Town of Newmarket: End racism against Asian massage businesses and workers
We are a group of community members, activists, academics, and allied organizations committed to human rights, racial justice, and ending violence against women. We are writing to express our concern about the systematic anti-Asian racism imposed by the newly-enacted Personal Wellness Establishments (PWE) by-law.
As of April 2022, the Town of Newmarket has implemented a legal regime that has illegalized and prohibited the operation of Asian massage businesses within its town limits. The PWE classification excludes low-income Asian women from accessing needed business licenses. Despite concerns being raised at every stage of by-law review, the Town of Newmarket has now ordered Asian massage businesses to shut down. We urge the Town of Newmarket to immediately cease enforcing the by-law and repeal and review the discriminatory PWE classification system
On June 21, 2021, Council for the Town of Newmarket passed a new by-law which creates the new classification of PWEs and requires businesses that offer “alternative massage services” to obtain a PWE business license. Under the new by-law, the owners of massage businesses are required to prove that attendants offering alternative massage services have received training from an accredited institution. Each application is highly discretionary and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The applicants may be required to attend municipal interviews, which have been conducted in an intimidating fashion. We are aware of numerous Asian owned and operated businesses that have been denied a license and thereby ordered to close. The effects of the by-law have been long feared: perpetuating systemic racism and undue hardship by preventing non-English speaking, low-income, Asian women from working in PWEs.
Racist stereotyping and discrimination against Asian women have undergirded justifications for the new PWE by-law, including unfounded allegations that Asian women are trafficked victims, and that Asian massage businesses are “illegal” and “disreputable” businesses. The new PWE licensing scheme continues these self-perpetuating stereotypes through newly imposed criteria that effectively exclude all Asian massage businesses from acquiring licenses.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “systemic discrimination can be described as patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate disadvantage for racialized persons.” In addition, “formal and informal policies, practices and decision-making processes can result in barriers for and exclusion of racialized persons. The use of informal or highly discretionary approaches are particularly problematic as there is more room for subjective considerations, differing standards and biases to come into play.”
The new PWE by-law disproportionately impacts Asians in the Town of Newmarket working in the personal wellness sector - particularly low-income and non-English speaking women - and furthers inequality, exclusion, and marginalization. These concerns have been voiced repeatedly by numerous community groups, yet have thus far been ignored by Newmarket politicians and policymakers. In addition to opposition expressed by directly affected Asian workers and business owners, numerous human rights and racial justice organizations have expressed concern during formal consultations about the disproportionately negative impacts of the by-law on Asian women: including forced closure of businesses, financial loss, and the loss of livelihood for working women and their families. In this way, enforcement of the new by-law also endangers the wellness and safety of important members of the Newmarket community.
The Town of Newmarket began accepting applications for PWE licenses in January 2022 during the fifth wave of pandemic. However, not one of the Town’s pre-existing Asian massage businesses were approved for licensing. Instead of supporting these businesses during the pandemic, the Town of Newmarket has ordered them to cease all business operations: by-law enforcement officers have attended massage businesses and ordered their closure, threatening to impose extremely harsh $4,000-5,000 fines per day on these small businesses for non-compliance.
We therefore urge Council for the Town of Newmarket to:
1) Immediately suspend the PWE by-law and cease its enforcement.
2) Repeal the current PWE by-law, which perpetuates systemic anti-Asian racism.
3) Remove the licensing requirement for training accreditation from Canadian institutions and other exclusionary 4) barriers in the PWE licensing application process.
5) Comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy of Newmarket and York Region.
6) Respect and listen to Asian women, particularly those directly and disproportionately affected by the by-laws and licensing regime.
7) Provide anti-racism training to Newmarket Town staff and councillors, and develop strategies to eliminate racism.
8) Eliminate discrimination against racialized communities and promote respect and equality in society.
9) Stop policies that are repressive to racialized communities.
As organizations and individuals that uphold racial justice, we will continue to support the Asian women who work in massage businesses. We are calling for the Town of Newmarket to end racial discrimination, racial profiling, racial harrassment, systemic racism including racist beliefs, attitudes, structures and policies against Asian massage businesses.
Action positive VIH-Sida
Achieving Peace of Mind
African and Caribbean Council on HIV in Ontario
AIDS Committee of Ottawa
AIDS Committee of Durham Region
AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area
Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention
AQUA (Asian Queer Alliance)
Asian Community AIDS Services
Alliance for Healthier Communities
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
BAYSWAN (Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Organization)
Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention
Black Femme Legal
Black Legal Action Centre
Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network )
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Women's Foundation
CAYR Community Connections
Chinese Canadian Collective
Chinese Canadian National Council (Toronto)
Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice
Collaborative Community Solutions
Coalition Against More Surveillance
Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT)
Disability Justice Network of Ontario
Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic
Friends of China Town (Toronto)
Gilbert Centre for Social and Support Services
Gillian Hnatiw & Co.
Hamilton Asian Alliance
Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion
Health Providers Against Poverty
HIV Legal Network
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic OntarioLake Country Community Legal Clinic
HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH)
Justice for Workers
Kawartha North FHT
Long Time No See Collective
Lena Legal Services
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Migrant Workers Centre BC
Moyo Health and Community Services
Neighbourhood Legal Services
No Pride in Policing Coalition
Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (Oahas)
Ontario AIDS Network (OAN)
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)
Ontario Public Interest Research Group Toronto (OPIRG Toronto)
OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Osgoode Hall Law Union
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW)
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Pivot Legal Society
Positive Living Niagara
Pozitive Pathways Community Service
QT Literary Magazine
Regent Park Community Health Centre
Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
Rad Mission Neighbors
St James Infirmary
Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP)
Sex Workers' Action Network of Waterloo Region
Sex Workers Outreach Project Los Angeles
Sex Worker Action Network of Waterloo Region
Showing Up for Racial Justice (Toronto)
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
The AIDS Network
The Biking Lawyer LLP
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre
Toronto People With AIDS Foundation
Trellis HIV & Community Care
University of Toronto Law Union (UTLU)
Unite Against Racism Guelph
Waterloo Region Community Legal Services
Women and HIV / AIDS Initiative (WHAI)
Women's Health in Women's Hands CHC
Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Women's Support Network of York Region (WSN)
Workers' Action Centre
Work Safe Twerk Safe