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From 'exotic' to 'erotic': Edmonton mulls renaming adult industry, other business licence changes

The City of Edmonton issues licences to body rub parlours, escort services and exotic entertainers and venues. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
The City of Edmonton issues licences to body rub parlours, escort services and exotic entertainers and venues. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

Businesses and workers offering sexual entertainment services in Edmonton may be called by a different name if city council agrees to amend its business licence bylaw.

The City of Edmonton proposes to change the word "exotic" to '"erotic" in three adult industry categories in the bylaw: Exotic entertainer, exotic entertainment venue and exotic entertainment agency.

The switch stems from concerns from workers in the adult services industry that the term exotic has racist undertones and does not reflect language currently being used in the industry, a new report from the city's urban planning and economy department says.

Celena Campbell is a sex trade worker in Edmonton, who also volunteers at the Advocacy Normalizing Sex Work through Education and Resources Society (ANSWERS).

"We're not ashamed of the work that we do," Campbell said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday. "We believe that sex work is work and we are not afraid of using the term erotic because it's accurate."

Campbell said "exotic" has been used to veil the reality of the trade.

"Having a term such as exotic in the past was perhaps a tool to kind of say, 'hey, this isn't what you think it is,' but the term has kind of run its course in its use."

The city issues business licences to escort services, body rub practitioners and exotic entertainers after they take a mandatory course.

Coun. Keren Tang agrees the current language has racialized undertones and "exotic" is typically used to describe people from foreign countries.

"It's often used to describe women, in particular Asian women, it's very much a way to sexualize Asian women, so I find it very uncomfortable, very racist and very sexist in a lot of ways."

Tang said she agrees with changing the term to erotic.

"I think it's a positive change, quite frankly, to be more culturally sensitive and then using inclusive language," Tang said Tuesday, "And to actually describe what the business is."

The city also says changing the name helps advance the anti-racism strategy by ensuring that policies do not stigmatize people of colour.

The name change is one of several proposed amendments to the business licence bylaw, which city council's urban planning committee is scheduled to discuss on April 9.

Changes to massage therapy 

The city wants to be able to ask accredited massage therapy associations for information about its members to maintain minimum standards and professional conduct in that industry.

Currently, the city is prohibited under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) from requesting information about members.

The business licence bylaw requires massage therapists have and maintain an active membership in good standing.

Recognized massage therapy associations must have a formal complaints and investigations process if they receive a serious complaint about a member.

Since a suspended or cancelled membership is no longer in good standing, the city in turn would suspend that person's business licence.

Cannabis store hours

The city also recommends allowing cannabis retail stores to open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., as authorized under the provincial regulator, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

When cannabis was legalized in Canada in October 2018, the AGLC granted municipalities the authority to further limit these hours.

Edmonton city council voted to restrict the hours of operation from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. out of concern for potential social disorder, the report says.

Tang said she agrees with aligning the hours to what AGLC allows.

Todd Janes, the executive director of the Stony Plain Road Business Association and the current chair of Edmonton's Business Improvement Area Council, said he supports the changes.

"Let's reduce the amount of regulations there are, so then it levels that playing field in terms of business," Janes said.

"It's saying, 'there are already statutes or things in place right now monitored by the province of Alberta,' so why would the City of Edmonton have different regulations around that?"

The changes mean cannabis stores can be open the same hours as liquor stores.