Illicit massage parlours targeted in the West Island

Anthony Abbondanza
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RCMP and SPVM are actively investigating the industry’s footprint in the West Island

They resemble very much the average massage parlour found on the Island of Montreal, yet their services are anything but.

They’re known as illicit massage parlours (IMP) and the West Island is their new home. In what was otherwise restricted mostly to the downtown streets of Montreal, can now be found in places such as Pierrefonds and Dorval.

The Chronicle has recently learned that both the RCMP and the SPVM are “very active in the West Island,” with special task forces of the two law enforcement agencies investigating the number of IMPs, brothels, and prostitution rings and how they are interconnected within a web of human trafficking orchestrated by organized crime.

In recent years, the West Island has seen the proliferation of these illicit businesses. There are at least five known IMPs, four of which are located in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, that regularly advertise illicit services via classifieds websites like Craigslist and Kijiji.

The alleged IMPs proliferate throughout Pierrefonds-Roxboro, operating out of storefronts on major thoroughfares and quietly plying their trade to willing passers-by.

Despite their presence on the Internet, however, the borough isn’t aware of the existence of IMPs on its territory. “As for if we have noticed an increase in their number, and since they are illegal, the borough does not have a count of erotic massage parlours on its territory,” said Bassam Chaarani, the borough’s director of communications.

Chaarani did, however, add that IMPs are illegal, citing zoning by-law CA290040 for which the “uses of sexual nature are not allowed in massages parlours.”

The SPVM wouldn’t state whether they’ve targeted Pierrefonds-Roxboro, only to confirm the presence of a “team looking in to prostitution, human trafficking and massage parlours.” According Johanne Paquin, the SPVM’s chief inspector, the Montreal Police is currently trying to put a number on how many illicit massage parlours exist and how they’re connected with organized crime originating domestically, and foreign countries.

Even more disturbing is how these criminal organizations operate human trafficking rings, to which the RCMP is investigating.

In a 2010 RCMP report, the Mounties indicated suspected transnational trafficking networks have operators based in source countries – within Eastern Europe and Asia - to facilitate the recruitment of young and coerced women and their transport into Canada with the help of false documents. These women are then forced to work in “escort services in the Greater Toronto Area and possibly in massage and escort services in the Montreal area.”

In addition, “these groups have demonstrated transnational capabilities and significant associations with convicted human traffickers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belarus, and Israel.”

In December, the Mounties launched a special task force to combat human trafficking following the November raid of three IMPs, Spa Angel in Verdun, Massage du Centre and Centre Maxi Santé in Dorval. At the time, the massage parlours were tied to Marius Trifu Miclescu, whom law enforcement officers arrested and charged for trafficking Romanian women to Canada and forcing them to work in erotic massage parlours.

Last year, a woman running a massage parlour on Gouin Boulevard in Roxboro was charged with living off the avails of prostitution in connection with her operation of that salon, and in 2011, a Dorval Avenue massage parlour was closed by authorities.

According to Dorval city officials, there is no known presence, at this time, of IMPs on its territory.

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre has stated several times his intention to fight the industry and end the sexual exploitation to which minors and young women are exposed.

However, with the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously striking down provisions of the criminal code last December, which prohibit prostitution, bawdy houses and erotic massage parlours, Canadian cities may have to reverse their bans and prohibitions.

In the 71-page landmark ruling, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin ruled the laws at all levels of government are in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money,” wrote McLachlin.

The criminal code prevents prostitutes from working in a fixed indoor location, which she deemed as safer than working on the streets or meeting clients at different locations and being susceptible to violence.

In Montreal, where its estimated roughly 350 IMPs exist, Paquin said the SPVM will need to discuss with the city about working to regulate IMPs within demarcated zones and special licences.

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Organizations: RCMP, Montreal Police, Supreme Court of Canada Canadian Charter Rights

Geographic location: West Island, Montreal, Dorval Avenue Pierrefonds-Roxboro Pierrefonds Canada Eastern Europe Asia Greater Toronto Area Czech Republic Germany Belarus Israel Verdun Gouin Boulevard Roxboro

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