Canadians, including owners of massage parlors, are waiting for the landmark decision of the Canadian Supreme Court on Friday on the validity of the country's current anti-prostitution law.
The case is the result of an appeal by the federal government on a previous ruling on the Ontario Appeal Court that struck down the laws against brothers and changed the ban on living off the avails of the sex trade, but also upheld the ban on street prostitution which a group of sex-trade workers appealed.
The landmark ruling would clarify a lot of things because while prostitution is no longer illegal in Canada, many activities associated with the flesh trade are still considered criminal offences such as running a brothel, living off the avails and soliciting.
With the decision, the Supreme Court could retain the status quo, throw out the law or offer an alternative. If the courts throw out the law, the massage parlors - some of which are just fronts for brothels - could become licensed and regulated sites for the sex trade.
These parlors are actually holders of legitimate business permits for therapeutic massage, but there are many more that are unlicensed and operate as brothels.
To address the situation, cities have different approaches.
Montreal wants a crackdown and would introduce legislation to impose hefty fines on those caught using the parlors as prostitution fronts.
Toronto passed a bylaw that made a distinction between regular massage parlors and erotic ones, and limited the number of licences for erotic ones.
YouTube/Hands From Heaven Spa
A survey by a group called CLES which advocates against the exploitation of women estimates 70 per cent of prostitution in Montreal happen in the erotic massage parlors.
Emilie Laliberte, head of a Montreal sex-trade support and advocacy group, pointed out that not all sex trade workers are victims of human trafficking and warned further police action against establishments like massage parlors could drive the workers further underground, risking more their lives.