One in four licensed holistic centres in Toronto are offering unauthorized sexual services, according to a recent auditor general’s report.
As of December 2016 there were 410 licensed holistic centres in the city and the new report reviewing the Municipal Licensing and Services Standard’s (MLS) Division’s management of these business licenses says 107 had the “appearance of offering unauthorized services such as erotic massages and other services.”
The report says these services “could potentially pose an array of health, safety and community issues, including the risk of human trafficking.” The report also highlights the fact that the existing by-law provisions aren’t meeting expectations.
Green: licensed body rub parlours
Blue: licensed holistic centres which appear to be performing only authorized services
Purple: licensed holistic centres which appear to be offering sexual and unauthorized services.
CityNews made these classifications by:
- Cross referencing licence addresses (as listed on the City of Toronto’s licence database) and names with online advertisements that promote these activities
- Searching their own websites
- At times, using forum reviews of establishments and attendants to confirm the nature of the work being performed on site
- Searching their organization’s social media accounts
In a December 2013 meeting, city council asked for a report to be completed, addressing “the human trafficking on a strategy to more vigorously prosecute charges related to municipal by-law infractions by the adult entertainment, body-rub, and holistic licence classes.” A report was never provided.
Coun. Justin Di Ciano for Ward 5 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), where many of the addresses for these shops are located, admits more needs to be done when it comes to regulating these shops.
“The by-laws don’t work,” he told Citynews.
He said he plans to propose a motion that would expand body-rub parlour licenses in an effort to drive out illegal erotic spas.
The City of Toronto does allow licensed body-rub parlours to operate in the city and currently, there are 25 of those locations.
Body-rub parlours must meet strict health and safety requirements in order to be licensed.
“For example, body-rubbers must undergo a medical examination, and a licensed body-rub parlour can only be located in a certain zone away from residential zones, schools or places of worship,” says the report.
Holistic centres and practitioners on the other hand are not required to meet the same requirements.
Holistic services are defined as “any modality used as a tool for therapeutic and wellness purposes.”
In a 2014 presentation about holistic centres, the MLS indicated that “the majority of the individuals who were issued a holistic centre and, or a holistic practitioner’s licence by the city, are offering body rub services.”
CityNews reached out to police to ask if they’ve cracked down on any of the illegal establishments and to ask about whether or not they’re aware about the possibility of human trafficking happening in these storefronts.
“In our experience, human trafficking can happen anywhere, at any time,” police said in a written statement.
“Our priority is the identification and intervention of anyone who is being forced to provide sexual services through violence and intimidation, regardless of where it takes place. We are aware of the concerns that are raised when it comes to the potential for human trafficking through holistic centres, bawdy houses, massage parlours, adult entertainment establishments, etc. We have, and will continue, to target locations of concern through enforcement initiatives.”
BY THE NUMBERS
- 25: the number of body-rub parlour licences
- 410: licensed holistic centres
- 107: holistic centres potentially offering unauthorized services
- $13,102: body-rub parlour licence fee
- $12,660: yearly licence renewal cost
- $270: holistic centre licence fee
- $148: yearly holistic licence renewal fee
- 2,294: licensed holistic practitioners
- 37: City-approved Professional Holistic Associations
- 1: holistic practitioner/centre licence revoked in past 5 1/2 years