End discriminatory and targeted prosecutions on holistic centres & practitioners in Toronto

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An Open Letter to Toronto City Council

We are a community of holistic practitioners and members who care about individuals working in holistic centres throughout Toronto. In this letter, we express our disappointment and concern regarding the recommendations from the 2017 Auditor General’s Report, “A Review of Municipal Licensing and Standards Division’s Management of Business Licences – Part Two: Licensed Holistic Centres”, calling for an increase in the number of inspections conducted on holistic centres, the addition of five By-law enforcement officers, and the removal of 10 Professional Holistic Associations (PHA).

Background

  1. Excessive Inspections and Fines: In the past five years, Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) increased the number inspections conducted on more than 400 holistic centres, from 500 times in 2013 to about 1700 times in 2016. The number of inspections conducted on holistic practitioners increased from 600 times in 2013 to more than 2,500 times in 2016 – far exceeding those of other businesses. MLS has harassed holistic centres excessively, disrupting business and violating practitioners’ right to work and earn a living.
  2. Unreasonable Fines: False accusations and prosecutions have been made based on irrelevant evidence, i.e. no evidence; falsely accusing a visiting neighbor of a holistic centre of being an unlicensed practitioner; accusing a practitioner of working after hours, after they already closed for the day; excessive inspection of tidiness, e.g. pointing out scratches on the base of a mattress, using papers from a garbage bin as evidence for prosecution.
  3. Human rights violations by By-law enforcement officers: Practitioners are treated inappropriately during inspections, i.e. prohibiting practitioners from using the washroom; demanding practitioners undress from clothing and reveal undergarments; photographing practitioners without their consent; demanding practitioners stand as a form of punishment; demanding practitioners sing for officer’s entertainment; some By-law enforcement officers have made “victorious gestures” after ticketing, suggesting to practitioners that officers are proud of issuing fines.
  4. Practitioners targeted for inspections due to language barriers: Since the majority of holistic practitioners are newcomers from Asia, barriers to employment such as language and lack of recognition for their previous profession, mean that many depend solely on holistic centers for employment and to make ends meet. Due to language barriers, practitioners are often unaware of the reasoning surrounding receiving a fine, and are unable to effectively communicate during and after inspections with By-law enforcement officers about their complaints, resulting in an increased number of inspections yearly.

The 2017 Auditor General’s Report is based on the above description of inappropriate By-law enforcement on holistic centres, and we argue the following:

  1. The report contains false allegations, i.e. holistic centres as a source of increased risk to public health, community, and safety, including concerns related to exploitation and human trafficking. In reality, more than 95% of practitioners are over the age of 30, with no minors working as practitioners, and with no indication that practitioners are trafficked or coerced into the profession.
  2. The report demonstrates the City’s discriminatory opinion of holistic centres. According to the report, about one in four holistic centres provided “unauthorized services” in 2016. In reality, from 2006 to 2016 there were only an average of 4 prosecutions each year related to “unauthorized services”. It is unnecessary for MLS to increase its budget to allow for five additional By-law enforcement officers, for the purpose of conducting targeted inspections and disrupting business in holistic centres.
  3. About 2,300 holistic practitioners will lose their license with the proposed removal of the 10 PHAs, which accounts for over 92% of holistic practitioner memberships in Toronto. Given that holistic practitioners are unable to practice without a license, the removal of PHAs indirectly prohibits holistic practitioners from working.
  4. The absence of communication between practitioners and the City/MLS has made consultation with holistic practitioners impossible. A lack of consultation coupled with language barriers has prevented Asian holistic practitioners from responding immediately and voicing their concerns, resulting in further discrimination against holistic practitioners.
  5. Stringent requirements for body-rub parlours harshly restricts work opportunities for body-rubbers, i.e. significantly high costs in annual licensing fees, a limit of only 25 body-rub parlours in all of Toronto, body-rubbers being restricted to work in only one parlour.

Therefore, before the February 26th, 2018 discussion on regulations of holistic centres, we make the following five recommendations to City Council and its relevant committees:

  1. Withdraw the proposal calling for the removal of 10 PHAs until a comprehensive consultation has been held with holistic practitioners.
  2. Withdraw the proposal calling for five additional By-law enforcement officers until a comprehensive consultation has been held with holistic practitioners.
  3. Conduct a comprehensive consultation with holistic centres and practitioners as soon as possible to formulate suggestions for amending relevant By-laws and regulations.
  4. End discriminatory and targeted inspections and prosecutions on holistic centres and practitioners.
  5. Ensure By-law officers interact with practitioners in a non-discriminatory and respectful manner.
  6. Review and change stringent regulations on body-rub parlours in consultation with body-rubbers.

We need your support. Please sign and share this petition to bring change and justice in Toronto! If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Holistic Practitioner Alliance by email: holisticp.alliance@gmail.com 

 

For Chinese version, please check: 致多伦多市政府的联名信



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