proposed municipal bylaw revisions for vancouver

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susan davis susan davis's picture
proposed municipal bylaw revisions for vancouver

these were our proposed revisions. it should include something about license application approval by committee/working group.....

these could be used as a starting place for other jurisdictions....

 

Contents

 

British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Women and Communities

 

Introduction

 

1.         Social Escort Service - By-laws 6373 and 6466

 

2.         Criminal Records Checks

 

3.         Steam Bath/Massage Parlor By-laws: 4782, 6038, 6646

 

4.         Health Enhancement Centre By-laws 6830, 7052

 

5.         Body Rub Parlor/ Body Painting Studio/ Model Studio

 

6.         Governance of Clubs within the City of Vancouver  By-Law 2647

 

7.         By-law 5156

 

 

 

British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Women and Communities

 

The British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Women and Communities (BCCEW/C) is a consortium of sex worker activists who work to eliminate the oppressive systems and forces that create harm for individuals in the sex industry. We operate under the principle that members commit to creating an environment of inclusion.

 

We support diverse perspectives and experiences except where they contribute to harm of sex workers. The BCCEW/C does not support enforcement or rehabilitation models that either promote the continued criminalization of sex workers or sex worker dependency on social programs. (For further information on the Coalition, please see Appendix A)

 

Introduction

 

The following B.C. Coalition of Experiential Women and Communities (BCCEW/C) submission provides a series of recommendations intended to  revise the City of Vancouver's by-laws that license and regulate businesses where sex workers, and other workers, have traditionally been employed. The suggested revisions are provided in the interest of stabilizing the local sex industry, including relevant aspects of the health enhancement sector, while increasing the health and safety of both sex workers and the communities where sex work takes place.

 

The BCCEW/C offers these recommendations in the spirit of its Guiding Principles which compel the Coalition to work to open dialogue aimed at the reduction of harm to sex workers and the elimination of the social, economic, and political conditions that lead to the survival sex trade, sexual slavery and trafficking in persons. We note that the City's "health by law" (By-law No.6580) provides for the promotion and protection of the health of the inhabitants of the City of Vancouver. We respectfully ask that City Council keep the spirit of this by-law in mind while deciding on the proposed revisions.

 

 


City of Vancouver By-laws Associated with Sex Work Industry

 

 

The following reviews City of Vancouver by-laws commonly associated with the sex work industry on a section by section basis to provide suggestions for revision based on the BCCEW/C efforts to improve safety and working conditions of Vancouver sex workers.

 

1.         Social Escort Service - By-laws 6373 and 6466

 

Current License Fees

Social escort service: New license: $1043, Renewal: $993

Social escort: New license: $183, Renewal: $133

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

 

Social escort license fee: The individual social escort license application currently requires that the applicant name the agency where they intend to work. If an individual wishes to work independent of an escort agency, they must acquire a license to operate a social escort service as well as a social escort license. They must also be located in an office where they are required to remain while "at work" or while awaiting an outcall to a client's hotel or residence. Given these requirements, the cost of licensing and maintaining an office can amount to $6000/year (assuming one can find a properly zoned, reasonably priced office with a landlord willing to rent). Costs of this nature provide a serious barrier to individuals who wish to be self-employed.  

 

Social escort service: As it stands now, agencies hold too much control over where and when a worker can work. In some cases, individuals who have applied for a social escort license have found that their licenses, once approved, have been sent to the agency where the worker is to be employed. While this may be done in an effort to maintain the worker's privacy, it is often the case that agencies refuse to return the license to the worker in a blatant attempt to control workers financially while also forcing them to work in an unsafe environment. Workers have even reported being "black listed" when an agency contacts other agencies with false accusations of theft, disease and addiction. Such situations leave a worker with few choices other than to either work illegally from home or work in the extremely dangerous street trade.  

 

The above concerns could be resolved by reducing fees and allowing individual social escorts to work independently without the requirement to obtain two licenses and an office. Such changes would eliminate financial barriers while supporting a workers freedom to leave an unsafe work place and maintain their privacy. The power of negotiation and the choice of where to work would be returned to the individual worker. In summary, the Coalition urges the following:

 

  • A reduction in license fees associated with social escort services to bring fees inline with fees charged to similar businesses (e.g. hair stylist: new license: $160; renewal: $110) Specifically:
  • o Escort service license: New: $254 Renewal: $254
  • o Social escort: New: $160 Renewal: $110
  • That the requirement for a place of employment and a commercial office space or designated address be removed;
  • That social escort licenses be the property of the escort and be issued to individual applicants rather than to an agency; and that
  • Social escort licenses are available for pick up after processing through the licensing office.

 

Sub-section (d)

No person carrying on the business of a social escort shall offer the services or name of any person required to be licensed pursuant to this by-law unless that person is so licensed.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

The Coalition requests that caution be employed with regards to this section of the by-law due to our concern that the confidentiality of workers is at stake and that there are no guarantees from the City as to who has access to this information.  We ask that a procedure for the protection of this information as well a procedure for justifying access to the information be developed in partnership with the sex worker community. In regards to this, we note that we are in the process of developing policy related to the health and safety certification of sex workers with one aspect of this policy related to privacy concerns.

 

Sub-section (e)

At all times during which the premises specified in the license application as the place of business for the Social escort service are open for business the operator or a licensee or employee shall be present on the premises.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

The Coalition requests that individual workers be exempt from this section in order to provide them with the freedom to engage in other activities while answering the phone and waiting for potential customers. Specifically, we suggest that the by-law be amended in the following spirit:

 

Any person operating as an independent social escort may operate from a computer, cell phone or home-based telephone.  Independent social escorts are not required to either maintain or remain within a commercially-zoned location during operating hours.

 

Sub-section (f)

Every person carrying on the business of a social escort service shall maintain on the premises a list of all current employees and person's being handled on an agency basis; and, upon request, make such a list available to the Inspector or Chief Constable.

 


Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

In the past the police and licensing inspectors have been allowed unrestricted access to information about employees in escort agencies. We ask that access to this information be based on clear criteria developed in consultation with sex workers. Suggested criteria would include proof that disclosure of information about an individual is based on whether such information can be shown to be required to protect a worker's life and/or safety.  

 

2.         Criminal Record Check Requirement

 

Although the reasons for criminal record checks are obvious, the Coalition's view is that convictions under criminal code sections related to prostitution (sections 211,212, and 213) shouldn't automatically exclude sex workers from obtaining an escort license. This is especially so given that those with prior convictions are prevented from working in less harmful indoor venues leaving them with no choice other than to work in the far more hazardous street-based trade. We note here that obtaining a federal criminal pardon can take up to seven years and, in our experience, the Vancouver Police Department does not always chose to acknowledge such pardons.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

The Coalition requests a community-based consultation on these issues and, ideally, some level of shared decision-making with regard to who is able to apply for and obtain a social escort service and/or individual license. In seeking this, we are in no way advocating a "carte blanche" approach to licensing but rather we seek an opportunity for controlled community-based vetting in situations where such an approach is warranted.

 

3.         Steam Bath/Massage Parlor By-laws: 4782, 6038, 6646

 

Licensing Fees

Current fees: New license: $272, Renewal: $222 

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We request that the fees be lowered to bring them in line with fees required of other similar businesses (e.g. hair salon: New license: $254, Renewal: $204).

 

Sub-section (a)

No person owning, keeping, maintaining, or operating any bath, steam bath or massage parlor shall allow or permit any person of the male sex to act therein as an attendant or employee in respect of any person customer or patron of the female sex; or allow or permit any person of the female sex to act as an attendant or employee in respect of any person, customer or patron of the male sex; nor shall any person owning, keeping, maintaining or operating bath, steam bath or massage parlor attend, treat or serve any person, customer or patron thereof of the opposite sex.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We ask that this section be removed as it is obsolete. Today, male and female masseuses routinely massage clients of the opposite sex.  

Sub-section (b)

Every person owning, keeping, maintaining or operating and bath, steam bath or massage parlor shall provide and keep therein a written and legible record in journal form of all person's using the facilities of said bath steam bath or massage parlor to record his or her name and address together with the date and time of registration in such register;

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We request that these records be considered confidential unless proof of a threat to the life and/or safety of an individual is provided.

 

Sub-section (c)

No person owning, keeping, maintaining or operating a steam bath shall allow persons of the opposite sex to occupy the same room or adjoining rooms with an inter-communicating door or which have doors opening into a common steam room. Provided, however, that a person may maintain a steam bath a family room intended to be occupied and occupied by members of the same family, if such a room is closed off from the rest of the steam bath by a door.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

This section is obsolete and does not in any way reflect current business practices. It is also open to misuse by individuals who may feel a need to disrupt a business of which they do not approve.

 

Sub-section (d)

Every person owning, keeping, maintaining or operating a bath, steam bath or massage parlor shall ensure that the interior of the premises is at all times during business hours illuminated to a minimum of ten foot candles in every part thereof.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

This section should be revised to reflect current codes and language.

 

4.         Health Enhancement Centre By-laws 6830, 7052

 

Sub-section (a)

The Inspector shall not issue a license for a health enhancement centre unless satisfied that the applicant for the license or an officer of the applicant demonstrates a knowledge and understanding of the art and practice of reflexology, Shiatsu, bio-kinesiology, hellework, polarity, reiki, rolfing, the trager approach, or any other therapeutic technique, and the Inspector may in that regard require the applicant or officer to take and pass an examination.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

While some services licensed under these by-laws do have the ability to require that staff enroll in training that leads to certification, due to the criminalized nature of sex work, sex workers do not have an option to acquire certification. At the same time, this is the business license that sex workers would most prefer to operate under (as long as no additional restrictions or increased enforcement occurs). Given this, the Coalition requests that the City consult with the community to develop an approach that addresses the issue of demonstrated knowledge/experience..

 

Sub-section (b)

All persons carrying on the business of a health enhancement centre shall ensure that all persons hired to administer a therapeutic touch technique are qualified in that respect and have not been convicted of an offence under sections 212 or 213 of the criminal code.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

This section prevents sex workers, including even those who have exited from the trade, from gaining access to employment in these types of businesses. It presents yet another example of how the most vulnerable sex workers are shamed and cast out of the larger community. We ask that this section be removed.

 

Sub-section (d)

No person carrying on the business of a health enhancement centre shall remain open or administer therapeutic touch technique between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 8 am.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

In the interests of supporting a safer trade, we ask that these hours be expanded so that those businesses who wish to can remain open on a 24 hour basis.  Expanded hours could provide more opportunities for workers to find jobs in safer environments while diminishing the visible and unsafe street-level trade which dramatically increases after midnight as inside venues are forced to close.  Such a change could also address community concerns around the visible side effects of the street trade. 

 

Sub-section (e)

No person carrying on the business of a health enhancement center shall allow any employee or person on the premises to engage in or offer to engage in an act of prostitution.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We ask that this section be removed. While making assumptions about the employees of these businesses, it makes room for such disastrous actions as the recent raids on "health enhancement centers" where police, armed with cameras, stormed into and, ultimately, closed some of these businesses further diminishing the number of safer indoor job opportunities for sex workers.

 

5.         Body Rub Parlor/ Body Painting Studio/ Model Studio

 

Current License Fees: New license: $8454 Renewal: $8494

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

These fees are extremely high. When the costs of renting space are factored in, the potential cost to business becomes completely outrageous. The Coalition requests that these fees be set at the same level as those set for other similar businesses (e.g.  Health Enhancement Centers: New license-$255, Renewal: $205.)

Sub-section (a)

Every applicant for a license to operate a body rub parlor, body painting studio or model studio shall supply the Chief Constable and the Inspector with the name, address and sex of all persons employed by the applicant

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We request the removal of this section.  We believe that it smacks of outdated notions of public morality prevalent in the early 1900's. Additionally, the requirement to provide information on the basis of gender may be discriminatory. We ask again that a provision be made for proof of threat to life or safety before access to this information is granted.

 

Sub-sections (d)

(d) All rooms used for a body rub parlor, body painting studio or nude photography shall comply with the following;

  • shall not be smaller then 2.4 meters by 2.4 meters
  • shall not be equipped with any locking device other than a door providing an entrance there to,
  • shall not have any means by which any person may view the interior thereof
  • shall be equipped with lighting of at least 50 candle power which shall remain on when the door is closed.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

Section (d) provides the closest thing, in a business sense, to a private space where two consenting adults could engage in the legal exchange of sex for money.  We request that this be the business license supported as the "license of choice" when the City issues business licenses and occupancy permits to these types of businesses.

 

Sub-sections (e)

No person carrying on the business of operating a body rub parlor, body painting studio or model studio shall permit any person to enter or remain thereon between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 8 am

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

In the interests of supporting a safer trade and increasing employment for sex workers, we ask that these hours be expanded so that those businesses who wish to can remain open on a 24 hour basis. 

 

Sub-sections (f)

No person carrying on the business of a body rub shall permit any person engaged in providing a body rub in the licensed premises to perform the same unless the person is wearing clean, washable non-transparent outer garments covering his or her body from the neck to the top of the knee, the sleeves of which do not reach below the elbows

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

The Coalition sees no need for a dress code in this business and requests the removal of this excessive and invasive section. The section makes businesses and workers vulnerable to malicious persecution and can be used to shut down a business for what amounts to no reason at all.

 

Sub-sections (g)

No body rub parlor proprietor shall exhibit himself or herself nor permit other persons to exhibit themselves, in any window on or about the licensed premises or exhibit or permit to be exhibited any sign outside of the premises showing any nude male or female body, or any part thereof, nor any printed words that might indicate the licensed premises is a place that offers any form of nude or sexual entertainment.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

The Coalition notes that virtually every business in the corporate world publicly uses sexualized images, including images of partially and/or unclothed models of both sexes, in their advertising campaigns. We question why the sex trade industry should be treated any differently with respect to regulation. The following revision provides the City with protection from the more extreme visual display possibilities that could potentially draw public concern or censure. In as far as determining what is considered acceptable, we request that these issues be examined on a case by case basis in partnership with the Coalition. Revise as follows:  

 

No body rub parlor proprietor shall exhibit themselves nor permit other persons to exhibit themselves, in any window on or about the licensed premises or permit to be exhibited any nude male or female body or exposed male or female genitals or breasts nor use crude or offensive printed language to describe the services offered inside.  

 

Sub-sections (h)

No person carrying on the business of a body rub parlor shall practice or provide or permit the practice or provision therein of a therapeutic touch technique or advertise in any way that a therapeutic touch technique is available or being practiced on the premises.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

We note that supporting this definition as the "license of choice" provides a clear definition between therapeutic massage and "body rub" parlor thereby eliminating  the confusion that arises around these two terms and allowing consumers clear options as far as legal and safe ways to access the industry.

 

6.         Governance of Clubs within the City of Vancouver  By-Law 2647

 

Section 13

It shall be unlawful for the manager of any Club within the City to knowingly suffer or permit any prostitute or person evil repute to enter or remain upon the club premises.

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

This section reflects discriminatory attitudes about sex workers which greatly contributes to their stigmatization and marginalization. We ask that this section be removed.

 


7.         By-law  5156

 

A by-law to prohibit the carrying on of sundry businesses, trades, professions and other occupations;

            1."nude encounters"- or synonymous word or phrase

            2."out call" body massage service

            3."erotic telephone call" service

 

Proposed BCCEW/C Revision

Since such businesses operate freely and openly in Vancouver, we request that this section be removed.

 

Conclusion

 

Under the Vancouver Charter, Section 202 (a), the City Council "may provide for social planning to be undertaken including research, analysis and coordination relating to social needs, social well-being, and social development in the City." The Coalition respectfully requests that Council consider the spirit of this section of the City's Charter when making its final decisions regarding the proposed revisions.