The city of Regina is weighing options to regulate massage parlours that act as a front for prostitution in the city.

There are approximately 21 of these establishments currently running in the city, and right now, there's no regulation to keep workers, clients and the public safe.

At an executive committee meeting held in Regina on Wednesday, it was decided that the city would go forward with considering two regulation options: one focuses on increased enforcement and a zoning bylaw that would mean more protection for the general public, while the second option looks at increased protection for the employees and their clients through a licensing system.

Both options suggest changing the name of these establishments from 'massage parlours' to 'body rub parlours.' This would make it easier for the public to differentiate between what businesses offer sexual services, and those that do not.

Worker concerns

Two employees of a local body rub parlour spoke to CTV News about their opinions on the city looking to add regulations to their work, but did not want to identify themselves.

They said they appreciate the city wanting to add a layer of protection for workers. But they added that some of the regulations - specifically the requirement for licensing these employees - could do more harm than good.

They said to get a license would mean attaching the work they do to their name forever, and sometimes, it’s work that they’re not proud of. They believe this would make it hard to find a better job in the future.

Many employees at these parlours are not from Canada, and therefore aren't fluent in English. Because of that, it makes finding employment a challenge. But the need to provide for their families is there, so they do whatever they can to make that happen.

The workers said by adding certain regulations, it would put many of them out of work, and unable to make ends meet.

Close to home

Ed Smith lost his daughter 27 years ago, after she was killed when working in the sex trafficking industry, making his tie to this issue personal.

Since then, he's been actively working as an advocate to spread awareness and educate people about the dangers involved in this industry.

"(One woman I spoke with) says inside she hates every minute of it, and our daughter said the same thing. She phoned all the time when she was on the street, and we would plea with her to come home, and she would say she couldn't," he said.

When it comes to body rub parlours in the city, Smith has a strong opinion.

"My real desire would be to see Regina as a city that did not have body rub parlours or massage parlours," he said. "I've seen the damage done to women, to men, to families, to homes when people get involved in that. It's heartbreaking."

But, he said if the establishments are going to operate in the city, it's vital that they are regulated for the safety of those involved.

"It puts women at risk, so we need to have things in place to make sure there is safety there for the women," Smith said.

Smith is part of the Freedom Catalyst Regina group, who focus on sex trafficking in the city. He said the group is researching how other cities in Canada regulate body rub parlours, in hopes of seeing Regina follow the lead of those that have an effective plan in place.

Registered massage therapists

Shawn Broom is a registered massage therapist at Massage Experts in Regina. He said he's on board with regulating the body rub parlours - especially if it means taking 'massage' out of their title.

"This has been a major thorn in the side of the massage therapy community for a long time," he said. "It's nice to see that one of the big things they're pushing for is removing the word 'massage' from the description of these places."

He said this way, it removes the connection between registered massage clinics and body rub parlours. Broom said that connection has become a problem.

"As a male it doesn't affect me as much, but I certainly have plenty of female colleagues that have to deal with unwanted advances and unwanted questioning from clients," Broom said.

"We have to deflect those questions, or deal with it, when we really shouldn't have to."

But, he said he does want to see regulations that would make it safer for the workers who decide to go into those businesses.

"I think it should be fully legislated and legal," he said. "It would make such a work environment for people who do decide to get into that field. Why wouldn't you want it to be as safe as possible?"

The final ruling on what will happen for these body rub parlours is likely still months away, as the city is only just starting to take the first steps towards regulation.