18-year-old friend, a worker at the Ex who was on his coffee break.
"We're quite outraged that all of this happened -- and shocked it was that easy," Jeanson said. "When we found out, we were very concerned about the problems and health effects, if it were to become infected, because we're not convinced a 16-year-old is going to take proper care of that. The after-care information was also terrible: put some salt and water in a cup."
Jeanson said while there's been no problems with the piercing, he sees a problem in that the tattoo shop did not appear to follow the city's 2006 body-modification bylaw that requires parent or guardian consent on a signed document for those under 18 and for that parent or guardian to be present during the procedure.
"The tattoo shop should know the law and follow it to the letter. We'd like to see them take responsibility for what they did," he said. "We're wondering how many other minors were tattooed and pierced at the Ex and the parents don't even know yet."
Jeanson said he has filed a complaint with the provincial health department. He contacted Phase II on Sunday at one of its Winnipeg locations and was given copies of the consent form signed by the 18-year-old and contract signed by his daughter.
"Their opinion was that the onus falls on the 18-year-old for signing it and we should go after him legally for signing it," Jeanson said.
"They don't feel they are responsible for this at all. Yet we have documentation from their Kijiji and Facebook ads telling people they were going to be at the Ex and that you must have a parent or guardian with you. That's the city bylaw for every tattoo and body piercing shop."
Patrick Culligan, the owner of Phase II, said parental consent is usually required but the company received special dispensation to modify it to adult consent while the mobile unit was at the Ex to accommodate customers wanting a piercing or tattoo who were at the Ex with an adult other than a parent.
"That case wouldn't have happened in our tattoo shop. You wouldn't have been able to come in with a friend and say 'hey, he's going to sign as my legal guardian,' " said Culligan, who has been in business for 12 years.
"But we specifically spoke to the (public health inspector), knowing that there would be situations like that coming up. They said as long as there is an 18-year-old present with that minor that was willing to sign as a legal guardian at the time, that would suffice."
Culligan said it was the first time a mobile unit had been at the Ex so each legal guardian's identification was photocopied as the process was explained to them. "It's an unfortunate situation and it's being blown way out of proportion," Culligan said.
"It's a belly-button piercing. If it was a tattoo, I could see it being a little more permanent. All she has to do is take that belly-button earring out. We did approximately 300 clients over the 10 days, piercings and tattoos, and had no complaints or problems with anybody other than this and it's completely unfortunate."
He said there was a large sign in front of the mobile unit explaining the usual parental-consent requirements but the adjustment allowing adult consent for that location was not publicized. It was explained verbally to those who inquired.
"We did everything with the best intentions. We tried to cover our bases with everybody. To give it bad publicity right now, for me, it's not going to be good because they (the Ex) are probably not going to want to do it next year," Culligan said.
He said he has never had a health-related complaint.
A spokeswoman with the provincial Health Department could not say whether Phase II had permission to waive parental consent at the Ex.
She said an investigation is taking place and an inspector will follow up with Red River Exhibition officials.
Garth Rogerson, the Red River Exhibition CEO, said Phase II was licensed and inspected by public health officials but he will be reviewing the exhibit.
"It's one of those controversial things for us whether we let that kind of thing in or not but there is a demand for it and a great interest in tattoos and those sorts of things," Rogerson said.
"This is an established, reputable business in Winnipeg. We gave it a try and we'll evaluate it when we get a little more information. If this turns out to be an inappropriate incident, then that will certainly play a part in our decision moving forward."
Jeanson said the couple is discussing whether their daughter will be allowed to keep the piercing. "We're not mad at our daughter. We trust and believe this was a 16-year-old who made a decision.We wanted to be there to help make that decision," he said.