Promoting Intimacy and Positive, Healthy, Consenting Adult Sexuality


December 19-20, 2003

 Toronto Massive Swoop on 350 body rubs finds 2 teenagers aged 16&17


Toronto Massive Swoop on 350 body rubs finds 2 teenagers aged 16&17

Background Notes: Like most of the world except the U.S. private prostitution is legal in Canada. However forced and street prostitution, pimping and having sex with a prostitute who is under 18 is illegal. Interestingly, While police can apprehend -- not arrest, but take to a place of safety -- those under 16, 16- and 17-year-olds can't be forcibly removed from escort services, yet customers can be charged if under 18.

There is provincial proposed legislation -- which would allow police to remove and detain child prostitutes under the age of 18 for as long as five days and at least give them a tool to help those who may want out of the sex trade. But though the act received royal assent in June of last year, it has not yet been proclaimed and is not in effect.

I have never been to these type of unlicensed body rubs But just like trafficked women in Scottsdale parlors they are in Toronto as well as finding 2 teenagers aged 16 & 17.

Body rubs are licensed for ..body rubs and legally offer "relaxation massage". No training required vs RMT's (Registered Massage Therapists) which can only give regular non-sexual massage and require 2200 hours of training in Ontario and 3000 hrs in B.C. There is a clear distinction between licensed adult body rubs and the RMTs. Most of the police action was against Holistic Health Centers which do not have the required body rub licenses to do adult relaxation massage.

Other than one person arrested for pimping (living of the avails of prostitution), sex itself wasn't the issue, but the places not being licensed as body rubs, and the immigration issue.

Police forces swoop on massage parlours
Highlights from: The Globe and Mail, December 19, 2003 - Page A17

In what is believed to be the biggest operation of its kind in Canada, police from Toronto and three outlying suburbs last night swooped in on hundreds of body-rub and massage parlours looking for children and illegal immigrants forced into the sex trade.

And they rescued at least two teenagers, one 16 and one 17, who were working in one of the establishments, and late last night had sealed off a York Region hotel room and arrested a man they allege was pimping the young women.

Called Project Home for Christmas, the joint forces effort was spearheaded by Toronto's child-exploitation unit, but also involved officers from York, Durham and Peel Regions, federal immigration and Royal Canadian Mounted Police and local bylaw enforcement officials -- with child-protection agencies put on standby and interpreters at the ready. "This is not an exercise in enforcement," Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie, head of the child exploitation unit, told hundreds of officers at a briefing yesterday, "and it's certainly not a morality issue.

"Consenting adults can do with consenting adults what they like," he said. "This is about women, and sometimes children, being exploited, being threatened, or having to work off a debt by performing sex.

"Working in teams, detectives launched a co-ordinated strike against an estimated 350 establishments in the Greater Toronto Area, most of which bill themselves as "holistic" health centres purporting to offer only reflexology, aromatherapy and like services. The holistic houses, often located in dingy, third-floor walkups, have mushroomed since the late 1970s, when in the wake of a public uproar over the murder of a 12-year-old shoeshine boy named Emanuel Jaques above a Yonge Street massage parlour in Toronto, a moratorium was placed on new bodyrub licences.

Such licences are grandfathered, with Toronto having only 26. But where an operator wanting to set up a bodyrub would have to buy an existing operation for $6,000, a municipal licence to run a holistic centre costs only $147, with a $100 annual renewal fee.

The holistic centres allow pimps to get the young girls off the street, where they can be more easily spotted by police and youth workers, and into less visible locations.

The team found a classic example of an "illegal" detectives believe is effectively an indentured sex worker, a 32-year-old Vietnamese woman working at an unlicensed holistic house on Spadina Avenue in the city's downtown Chinatown.

Det. Sgt. Gillespie had warned officers they likely would encounter women -- particularly among those who have been smuggled into the country under the ruse of a legitimate job and then forced into sex to pay back their fares here -- who are too frightened to co-operate. "Remember," he said, "as bad as it might be for them here, it might be a lot better than from where they came." He urged the teams to work "in as soft a way as possible when you enter these places. If they [the women] want to be there, that's fine. We're here today because we don't believe they all want to be there."

Within "two seconds" of arriving, the woman offered Det. Constable Stolf "full sex" for $100, and pointed to a gloomy back room fitted out with a small cot covered with dirty towels. As police began gently questioning the woman, whose command of English was confined to simple description of the services she offered, two male customers, from Cambridge, Ont., a city about 90 minutes from Toronto, wandered in.

At first, they claimed to be in search of haircuts -- even the nearly bald fellow -- but once officers checked to make sure they were no outstanding warrants against them, and the men realized they weren't in trouble, they relaxed and began grinning.When they left, one of them joked, "Thank you. Come again."

The immigration officer, meantime, working with a Vietnamese interpreter by phone, ascertained that the woman was in Canada illegally. Detective Constable Bryn Taylor also used the interpreter, and discovered that the woman was instructed, if she got too busy to handle the traffic, to refer customers to a Bathurst Street address just blocks away. The address is known to the vice squad, Det. Page said, as "a fuck-house. It's just straight sex, no pretence."

The woman claimed to be married, but didn't know her supposed husband's age, and was given a notice to appear before an immigration adjudicator. Det. Page questioned her at some length, and satisfied himself she was frightened, had been smuggled in, and that it appeared she had not been paid since arriving in the country two years ago. "We'll do some follow-up on this one," he said.

Generally, the holistic centres charge between $30 and $90 for a treatment, but once the customer is in one of the typically garish, overheated rooms and naked on the table, the attendant will offer various "extras" -- $20 for a topless massage; $40 for touching or "hand release"; and upwards of $100 for oral sex and intercourse. Some shops also offer what are called "nude slides," where both customer and attendant are nude, with the woman on the bottom, and "nude reverse slides", where the attendant is on top of the customer.

Dave notes, the sex wasn't the issue, but the places not being licensed as body rubs, and the immigration issue.

Followup article highlights:
Globe and Mail December 20, 2003 Page A18

'These girls aren't hookers. They are children'

Project Home for Christmas, a massive Toronto Police-led initiative aimed at rescuing teenagers forced into prostitution, may well have succeeded in reuniting at least two young women with their families. The two were among five underage girls discovered -- one in the act of servicing a 37-year-old man, Davor Vidovic, who is now charged with obtaining sex from a person under 18 -- working at some of 300 massage parlours investigated in the Thursday-night operation.

"At 4 o'clock this morning," youth worker Susan Miner told a police press conference yesterday, "I had these two young women in my office. One had just turned 16, the other is 17, and they both wanted to go home." She said her agency, Street Outreach Services, has contacted the teens' worried parents and is now in the process of arranging for help and their safe return. Both girls, Ms. Miner said, are already talking about going back to school.

The two, runaways from southern Ontario cities, had been in Toronto only two weeks before they met and were allegedly put out to work by a 20-year-old Detroit man, Melando Streety, who is now charged with two counts of living off the avails of prostitution. Mr. Streety is illegally in Canada, and has previously both been deported from the country and refused entry. He is also believed to have been pimping two of the other young women found working in a York Region massage parlour, north of the city.

A fifth teenager was also found by police in one of the parlours, but these three, according to Detective Reuben Stroble of the Toronto child-exploitation unit, are resisting offers of help "to a degree" and are still "out there." That young people 16 or older must be willing to leave the prostitution racket is a bitter pill for Ontario police forces to swallow.

While police can apprehend -- not arrest, but take to a place of safety -- those under 16 by using the authority of the provincial Child and Family Service Act, 16- and 17-year-olds can't be forcibly removed from the escort services, cheap apartments, and walkup massage parlours where they may well be working against their will, but are too frightened or beaten to leave.

There is provincial legislation -- in the form of Bill 86, the Rescuing Children from Sexual Exploitation Act -- now on the books which would allow police to remove and detain child prostitutes under the age of 18 for as long as five days and at least give them a tool to help those who may want out of the sex trade. But though the act received royal assent in June of last year, it has not yet been proclaimed and is not in effect.

Det. Stroble, who was the operational lead on the massive project that saw teams of police, federal immigration and local bylaw-enforcement officers sweep down on massage parlours and "holistic centres" in four jurisdictions, took issue with the teenagers being described as prostitutes. "These girls aren't hookers," he snapped. "They are children. They're being commercially raped in these locations, and we need to be able to apprehend them."

He also bemoaned the lack of services for older teens, noting that even when the youngsters want to escape their sordid environments, there is little in the way of help police can offer them. While there is an array of services for under-16s through children's aid agencies and the like, the best police can often do for the older girls is take them to a youth shelter, where, Det. Stroble said, they are free to come and go and remain vulnerable to their pimps.

Ms. Miner, for instance, said that by the measure of her own small, seven-staff agency -- which works only the downtown "strolls," as they're called -- there are at least 700 children working as street prostitutes in the downtown core. They may stay on the streets only a short time before being ensnared by pimps and then set to work underground, through websites and escort agencies and in cheap hotel rooms and bogus massage parlours -- often disappearing entirely from the view even of streetwise workers.

Often, she said, these youngsters hail from broken and abusive homes, and while they flee to the bright lights of Toronto from all across the country hoping to land jobs or merely party, before they know it, they have acquired a "boyfriend" they love who soon turns them out as prostitutes. With virtually no skills -- the average child prostitute on the streets has less than a Grade 9 education -- and as few options, they are sucked into a life which, the non-judgmental modern lexicon of "sex-trade worker" notwithstanding, "only gets worse and worse," as Ms. Miner put it yesterday.

They are often naifs who will have unprotected sex with customers, and are ripe for contracting serious sexually transmitted diseases, as well as the drug habits rife in the industry. Many have known nothing but sexual abuse. Ms. Miner said that in the past five years, from her own work in a small slice of the city at Street Outreach, she knows 27 child prostitutes who died -- by HIV or AIDS, homicide, suicide and drug use. "And that's only the number I know," she said. "There are lots of others I just haven't seen again."

As well as the rescues and criminal charges, Toronto municipal officials also laid 142 bylaw charges -- ranging from minor offences to more serious breaches such as unclothed or unlicensed attendants -- while their immigration counterparts found two people wanted on warrants and "red-flagged" 22 others who may be in Canada illegally.

"We're not going to stop," Staff Inspector Bruce Smollet, head of the sex- crimes unit, pledged yesterday. If the police sweep showed children may not be in the massage parlours in significant numbers, "We will go and get them where they are.

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