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Survey on Toronto Holistic Practitioners' Experiences with Bylaw Enforcement and Police

Authors:

Abstract

This report describes the experiences of people who work in holistic centres and their encounters with law enforcement. Sixty-one holistic practitioners, ranging in age from 25 to 64 years old, participated in the survey1 that informed this research. These findings suggest that the bylaws themselves are problematic, and enable bylaw enforcement and police officers to use their broad discretion to abuse and harass practitioners who work in spas and wellness centres. Respondents shared that whereas in the past inspections were often collaborative and respectful, they were now abusive, provocative and manipulative, to the extent that some practitioners even described that they were treated as criminals or animals by law enforcement. In particular, practitioners perceived these excessive practices of law enforcement officers to be the result of racial profiling and discrimination, rather than the promotion of workplace health and safety. This negative perception of law enforcement discourages practitioners from seeking help from them when experiencing difficult situations.
with Bylaw Enforcement and Police
Survey on Toronto Holistic
Practitioners’ Experiences
Survey on Toronto Holistic Practitioners’ Experiences
with Bylaw Enforcement and Police
May 2018
Report written by: Elene Lam
Interviewers: Amy Yang, Nancy Sun, Jaden Peng, Lisa, Mary
Other Contributors: Eshan Rafi, Sandra Ka Hon Chu
Layout & Graphic: Loretta Mui, Andrea Sterling, Patricia Ki
Report Produced by:
Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network)
Coalition Against Abuse By Bylaw Enforcement
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Holistic Practitioners Alliance
Partners Organizations:
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Migrant Sex Worker’s Support Network
No One Is Illegal
St. Stephen’s Community House
Strut
Contact: cswbutterfly@gmail.com / 1-416-906-3098 / butterflysw.org
3
Acknowledgements
This report is the collective effort of the people who work in holistic centers, outreach team
of Butterfly and community workers of St. Stephen’s Community House, as well as the
volunteers and staff of other partner organizations.
We would also like to thank the contributions that Associate Professor Emily van der Meulen
of Ryerson University (Department of Criminology), Professor Kamala Kempadoo of York
University (Department of Social Science) and Professor Mariana Valverde of University of
Toronto (Centre for Criminology & Socio-legal Studies) have provided on this project.
4
Executive Summary
This report describes the experiences of people who work in holistic centres and their
encounters with law enforcement. Sixty-one holistic practitioners, ranging in age from 25 to
64 years old, participated in the survey1 that informed this research. All of the people with
whom we spoke were born outside of Canada and migrated from Asia; the majority came
from China, with others from Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. Findings from the survey were
used to develop recommendations for Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS),
city council, and Toronto Police Service.
Despite widely touted claims of trafficking, which has led to increased policing and
repression of holistic practitioners, the research did not uncover any instances of forced
labour or trafficking. Rather, respondents provided a variety of reasons for working as holistic
practitioners, including the ability to overcome language barriers, racism, and discrimination
in the job market. While respondents also reported negative aspects of working in holistic
centres, overwhelmingly their main concerns were inspections and/or raids (65.5%) and
being fined and charged (44.8%). Half of the respondents had been arrested, issued tickets,
or received fines. More than one-third reported that they had been abused or harassed
by bylaw enforcement or police officers. A significant number (22%) of workers had been
insulted or verbally abused, and some (12%) were physically or sexually assaulted by law
enforcement officers. In one example, bylaw enforcement officers asked a respondent to
show them her underwear, searched her place without a warrant, and then issued her three
tickets in one week for challenging their behaviour, demonstrating both a flagrant misuse
of power as well as sexual and psychological harassment. Other respondents stated that
they found it difficult to understand bylaws and regulations because officers had subjective
interpretations of the law, to the extent that issuing tickets often seemed to be the purpose
of investigations. Officers sometimes spent over one hour conducting inspections until they
could issue a ticket for not displaying the license on the wall or a scratch on a massage bed.
Overall, respondents had very negative impressions of municipal bylaw enforcement officers
and police. 60% of respondents had negative perceptions of bylaw enforcement and police
officers. Some felt that the officers did not respect them as workers (40%), treated them as
criminals (37.8%), or unjustifiably punished them (13.3%). Half described police officers as
abusive, oppressive, or humiliating (53.6%), while a significant number perceived them as
discriminatory (42.9%) and unreliable (25%).
Almost half of the respondents had experienced violence in their workplace. One-third
experienced robbery or theft by client or other perpetrators. However, only four (6.9%)
reported these incidents to law enforcement and the majority of the respondents were less
likely to seek help from law enforcement (62.2%).
1 In 2014, Buttery and St. Stephens Community House (SSCH) received complaints from community members working in holistic
centres about the abuse and misconduct they were experiencing from bylaw enforcement and police ocers, including requests for
sexual favours and verbal and physical harassment, corresponding to an increase of inspections and prosecutions at their workplaces.
In order to gain a better understanding of these workers’ encounters with law enforcement, a survey was developed in collaboration
with Holistic Practitioners’ Alliance, Maggie’s, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Strut, Migrant Sex Worker’s Support Network,
and No One Is Illegal. Data were collected between October 2015 and August 2017.
5
These findings suggest that the bylaws themselves are problematic, and enable bylaw
enforcement and police officers to use their broad discretion to abuse and harass
practitioners who work in spas and wellness centres. Respondents shared that whereas
in the past inspections were often collaborative and respectful, they were now abusive,
provocative and manipulative, to the extent that some practitioners even described that
they were treated as criminals or animals by law enforcement. In particular, practitioners
perceived these excessive practices of law enforcement officers to be the result of racial
profiling and discrimination, rather than the promotion of workplace health and safety. This
negative perception of law enforcement discourages practitioners from seeking help from
them when experiencing difficult situations.
Based on these findings, we recommend:
1. An end to excessive and discriminatory inspections and prosecutions of holistic centers
and practitioners;
2. Thorough investigation into complaints against bylaw enforcement officers from
holistic practitioners, and a guarantee that practitioners will not be punished for making
these complaints;
3. A comprehensive review of current bylaws and enforcement policies pertaining to holistic
centres, with meaningful participation of owners, practitioners, and other stakeholders.
6
Introduction
This report presents the findings of a survey of holistic practitioners’ encounters with bylaw
enforcement and police officers, carried out from October 2015 to August 2017. The sample
was 64; 61 of the participants were working in spas and wellness centres (sometimes referred
to as holistic centres2) and three were working in body rub parlours. Here we present only
the data on the 61 participants working in holistic centres.
All of the participants were born outside of Canada; some migrated here less than one
year ago whereas others have been living in Canada for over 10 years. One-third of the
participants reported abuse, violence, and misconduct from bylaw enforcement or police
officers. More than 60% of the participants described bylaw enforcement and police officers
as discriminatory, oppressive, or humiliating. Only a small number of participants reported
that they found bylaw enforcement or police officers to be friendly, helpful, kind, professional,
or even neutral.
Background
St. Stephen’s Community House (SSCH) has been reaching out to people who work in spas
and wellness centres since 2007 to promote the health and wellness of the community. SSCH
developed a joint project with Butterfly in 2014 to outreach to this particular group and
provide information, services, supports, and workshops. This project is ongoing.
In 2014, service providers at SSCH and Butterfly received complaints from community
members about misconduct and misbehaviour by bylaw enforcement and police officers,
including requests for sexual favours, harassment, use of condoms as evidence to prosecute
workers, corresponding to an increase of inspections and prosecutions at their workplaces.
In 2015, Butterfly and SSCH developed a survey with a group of organizations, including
Holistic Practitioners Alliance, Butterfly, Maggie’s, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Strut,
Migrant Sex Worker’s Support Network, and No One Is Illegal, to gain a better understanding
of the experiences of workers at spas and wellness centres. In 2018, the Holistic Practitioners
Alliance and the Coalition Against Abuse By Bylaw Enforcement were formed to advocate for
the rights of holistic practitioners.3
We also invited Associate Professor Emily van der Meulen of Ryerson University (Department
of Criminology), Professor Kamala Kempadoo of York University (Department of Social
Science) and Professor Mariana Valverde of University of Toronto (Centre for Criminology &
Sociolegal Studies ) to provide advice on this project.
2 Holistic practitioners are individuals who work in holistic centres and provide a variety of services for medical or therapeutic
treatments, including reikki, aromatherapy, or massage therapy.
3 e Holistic Practitioners Alliance and the Coalition Against Abuse By Bylaw Enforcement started a petition to call for an end to
abusive bylaw enforcement in 2018. See https://www.butterysw.org/campaign for more information.
7
Objectives
The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of the backgrounds and working
conditions of holistic practitioners and their experiences with municipal law enforcement
and police officers. We also wanted to examine how municipal licensing, regulations, and
policies affect this group of people. The findings were used to develop recommendations for
To ro nto Mu nicip al L i ce nsing and St a nd ards (MLS ) , city counc i l, and the Toron to P oli c e Ser vi ce.
Methodology
Recruitment of participants depended on pre-existing relationships built with this vulnerable
group of workers by Butterfly, SSCH, and other partner organizations. Flyers, posters, and
an email script with a summary of the study were distributed to organization representatives
for forwarding to potential participants. The flyer and poster were translated to Chinese and
distributed by community and outreach workers from Butterfly and SSCH. Participants could
determine whether to fill out the survey by themselves or be interviewed by a community or
outreach worker. Each interview took between 15 minutes to 30 minutes to complete.
8
Findings
Demographic Information
Participants’ ages ranged from 25 to 64; 8.2% were
between 25-34, 39.3% were between 35-44, and 42.6%
were between 45-54 years old. None were under 18.
All of the respondents were born outside of Canada and
migrated from Asia, mostly from China (91.8%). Others came
from Korea (3.3%), Vietnam (3.3%), and Thailand (1.6%).
Almost half of the respondents (47.5%) had lived in Canada
for 1 to 5 years and 37.7% from 6 to 10 years.
Most of the respondents (93.4%) were practitioners who
offered massage services to clients. Forty-eight (78.7%)
had the role of a practitioner only. Most of the managers
or operators of the holistic centers were also practitioners:
of the five managers/operators, three were practitioners
(4.9% of the 61 respondents) and six respondents were
both practitioners and business owners (9.8% of the
61 respondents).
There are many reasons to work in spas or wellness centres.
The majority cited economic or financial reasons (66.7%)
and/or a lack of employment options (i.e. 63% cited trouble
finding other jobs). Many also stated that they could use
their professional skills as holistic practitioners (43.3%).
40% of the respondents were attracted to the flexible work
hours. Other reasons given were interest in serving others
(8.3%) and enjoyment of the work (6.7%). Some also stated
that it was an alternative options to other jobs because their
health conditions and/or prior work injuries made it difficult
for them to work in other employment sectors (5%). None
reported being forced to work (e.g. by debt bondage) or
being trafficked, nor were they under pressure from family
or friends.
Their past occupations were caregiver (35%), service sector
worker (35%), food processing/agriculture worker (25%), and
restaurant worker (10%). Some were professionals, such as
doctors, nurses, engineers and government officials in their
countries of origin. Some respondents explained why they
left their previous jobs to work in spas and wellness centres:
poor working condition at other workplaces, income too
low, work injury, long working hours, or lack of options for
long-term development within their careers.
“I was an engineer before
I moved to Canada. But
once I arrived, I found
that my credentials were
not recognized and I could
not nd work in my eld.
I changed my career, and
entered the massage business.
In doing so, I have developed
my professional skills to help
others and contribute
to society.
“I was injured while working
for a food processing
company. I tried working
in a restaurant, which
required me to have to stand
for more than twelve hours
at a time. It made my health
condition worse and worse.
Though my job now is a
dicult one, I have better
health than I did before.
“I cannot say this is my dream
job, but at least I can have
income to support my child to
go to school. I will do my best
for him.
“No one will hire you when
you cannot speak English.
“I am a small business
owner and am able to
create job opportunities.
I serve clients and contribute
to my community.
9
Working Conditions
The respondents mentioned a number of positive aspects in this type of work. Most reported that they
enjoyed helping others (78.7%) and good income (65.6%), with many (45.9%) indicating that it provided
better income than other jobs. More than half (59%) reported that they enjoyed working with colleagues
who spoke their own languages. Respondents also stated that they felt safer than when working alone
(26.2%) and felt happy and satisfied (26.2%). Some also felt that this work allowed them to integrate
into Canadian society (22.9%) and expand their social networks (19.7%).
There were also some negative aspects of working in spas and wellness centres. The majority of
the practitioners were worried about inspections and/or raids (65.5%) and being fined and charged
(44.8%). One-third (31%) experienced discrimination, did not feel respected, and/or felt a need to hide
their work from their families (22.4%). Some felt isolated (20.7%) or had been injured at work (20.7%).
Almost half of the respondents had experienced violence in their workplace. 36% experienced
robbery or theft and 19.7% experienced physical or sexual assaulted by clients or other perpetrators.
More than one-third (34.4%) reported that they had been abused or harassed by bylaw
enforcement officers. Some also experienced refusal of payment from clients or managers,
threats from gangs, or blackmail. A few experienced labour exploitation, but none reported
sexual exploitation.
Feeling of freedom
Other:
Working with colleagues who speak your
language
Greater security than working
independently/alone
Better income than other jobs
Enjoying the source of income
Enjoying helping others
Increasing self-confidence
Expanding social network
Feeling integrated into Canadian society
Feeling happy and satisfied
NUMBER OF RESPONSES
0
10 20 30 40
50
Feeling like you don't have any labour
protections
Greater security than working Poor working
conditions (for example long hours, etc.)
Worrying about being fined or charged
Worrying about inspections and/or raids from
police and other authorities
Being discriminated against or not feeling
respected
Needing to hide from friends and family
Feeling isolated
Getting injured at work
Worrying about sexual transmitted diseases
NUMBER OF RESPONSES
0
10 20 30
40
Negative Aspects of Working in
Holistic Centres (total respondents: 61)
Positive Aspects of Working in
Holistic Centres (total respondents: 61)
10
“Our job is important since we
help people every day. Some
of them may not have a lot of
money, or are not respected by
others in their daily life. But I
still do my best to take care of
them. I help them to relax and
recover from a tiring day.
“This is not an easy job, we
have to deal with a lot of
issues at work. My friend was
robbed at gunpoint by a group
of gang members. They took
all her money and they even
took her credit card machine.
I have told my daughter that
if I ever called her for help, it
would put us both in danger.
Only four (6.9%) reported these incidents to police. The
majority of respondents informed the manager or business
owner, co-workers, friends, or family. Many kept silent
(27.6%) or dealt with the incident by themselves (13.8%).
Only 12.1% sought help from community organizations.
The survey asked why they did not call police when
they experienced a difficult situation. Almost half of the
respondents stated that it was because of language barrier
(48.2%), and fear of more inspections (46.4%) or losing
clients or business (46.4%). Almost one-third (30.3%)
also stated fear of being arrested, charged, fined, and/or
discriminated against by police or law enforcement (32.1%).
One-fourth had previous negative experiences with police
(25%) or feared revenge from police (25%).
One respondent explained that she had called the police a
few years ago and they were very helpful. She shared that
she would not call the police now as law enforcement was
no longer helpful and seemed to be against the workers.
The other three respondents who called the police reported
that the police did nothing or refused to follow up on
the complaint.
Harassment/ abuse by law enforcement
yla enforceent officers or police
Other
Forced to or or trafficed
aor eploitation
eal eploitation
efsal of payent fro clients or anagers
lacail
hreats fro gangs
hysical or seal assalt
5
10 15 20
Violence in the Workplace
(total respondents: 61)
11
“White people are the
mainstream, and their English
is good. Plus they know
how to protect their rights
by knowing the laws and
use them as weapons. If the
massage parlours were run by
white people, things would be
dierent. Most practitioners
in this trade are Asians; 80%
of them have limited English,
and have not received higher
education. As a result, we try
to comply as much as we can.
Sometimes, even when it is
obvious that we are innocent,
we yield to the power of the
Municipal Licensing and
Standards Division, hoping
that the ocials will not come
back to pick on us or issue
tickets. The practitioners
choose to plead guilty and pay
the nes to avoid oending
the authorities and provoking
retaliation from them.
“They came to investigate us
three times a week. It is really
too much and unreasonable.
“They searched for an hour,
and could not nd anything.
Finally, they found a minor
issue that they believed
warranted giving me a ticket.
They refuse to leave until they
can nd a reason to give you
a ticket.
Knowledge of Bylaws and Regulations
Respondents reported that they have very little (38.6%) or
average knowledge of applicable bylaws (33.8%). 12.3%
reported that they do not have any knowledge about the
laws and regulations. Some respondents cited difficulties
learning about bylaws and regulations because of language
barrier. Only a few (8.8%) had read the information on their
own. Most of the respondents learned information from
their co-workers, managers, or business owners (59.6%).
Some also learned from the advice of police or bylaw
enforcement officers (21.1%) and 10.5% gained knowledge
during the Holistic License Training Program.
Some respondents stated that they found it difficult to
understand bylaws and regulations because individual
bylaw enforcement officers enforced bylaws and regulations
differently.
Experiences of Inspection
The frequency of inspections of spa and wellness centres
ranged from less than once per year to three times a
week or even twice per day. Many respondents indicated
that inspections occurred in their workplace every three
months (25.9%).
Some stated that the number of inspections had rapidly
increased in the last two years and become excessive and
unfairly targeting spas and wellness centres over other
businesses. Many expressed that the inspections placed
great pressure and stress on the employees and affected
the operation of the business.
Some respondents explained that in the past, officers
explained the bylaws and gave opportunities to
business owners or employees to rectify their mistakes.
In addition, the officers were familiar to them and
were friendly, reasonable, and respectful. However,
in the past two years, officers’ conducts had become
disrespectful and provocative in nature. One stated
that the officers acted like gangsters.
Two respondents stated that the inspections had harmed
their business because their customers felt harassed. Some
respondents expressed their frustration and anger about
their experiences of inspections, including, for example,
being prohibited from moving or sitting when the officer
was conducting an inspection.
12
“Licensing inspects us too
frequently. It has caused a
lot of stress to the female
workers. The inspection
also harasses the customers.
The licensing bylaw ocials
prolong their visits as much
as possible, and they abuse
their power to the extreme.
If they’re in a good mood,
they don’t issue you a ticket.
Otherwise, they will nd fault
with you.
“The customer lay on the bed,
relaxed. Two men from the
Licensing Division rushed
into the room to scare the
customers and the female
massage worker. We thought
it was a robbery. Is this legal?
Are there any laws to protect
the consumers from being
harassed and frightened?”
“There was a couple receiving
services from me and my
co-workers. At the end of the
session, bylaw enforcement
ocers bust into the therapy
room and the clients were
disturbed. They refused to pay
and left. Bylaw enforcement
ocers are infringing the
privacy of clients. The clients
never come back again — who
is responsible for our loss?”
In addition, bylaw enforcement and police officers often
require workers to provide identification, which undermines
the City of Toronto’s ‘Access Without Fear’ policy.4 One
respondent reported that she had been handcuffed for
not showing her identification, and was only released after
her friend brought her identification and showed it to the
officers. One respondent also indicated that her friend who
did not have identification documents was arrested. Another
respondent was asked about her immigration status; the
bylaw enforcement officer told her that they would call
immigration authorities if they saw her again. One manager
said that bylaw enforcement officers shared information
about her staff with Ontario Works.5
Number of investigations carried out at holistic centres and
holistic practitioners (Reply from the Access and Privacy unit, City
Clerk’s Oce of Toronto to an access of information request)
4 e Access Without Fear policy “would ensure that ALL city residents,
including people without full immigration status, can access essential services
(housing, health, education, social services, emergency services) without
fear of being detained or deported. City workers, along with applications
for city services, would be forbidden from inquiring into immigration
status. All residents of the city with less than full legal status as citizens or
permanent residents could apply for and use city services without fear that
their immigration status will be discovered” (No One is Illegal Toronto). See
http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/dadt for more information.
5 Ontario Works (OW) is a provincial nancial and employment assistance
program, also known as social assistance, provided to people in nancial need
who meet eligibility criteria.
2013 2014 2015 2016
Holistic centres 569 1649 1419 1780
Holistic practitioners 611 2069 2092 2585
All investigations 31947 29647 25694 22600
% of investigations
related to holistic centres
& practitioners
3.7% 12.5% 13.7% 19.3%
13
“If massage practitioners like
us cannot quickly open the
door within three seconds, or
if there is any other delay of
ve seconds in responding to
orders, we will get a ticket for
not opening the door.
“The massage parlour door
must not be locked. This
rule must be resolutely
repealed. The massage sta
can assess the safety situation
at work, and choose to lock
the door. (It’s like if one
person goes to work and
locks the door in case they
feel fearful at night.) The
safety of life is the priority,
and female massage workers
should not be placed in high-
risk working environments.
Locking the door is a kind of
self-protection.
Experiences of Being Charged
Half of the respondents (50%) had been charged and issued
tickets for breaching municipal bylaws. The majority of
charges related to not dressing professionally, not keeping
records of clients, massage bed not in good repair, locking
the door, and operating outside of office hours.
A number of respondents reported that different officers
have different standards. Some of the practitioners who
had employed certain work practices for a long time were
only recently issued a ticket, for example, for not displaying
their licence on the wall. A few also complained that bylaw
enforcement officers spent one hour conducting inspections
until they could find a minor infringement for which they
could issue a ticket. Issuing tickets seems to have become
the purpose of investigations.
Five respondents reported charges related to their clothing.
Two said that they were wearing dresses similar to other
women’s street clothes but were charged regardless.
One respondent had been wearing similar clothing while at
work for eight years and never had a problem until being
recently charged.
Another respondent complained that bylaw enforcement
officers trapped them by arriving at 8:30 pm, requesting a
45-minute service, then charging the worker for operating
after 9:00 pm. Another respondent said that she did not lock
her door, but was issued a ticket after a bylaw enforcement
officer tried to enter and could not, because he did not push
the door hard enough.
Many respondents also found the bylaws themselves
problematic. For example, the vague and arbitrary
regulation of clothing allows for harassment and abuse.
The requirement to display a business license with full
name and address infringes on workers’ rights to privacy
and compromises their safety, while the regulation against
locking one’s door is also a safety concern. They stated that
when there were only one or two practitioners working,
they would lock the door to screen the clients to avoid theft,
robbery or assault.
14
From January to October 2017,
there were 255 charges laid,
of which 41 were “table mat
not in a good repair” and 21
were charges of “no licensing
number on advertisement
(i.e. holistic centres are
charged when they do not put
the licensing number on their
business cards).
“The prosecutor said that if
the massage bed is not well
maintained, we can be ned
up to $50,000. How is this at
all reasonable?”
“Once a ticket was issued
for just a tiny crack on the
bed… I was furious. I truly
couldn’t understand.
“The mattress of my massage
bed is in good condition.
I have also covered it with
three layers of towels so that
clients will not have direct
contact with the mattress. But
the bylaw enforcement ocers
removed all of the towels
and then ipped the massage
bed. I was then given a ticket
because of a tiny scratch at the
bottom of the bed.
Respondents also mentioned that they were not able to
challenge the charges even if they felt the charges are
wrong or unreasonable because they did not think they
would receive a fair hearing or able to defend their case
in court. They felt that pleading guilty was the only option.
One respondent tried to defend herself in court and she
received a $1000 fine instead of the initial $100. Another
respondent said that she wanted to challenge a ticket but
the government lawyer (prosecutor) told her that she could
get a $5000 fine if she did not plead guilty.
Charge of “table mat not in good repair”.
Charge of “no licensing number on advertisement”.
2013 2014 2015 2016
Number of
charges
75 337 277 236
Number of charges against holistic centre and holistic practitioners
(Reply from the Access and Privacy unit, City Clerk’s Oce of
Toronto to an access of information request)
15
One person, who had
received more than 20
tickets, said that some bylaw
enforcement ocers were
very unprofessional and
provocative, and relentlessly
visited her workplace without
cause. A female ocer told
her that she would take her
picture if she continued to
express anger. Without the
worker’s consent, the ocer
eventually took her picture
and showed it to her. In
total, ve tickets were issued
for minor infringements,
including for a small cosmetic
aw on the massage mat.
After issuing this ticket,
the female ocer made a
“V” hand gestures to her,
signalling victory before she
left. In another incident,
the worker was ticketed
for having alcohol on the
premises for three small
cups used to make a religious
oering of alcohol to a deity,
and that had not been an
issue until then.
“We should not be treated as a
problem or as criminals; they
should not assume that we are
bad and treat us badly.
Misconduct and Abuse by Bylaw Enforcement
and Police Ocers
Half of the respondents (50%) had been arrested, issued a
ticket, or received a fine. Some stated that the officials did
not clearly explain if they were police or bylaw enforcement
officers. More than one-third (34.4%) reported that they
had been abused or harassed by bylaw enforcement
officers or police. A significant number of workers
(22%) were insulted or verbally abused, and some
(12%) were physically or sexually assaulted by bylaw
enforcement officers and police.
14% of respondents also mentioned that bylaw enforcement
officers infringed on the privacy of clients by entering the
therapy room without notice, and without waiting for the
client to leave. 12% reported that their personal items were
searched without a warrant. One worker reported that a
police officer searched her purse and her clothing drawer.
8% reported that officers searched for condoms at their
workplace. Two respondents also said that officers forced
them to remove the security camera at their workplace
even though they did not have this authority. Only 17% of
the respondents stated that they had not encountered any
problem with law enforcement.
Among the respondents who reported being sexually
assaulted by bylaw or police officers, three were asked to
remove their robes or pull up their dresses to show their
clothing and underwear, and two indicated that the officers
took pictures of them in this state. Another worker was
asked by an officer to go with him to a hotel; this officer
kept returning to her workplace until she told him that she
had a security camera and she knew that what he was doing
was not allowed. One respondent was issued three tickets in
one week after she challenged bylaw enforcement officers
who had asked her to show them her underwear and had
searched her place without a warrant.
One respondent was charged for not having her license
immediately available for presentation, despite the fact that
she told the bylaw enforcement officers that her license had
been sent to the wrong address. One person was charged
when she was cleaning her spa after working hours. One
person shared that her Chinese friend was charged for
working without a license, when she was merely visiting
and sitting on a sofa in the spa. Other respondents also
recounted similar experiences of getting charged when their
Chinese, non-English speaking friends were visiting.
16
“Four police ocers and bylaw
ocers came together. They
were extremely violent and
rude. They ordered us to face
the wall and we were not
allowed to talk. They treated
me like a criminal as they
searched my place, including
all the drawers, wallets — even
my underwear — without a
warrant. They left the rooms
a mess. I tried to challenge
them and they issued 3 tickets.
Not only that, but since then,
they’ve come back again
and again to issue 5 more
tickets within half a year as
revenge. I have never been
insulted like this in my life. I
can’t stop crying every time I
recall these incidents.
“They are very unreasonable
and disrespectful. A female
ocer asked my co-worker to
take o her clothes and show
her underwear. The bylaw
enforcement ocers then took
photos of her and gave her
a ticket for clothing (having
unprofessional clothing).
“I was ordered to stand,
and told not to move. They
wouldn’t even allow me to go
to the washroom.
Only one respondent called law enforcement authorities to
report an incident involving bylaw enforcement officers, but
it was not properly investigated. One-third of respondents
informed their manager or business owners, and 12%
informed a community organization. The others kept
silent. Three respondents stated that they did not complain
because they were afraid of retaliation, and one respondent
shared that the business owner did not approve of the staff
reporting these types of incidents.
17
“Licensing discriminates
against us. They come very
often, sometimes with 7-8
ocers. There is no other type
of business being treated like
this. They show up too often.
Not only do they interrupt our
day and harass customers,
they make me lose business.
They also disrupt our
neighbours and cause
the community to perceive
us as troublemakers.
“Law enforcement should be
accountable and their power
should be limited. They should
not be able to do whatever
they want with impunity”.
“99% will not call police
since they do not want to
have any trouble”
Perception of Law Enforcement
Overall, respondents had very negative impressions of
municipal law enforcement officers and police in spas and
wellness centres. 60% of the respondents had negative
perceptions of bylaw enforcement and police officers. Some
felt that the law enforcement and police officers did not
respect them as workers (40%), treated them as criminals
(37.8%), or unjustifiably punished them (13.3%). 24.4%
viewed them as neutral, while only 15.6 % viewed them in a
positive light.
Just over half (53.6%) of the respondents described police
officers as abusive, oppressive, or humiliating, while a
significant number perceived them as discriminatory (42.9%)
or unreliable (25%). Only a few respondents perceived police
as neutral, professional or friendly.
Similarly, over half (51.4%) described bylaw enforcement
officers as abusive, oppressive, or humiliating, and a
significant number perceived them as discriminatory (34.3%)
and unreliable (25.7%).
A significant number of respondents felt that law
enforcement has had a negative impact on them. Many
felt that bylaw and police officers enforcement officers
stigmatized and discriminated against them (40%), and had
negatively affected their businesses (37.8%). As a result, the
majority of respondents were less likely to seek help from
law enforcement in future situations (62.2%).
18
“We need a fair and pleasant
work environment, and that is
a reasonable demand.
“Times are changing, and
society is moving forward. The
regulations and laws that are
out-of-date should be abolished
or reregulated. (For example,
requiring customers to register
their personal information, and
issuing receipts mandatorily.
These are not reasonable,
meaning it is unlawful to
force the customers to provide
personal information that
infringes on their privacy, and
forcing them to accept receipts,
which are unnecessary.)
Requesting personal
information is against the law,
and forcing customers to accept
receipts is unnecessary, because
no insurance companies will
accept these receipts anyway.
The Division should focus
more on reforming those
unfair, unreasonable, and
out-of-date regulations for
safety and equality reasons.
There should be consumers’
committees and representatives
from holistic centres to
oversee the creation of truly
fair and just regulations; not
just empty words from the
politicians. Principles and the
public interest should be the
primary concern. Again, we
call upon the above parties to
listen to the voices of these
massage practitioners. Do not
use oppressive rules that are
inhumane and unreasonable.
Conclusion
Most people who work in Toronto’s spas and wellness
centres are Asian immigrants. Despite widely touted
claims of trafficking in these venues, our research did
not uncover any instances of forced labour or trafficking.
Rather, respondents provided a variety of reasons for
working as holistic practitioners, including the fact that such
employment enabled them to overcome language barriers,
racism, and discrimination in the job market.
The above findings also suggest the bylaws themselves are
problematic, and enable bylaw enforcement and police
officers to use their broad discretion to abuse and harass
practitioners who work in these locations. The majority
of respondents reported that in the past few years, the
approach of inspectors had changed from collaborative
and respectful to abusive and provocative, and that the
practitioners were being targeted. In particular, there is a
perception among practitioners, the vast majority of whom
are from Chinese and other Asian backgrounds, that the
excessive practices of law enforcement officers are the result
of racial profiling and discrimination, rather than to promote
workplace health and safety. For example, some practitioners
had been charged with bylaw infractions when they carried
out measures necessary to protect their own safety, such as
locking the door when they are alone, and protecting their
(and their clients’) personal information. Moreover, officers
had also harassed and intimidated customers and infringed
on their privacy, singling out holistic centers’ clients with
excessive and intrusive scrutiny.
Recommendations
We request that MLS and the Toronto Police Service:
1. End excessive and discriminatory inspections and
prosecutions of holistic centers and practitioners;
2. Thoroughly investigate complaints against bylaw
enforcement from holistic practitioners, and a guarantee
that practitioners will not be punished for making
these complaints;
3. Undertake a comprehensive review of current bylaws and
enforcement policies pertaining to holistic centres, with
meaningful participation of owners, practitioners, and
other stakeholders, such as community organizations
that have knowledge of the situation.
19
20
Appendix I : Summary of Findings
Demographic
• All of the respondents (100%) were born outside of Canada; the majority came from China (91.8%) and others from Korea, Viet-
nam, and Thailand.
• Majority have lived in Canada for more than 1 years (47.5% between 1-5 yrs) and 37.7% from 6 to 10 years.
• 42.6% were between 45-54 years old and 39.3% were 35-44. None were under 18.
• Reason to work in holistic centre: The majority cited economic or nancial reasons (66.7%) and/or limited employment options
(63.3%). Many could use their professional skills as holistic practitioners (43.3%). None reported being forced to work or being
tracked, nor under pressure from others.
Working Condition
• Positive aspects: Most respondents enjoyed helping others (78.7%) and good income (65.6%), with many (45.9%) indicating that it
provided better income than other jobs.
• Negative aspects: The majority worried about inspections and/or raids (65.5%) and about being ned and charged (44.8%). One-
third (31%) experienced discrimination and did not feel respected.
• More than half of the respondents had experienced violence in their workplace, such as robbery or theft by clients and other
perpetrator. More than one-third (34.4%) reported that they had been abused or harassed by bylaw enforcement ocers.
• Only 4 (6.9%) reported these incidents to law enforcement due to language barrier (48.2%), fear of more inspections (46.4%) or
losing clients or business (46.4%). One-fourth had previous negative or unpleasant experiences with police (25%) or feared revenge
from police (25%). Only 12.1% sought help from community organizations.
Knowledge of Bylaws and Regulations
• Respondents reported that they had very little (38.6%) or average (33.8%) knowledge of applicable bylaws.
Experiences of Inspection and Charge
• The majority of respondents indicated that inspections occurred in their workplace every three months (25.9%). Overall responses
about frequency of inspections ranged from once per year to three times per week or even twice per day.
• Half of the respondents (50%) had been charged and issued tickets for breaching municipal bylaws. The charges related to not
dressing professionally, not keeping records of clients, massage bed not in good repair, locking the door, and operating outside of
oce hours.
Misconduct and Abuse by Bylaw Enforcement and Police Ocers
• More than one-third (34.4%) reported that they had been abused or harassed by bylaw enforcement ocers or police. 22% were
insulted or verbally abused and some (12%) were physically or sexually assaulted.
Perception of law enforcement
• 60% had negative perceptions of bylaw enforcement and police ocers because they felt that law enforcement did not respect them
as workers (40%), treated them as criminals (37.8%), or unjustiably punished them (13.3%).
• More than half described bylaw (51.4%) and police ocers (53.6%) as abusive, oppressive, or humiliating, while a signicant
number perceived them as discriminatory (34.3%) or unreliable (25.7%).
• Many felt that ocers stigmatized and discriminated against them (40%), and had negatively aected their businesses (37.8%). The
majority of respondents were less likely to seek help from law enforcement in future situations (62.2%).
21
Appendix II: The survey
Note: when percentages are too small to be meaningful they are omitted
A) Background Information
1. How old are you? Please check the appropriate box.
Younger than 18 0
18-24 0
25-34 5 8.2%
35-44 24 39.3%
45-54 26 42.6%
55-64 6 9.8%
65 or older 0
Total Respondents: 61
2. Were you born in Canada?
Yes 0
No 61 100%
Total Respondents: 61
2a. If no, what is your country of birth?
China 56 91.8%
Korea 2 3.3%
Vietnam 2 3.3%
Thailand 1 1.6%
Total Respondents: 61
22
2b. How long have you lived in Canada?
Less than 1 year 3 4.9%
1-5 years 29 47.5%
6-10 years 23 37.7%
More than 10 years 6 9.8%
Total Respondents: 61
3. How would you describe your role in the massage parlour?
Please check all that apply.
Masseuse/ Practitioner 57 93.4%
Manager or Operator 5 8.1%
Owner 8 13.1%
Other:
Total Respondents: 61
• 48 (78.7) are only practitioners
• 3 (4.9%) are both practitioners and managers / operators
• 6 (9.8%) are both practitioners and owners
• 2 (3.3%) are managers / operators
• 2 (3.3%) are owners
4. How long have you worked in massage parlours in Toronto?
Less than 1 year 10 16.4%
1-3 years 29 47.5%
4-6 years 15 24.6%
7-9 years 5 8.2%
More than 10 years 2 3.3%
Total Respondents: 61
23
5. What are the major reasons why you work in massage parlours? Please check all that apply.
Economic or financial reasons 40 66.7%
Trouble finding another job 38 63.3%
Flexible working hours 24 40%
Enjoyment of the work 4 6.7%
Career development 2 3.3%
Use of professional skills 26 43.3%
Expanding social networks 2 3.3%
Debt bondage or being forced/trafficked 0
Pressure from family or friends 0
Other:
Contribute to Canadian Society 1 1.7%
Serve others 5 8.3%
Bad health condition / prior work injury 3 5%
Total respondents: 60
6. What was your previous occupation/profession? Please check all that apply.
Food processing / Agriculture sector 15 25%
Sales / Services sector 21 35%
Student 1 1.7%
Housekeeper/ Caretaker / Childcare 21 35%
Entertainment 2 3.3%
Engineer 1 1.7%
Stylist 1 1.7%
Restaurant Work 6 10%
Nurse / Doctor 3 5%
Tourism 1 1.7%
Government official 2 3.3%
Total Respondents: 60
24
B) Working Conditions
7. Have you ever experienced any of the following situations in your workplace? Please check all that
apply.
Robbery or theft 22 36%
Physical or sexual assault 12 19.7%
Threats from gangs 7 11.5%
Blackmail 7 11.5%
Refusal of payment from clients or
managers
14 23.0%
Sexual exploitation 0
Labour exploitation 4 6.5%
Forced to work or trafficked 0
Other 0
Harassment/ abuse by law enforce-
ment (bylaw enforcement officers
or police)
21 34.4%
Total Respondents: 61
8. If you experienced the above situations, how did you respond? Please check all that apply.
Called police to report the incident 4 6.9%
Called a different enforcement authority to report the incident 0
Pressed charges against the perpetrator 0
Informed the massage parlour manager or owner 17 29.3%
Kept silent / didn’t tell anyone 16 27.6%
Sought help from community organization 7 12.1%
Sought help from co-worker, friend, or family member 12 20.7%
Other:
Handled by myself 8 13.8%
Total Respondents: 58
25
8a. If you called the police or another enforcement authority, what was their response to your complaint?
Please check all that apply.
They carried out an investigation 1
They did nothing or refused to follow up on the complaint 3
They referred you to a community organization 0
They referred you to a another police/government
department
0
Other:
Total Respondents: 4
9. If you have experienced a difficult situation at your massage parlour, but did not call the police or an-
other enforcement authority, what were your reasons for not calling? Please check all that apply.
Fear of more inspections in the parlour 26 46.4%
Fear of losing clients or business 26 46.4%
Fear of being arrested, charged, or fined 17 30.3%
A previous bad or unpleasant experiences with police 14 25%
You think they cannot or will not help 12 21.4%
Being discriminated against by police or other enforcement authorities 18 32.1%
Language barriers 27 48.2%
Fear of revenge from police 14 25%
Other:
Boss doesn’t approve 3 5.1%
Total Respondents: 56
26
10. What are some of the positive or beneficial aspects of working in a massage parlour? Please check
all that apply.
Feeling happy and satisfied 16 26.2%
Feeling integrated into Canadian society 14 22.9%
Expanding social network 12 19.7%
Increasing self-confidence 13 21.3%
Enjoying helping others 48 78.7%
Enjoying the source of income 40 65.6%
Better income than other jobs 28 45.9%
Greater security than working independently/alone 16 26.2%
Working with colleagues who speak your language 36 59%
Other:
Feeling of freedom 1 2%
Total Respondents: 61
11. What are some of the negative or bad aspects of working in a massage parlour? Please check all
that apply.
Worrying about sexual transmitted diseases 2 3.4%
Getting injured at work 12 20.7%
Feeling isolated 12 20.7%
Needing to hide from friends and family 13 22.4%
Being discriminated against or not feeling respected 18 31.0%
Worrying about inspections and/or raids from police and other authori-
ties
38 65.5%
Worrying about being fine or charged 26 44.8%
Poor working conditions (for example long hours, etc.) 8 13.8%
Feeling like you don’t have any labour protections 8 13.8%
Total Respondents: 58
27
C) Experience with Law Enforcement
12. How much knowledge do you have about the regulations or laws related to massage parlours?
None 7 12.3%
Very little 22 38.6%
Little 5 8.7%
Average or moderate 19 33.3%
Above average 2 3.5%
A lot
Not sure / don’t know 2 3.5%
Total Respondents: 57
13. How do you get your knowledge about the law and regulation of massage parlours?
Learnt from Holistic License Training Program 6 10.5%
Told by co-workers, or by the parlour manager/owner 34 59.6%
Reading the regulation and laws 5 8.8%
Told by the police or other law enforcement (e.g., bylaw officers) 12 21.1%
Total Respondents: 57
14. How often do law enforcement authorities (e.g., police or bylaw officers) do inspections at your
massage parlour?
Less than once a year 7
Every 6 months or so 11 20.4%
Every three months or so 14 25.9%
Once a month 8 14.8%
Once a week 9 16.7%
Other:
Twice a day 1
3 times a week 1
Various/ uncertain 6 11.1%
Total Respondents: 54
28
15. Have you ever been fined or issued a ticket from a police or bylaw officer?
Yes 26 50%
No 26 50%
Total Respondents: 52
15a. If yes, how many times have you been fined or ticketed?
1-2 11 42.3%
3-4 9 34.6%
5-10 4 15.4%
More than 10 times 2 7.7%
Total Respondents: 26
15b. How much were the fines?
0
0-100 12
100-200 11
200-500 5
500-1000 2
More than 1000 2
Total Respondents: 32
29
15c. What were the reasons for being fined or ticketed? Please check all that apply.
Not keeping records of clients 3 11.5%
Operating outside of office hours 4 15,4%
Dressing improperly 6 23%
Offering unlisted services 2 7,7%
Not covering the client properly 1 3.8%
Other: 0
Massage bed is not in good repair 3 11.5%
Locking door 4 15.4%
Not having lock for the safe 1 3.8%
Not providing receipt for clients 2 7.7%
Not displaying license 2 7.7%
Hiring practitioners without license 1 3.8%
Obstruction of investigation 2 7.7%
No license number on advertisement 1 3.8%
Total Respondents: 26
16. Have you ever experienced any of the following situations with law enforcement officials (e.g.,
police officers, bylaw officers from Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards, Border Security
Agents, etc.)? Please check all that apply.
Arrested, issued a ticket, or received a fine 25 50%
Physically or sexually assaulted 6 12%
Insulted or verbally abused 11 22%
Visited in room by officers without warrant 11 14%
Entrapment by officers 2 4%
False allegations (e.g. law enforcement make up evidence to
charge you)
6 12%
Searched for or took your condoms 4 8%
Used condoms as evidence against you 1 2%
Inappropriate or illegal actions taken by law enforcement (e.g.,
theft , blackmail)
4 8%
Have not had problems with law enforcement officials 7 14%
Other: 0
30
Search for personal items, such as bags 3 6%
Being ordered to dance and sing 1 2%
Ask the client to leave 1 2%
Ask to meet after work and go to a hotel 1 2%
Total Respondents: 50
17. If you experienced any of the above situations, how did you respond? Please check all that apply.
Called police to report the incident
Called a different enforcement authority to report the incident 1 6.7%
Pressed charges against the perpetrator
Informed the massage parlour manager or owner 5 33.3%
Kept silent / didn’t tell anyone 4 26.7%
Sought help from community organization 5 33.3%
Other:
Total Respondents: 15
17a. If you called the police or another enforcement authority, what was their response to your com-
plaint? Please check all that apply.
They carried out an investigation
They did nothing or refused to follow up on the
complaint
1 100%
They referred you to a community organization
They referred you to a another police/govern-
ment department
Other:
Total Respondents: 1
31
18. How would you describe your experiences with police officers specifically? Please check all that
apply.
They have been friendly, helpful, kind, etc. 1 3.6%
They have been neutral towards you 2 7.1%
They have acted professionally 1 3.5%
They have been abusive, oppressive, or humiliating 15 53.6%
They have acted in a discriminatory way towards you 12 42.9%
They have been unreliable 9 25%
Other:
Total Respondents : 28
19. How would you describe your experiences with bylaw enforcements officers specifically? Please
check all that apply.
They have been friendly, helpful, kind, etc. 3 8.5%
They have been neutral towards you 1 2.9%
They have acted professionally 2 5,7%
They have been abusive, oppressive, or humiliating 18 51.4%
They have acted in a discriminatory way towards you 12 34.3%
They have been unreliable 9 25.7%
Other:
They are disgusting 1 2.9%
Total Respondents: 35
32
20. How do police and/or bylaw inspections and raids affect you or your co-workers? Please check all
that apply.
They can be helpful 0
They can increase your sense of protection and safety 1 2.2%
They make it harder for you to negotiate services and condoms with
clients
1 2.2%
They push your work underground 1 2.2%
They make it harder for you to keep condoms at your work 0
They make you feel more stigmatized and discriminated against 18 40%
They make you less likely to seek help from law enforcement 14 31.1%
They have a negative impact on your finances 17 37.8%
Other:
They are disgusting 1 2.2%
Total Respondents: 45
21. Overall, what is your comment on the municipal law enforcement in spas/ wellness centres?
Good 7 15.6%
Bad 27 60%
Neutral 11 24.4%
Others
Total Respondents: 45
21a. Reasons: Please check all that apply.
They protect our safety 3 6.7%
They help us to do our work 1 2.2%
They understand our situation 1 2.2%
They do not respect us as workers 18 40%
They treat us as criminals 17 37.8%
They punish us 6 13.3%
Total Respondents: 45
33
22. Do you have comments? Is there anything else that you would like us to know?
Some of the quotes from the respondents:
License (licensing enforcement officers) come too often. They harass our business and clients. We welcome them if they come
with respect and with reasonable frequency.
The government should spend money in the right places. Do you know how much money they spend on the license (bylaw
enforcement officers) to come here? They come a few times a month.
The license (bylaw enforcement officers) should respect us. We pay license fees. They should serve us. They behave like the
“city security” in China who always abuse their power.
An officer asked me to go out with him. He even wants me to pay for the hotel room. I found an excuse to leave. He came
again and again. I told him that I have a camera.
I have worked for almost 10 years. They never told me I had problems before. But now they give me tickets for different rea-
sons.
The police locked me up in handcuffs even though I did not do anything wrong. I forgot to bring my PR card. It was so em-
barrassing and insulting. I was screaming because I wanted other people to know what was happening. I was released after
my family brought me my PR card and showed it to them.
It is a name card. I have used it for 8 years and was never charged. No one will put the license number on the name card.
They just find whatever reason to give us a ticket.
The license (bylaw enforcement officers) searched my place.
You see, they give me a ticket even if I have a little scratch on the message bed. I have to spend $250 to buy a new bed and
pay $150 fine.
My iPad was stolen a few times. I locked the door for my safety as I am the only person who works here. But the license (bylaw
enforcement officers) did not listen to my explanation. They gave me a $200 fine.
A few spas have shut down because they received too many tickets.
It is important for us to work here. We are members of society. We use our own efforts to serve clients. We contribute greatly
to society. We pay licensing fees and taxes. We should be treated like other businesses.
The enforcement of bylaw has no standard. Different law enforcement officers have different standards.
The way of enforcement has changed in the last few years. They are aiming at giving out the tickets .
I have asked the bylaw enforcement officers but they could not tell me what I should do.
I have been issued more than 20 tickets last year. It has become a great burden for us.
The bylaw enforcement officers were much more reasonable before. For example, they asked us to lock the door in the eve-
nings to protect our safety. But now, we will be issued a ticket if we do so.
I have worked for more than 10 years. It has never been as bad as it is now. They treat us as if we are offenders and as crimi-
nals. They do not treat us like a regular business.
No one needs to show their name and address on their license, neither doctor or taxi driver. We can show our license but our
name and address should not be shown to the pubic.
A bylaw enforcement officer came by himself. He asked me to pull up my dress to show my underwear to him. I felt so insult-
ed and embarrassing. I had no choice but to follow his instructions. He searched my place and I asked him if he had a warrant.
He gave me a very bad attitude and he came back again and issued me 3 tickets.
……
34
Report written by Elene Lam
May 2018
Report Produced by:
Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network)
Coalition Against Abuse By Bylaw Enforcement
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Holistic Practitioners Alliance
Partners Organizations:
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Migrant Sex Worker’s Support Network
No One Is Illegal
St. Stephen’s Community House
Strut
Contact: cswbutterfly@gmail.com / 1-416-906-3098 / butterflysw.org
... One simple answer is that the issue of trafficking is beyond the scope of the focus of the legal action. In the situation of migrant or immigrant sex workers, the fear of losing immigration status and being deported requires necessary invisibility in order to continue to work and there are specific reasons why some people may not want to be included in a legal challenge or testify before Parliament (Canadian Council for Refugees, 2013;Lam, 2018, April;Lam, 2018, May;MacIntosh, 2006). 10 Dina Francesca Haynes (2009, pp. ...
... (c) provisions that point to criminal charges and convictions to make findings that a person is inadmissible and therefore removable from Canada; (d) provisions that render children of migrant or immigrant sex workers subject to the same criminal or immigration legal consequences? There is existing literature that looks at these intersections (see, e.g., Bellissimo, 2011;Butterfly, n.d.;Canadian Council for Refugees, n.d.;Citizenship Canada 2016.;Gallagher & Pearson, 2010;Haynes, 2009;Lam, 2018, April;Lam, 2018, May;Legal Aid Ontario, n.d.;MacIntosh, 2006;Oxman-Martinez & Hanley, 2001;Sharma, 2003;SWAN, 2015;Thobani, 2001;UNHCR, 2001). When legal reform is undertaken a more concerted effort should be made to provide an intersectional approach and analysis of law's impact with persons who are racialized and have precarious immigration status. ...
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Background Research that accurately represents how characteristics of sex work clients relate to sex workers’ labour conditions is crucial for informing evidence-based legislation which upholds sex workers’ human rights. As little quantitative research has examined how seeing regulars (repeat clients) impacts sex workers’ occupational safety, particularly under ‘end-demand’ criminalization in Canada, our study aimed to explore how seeing mostly regulars shapes workplace sexual violence and client condom refusal. Methods We drew on longitudinal data from a community-based open cohort of 900+ sex workers in Vancouver, recruited via time-location sampling during day and late-night outreach to indoor, outdoor, and online solicitation spaces. We used logistic regression analyses and multivariable GEE confounder models to 1) describe correlates of seeing mostly pre-screened, regular clients, 2) identify associations between seeing mostly regulars and odds of experiencing occupational outcomes of workplace sexual violence and client condom refusal, and 3) examine the interaction between seeing mostly regulars and work environment on workplace sexual violence and client condom refusal. Results Participants’ median age was 35, and 55.6% had completed high school. Over the 9-year study (n=925), 20.9% (193) experienced 282 events of workplace sexual violence and 40.2% (372) faced 702 events of client condom refusal. In multivariable GEE confounder models, seeing mostly regulars was associated with reduced odds of sexual violence (AOR 0.73, 95%CI 0.53-1.02, p=0.067) and client condom refusal (AOR 0.70, 95%CI 0.57-0.86). In multivariable GEE confounder models examining the additive interaction between seeing mostly regulars and work environment, participants who saw mostly regulars and primarily worked in outdoor or informal indoor venues faced significantly lower odds of experiencing workplace sexual violence (AOR 0.69, 95%CI 0.49-0.95) and client condom refusal (AOR 0.64, 95%CI 0.52 -0.80) relative to those who worked in the same venues and did not see mostly regulars. Conclusion Our findings highlight protective effects of seeing pre-screened regulars within a criminalized setting. Removal of ‘end-demand’ client criminalization is needed to enable sex workers to effectively screen clients, support HIV/STI prevention, and advance sex workers’ human rights.
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