York Regional Police need to do more about sex trafficking at the region's body rub parlours, according to at least two victims advocates.
“We ask that you instruct YRP’s leadership team to cancel the go-free pass that they have given to the body rub/erotic massage criminals and enforce the law, effective immediately,” Robert Vallée of Parents Against Child Trafficking – Markham & Richmond Hill (PACT) told members of the York Regional Police Services Board this morning, Sept. 22.
“Are Canadian laws that aggressively criminalize the activities of sex buying, pimping, operating escort agencies, strip clubs and erotic spas ... being enforced by YRP? Sadly the answer is a resounding no,” he added.
Vallée referenced a report by Det. Thai Truong about Project Raphael, a York Regional Police operation against child prostitution that resulted in 104 men charged.
“First, ‘Our police agency is not interested in investigating prostitution unless it involves children under 18 or human trafficking.’ Really?” Vallée said. “Number 2, ‘We really did not want to identify any of the men who were not looking to buy prostituted children.’ You’re kidding, right? And Number 3, my favourite, ‘YRP has no interest in making arrests for prostitution involving consenting adults.’ Criminal Code, people, check it out.”
Marnie Hill of the Council of Women Against Sex Trafficking in York Region had a similar message, telling board members, “The selective approach to which laws to uphold and which ones to let slide, especially when it comes to sexual exploitation of women, must stop. It’s time for you to listen once again to the stories of many young women exploited and abused in (body rub parlours) here in York Region and the GTA.”
Hill praised the Town of Newmarket for its new bylaw that will require licensing for alternative massage parlours and prohibit sexual activity at these businesses as of January 2022.
“I commend Newmarket’s mayor, (John) Taylor, and the council for taking action to address the illegal activity that YRP refuses to address. The law is clear and the town now has a bylaw that is strong enough to enforce,” she said.
“They also did it to address concerns raised by town residents who do not want to live in a community where its elected officials and the police ignore criminal activities that put their children, especially young women, at risk,” she said.
Multiple organizations representing sex workers in the GTA, Canada and the United States protested the new bylaw that could shut down what she called the illegal body rub parlours
“Is it because they know that by working for (body rub parlours) in York Region they are safe from being charged? Do they know, as we heard from YRP through its legal counsel Jason Fraser, that while criminal offences may be committed within (body rub parlours), the YRP considers the businesses themselves legal, hence no action?” she said.
Board members did not have any questions or comments for Hill or Vallée following their deputations, which were officially received with a motion by the board.