The City of New Westminster’s bylaw for massage services is rubbing some folks the wrong way – but changes are on the way.
Jasmine Kumar, a certified body work practitioner, is calling on the City of New Westminster to become more inclusive of people who are providing massage services in the city. She said the city refused herbusiness licence application because of the current bylaw requirements related to massage providers make it impossible for certified body workers to meet the city’s licensing requirements.
“Section 120.131 pertains to massage therapists, who are registered through the College of Massage Therapists of B.C., which does not apply to body workers,” she said. “Legally I cannot use the title of massage provider or massage therapist, so the only section of the bylaw that comes close to fitting the definition of a body worker would be 120.132, which is designated for masseurs and masseuses.”
Massage therapists are permitted in the commercial zoning districts, Kumar said, but masseurs and masseuses must be located in P-8 public works, adult entertainment and utility districts.
“I understand the city’s intention behind the difference in zoning was to deter illegal activities from taking place under guise of a massage business, and I respect and support that. But who is to say that these activities aren’t already taking place, either without a business licence or operating under a different designation, such as an esthetician? There are many spas operating under an esthetics licence, which also provide massage services, and these services are not performed by a registered massage therapist.”
Kumar suggested people who are engaged in illegal activities may not even bother to apply for a business licence.
“The current legislation leaves me wondering about where I fit in,” she said during a recent remote appearance before city council. “As it is now, the zoning bylaw doesn’t leave me with any choice but to work in the adult entertainment district, which I find is unacceptable and offensive. The services provided by the adult entertainment industry are not within the scope of my practice.”
Kumar said she knows of other certified body work practitioners who have been affected by the city’s bylaw and have had to move their business to other cities in the Lower Mainland. She said many of them are members of the North American Studio Alliance.
“Body workers offer holistic massage, which is more along the lines of eastern philosophies that see health and wellness through the lens of balance in heart, mind, body and spirit,” she said. “By providing an Indian head massage to a middle-aged single mother who was putting her son through university and was dealing with a lot of stress, she came out of the session and said, ‘Wow, I feel like I had an out-of-body experience.’ I could see the gratitude in her eyes, and she knew that the benefits she had received from my treatment went far beyond the relief of physical ailments such as the tension in her neck and shoulders. This is the reason I am here: people like her need people like me.”
Kumar said healing services are especially important in times of crisis, like that being experienced at a global scale at this time.
“I ask you to open your minds to the possibility that holistic massage also has a place here,” she said, “and that it is important for certified bodywork practitioners to have a legal right to work alongside their colleagues, the registered massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and others who are in the health and wellness industry and are already permitted to use business and professional offices in the commercial zoning districts.”
Emilie Adin, the city’s director of development services, saidstaff is bringing forward updates regarding massage services as part of a larger package of miscellaneous zoning bylaw amendments.
“It definitely is something that will be coming forward to council, we think in November, and it will definitely open up and widen the net, so to speak,” said Kim Deighton, the city’s manager of licensing and integrated services.