Public meeting draws polarizing views on the London's approach to strip club licensing

“You have to work a minimum of four hours on the floor,” a former sex worker told city politicians, offering insight into her eight years of experience at London’s strip clubs.

During Wednesday night’s public participation meeting on the city’s business bylaw review, London Anti Human Trafficking Committee executive Caroline Pugh-Roberts went on to explain how workers paid to work at a venue, and would also be required to perform three stage shows.

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“The first song, you take the top or the bottom off. The second song, you take the other piece off. And the third song, you’re naked,” she said.

Pugh-Roberts was one of several people to weigh in on how the city should shape its licensing procedures for strip clubs. While some argued that London should create safer strip clubs for workers, and to remove a no-touch provision, others — including Pugh-Roberts — argued licensing such a venue at all goes against the law in Canada.

“Our concern today is largely around inconsistencies with federal legislation and the protection of communities and exploitative persons act was passed in 2014,” said London Abused Women’s Centre Executive Director, Megan Walker.

“We do believe the bylaw should include a definition of what sexual services are, as defined by the government of Canada.”

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But representatives from Safe Space, a volunteer-run support centre for sex workers, and Anova, a woman’s support service, expressed worry that enforcing a no-touch rule and banning strip clubs altogether would create unsafe conditions for sex trade workers.

“It will drive things more underground,” wrote an anonymous local sex worker in part of a submission read out by Safe Space coordinator Magdaline.

“By going after the clubs, this delegitimizes workers. We would feel safer if the work was done in open areas, I mean the club I work at is great and there are panic buttons. I feel less safe without them. But at clubs in London, I feel safe, period.”

The community and protective services committee agreed to have city staff review the public’s comments, and will report back to city politicians during a meeting in November.

The city’s chief bylaw officer, Orest Katolyk, said staff will look into the requirement for licensing operators, panic buttons, and the no-touch provision, as a result of Wednesday’s feedback.

The existing business bylaw set to expire at the end of this year, but Katolyk asked the committee to extend them until April 2nd, 2018.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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