City of Winnipeg looking at licensing rules around sex work
Winnipeg City Hall
WINNIPEG -- The City of Winnipeg wants to drop fees for people in the sex industry in the hopes more will get licensed, but at least one councillor says the plan won't work.
A report from city hall claims a new bylaw should lower the fee for escorts and body rub practitioners from $371 to $25 in an effort to knock down barriers to licensing.
According to the report, only 52 practitioner and escort licenses are issued right now.
The report said licensing contributes to the safety, health and protection of workers. The new bylaw would require workers to be part of information sessions on where to access health and social services as well as community policing.
The bylaw would also mandate other employees at these businesses be registered, so the license branch has information about them.
"This will make it harder to groom, influence, or pressure these workers to become body rub practitioners or escorts," states the report.
But City Protection Committee Chair and Councillor Sherri Rollins said the bylaw does not do enough to tackle counter exploitation and grooming and worries the approach is more punitive towards the sex workers than it is about safety.
Rollins said the fee isn't the barrier, it's a concern by those in the industry about being under surveillance if they get licensed and registered.
"This law denotes harm for people," said Rollins. "If I stick up my hand, am I going to be stigmatized by just doing something that is lawful?"
Rollins is bringing forward a motion to the Mayor's Executive Policy Committee this week to have the public service redo the bylaw by consulting escorts and body rub practitioners to see what would make the industry safer.
"Don't intentionally make people vulnerable by excluding them from the conversation at all," said Rollins
The proposed bylaw would also eliminate criminal record checks for escorts and practitioners to encourage licensing, mandate CCTV camera systems in parlour reception areas and require panic buttons in rooms used by practitioners.
The report also recommends a review of zoning rules that prohibit body rub parlours and escort agencies from operating outside Downtown.