Councillors ask for more information following escort service application

Councillors want more information on how escort service bylaws were handled in other communities as they face the question in Kitimat.

There’s no escort service in Kitimat just yet and council has directed staff to bring forward further information on how such applications were handled in other communities.

Council heard the report from staff member Lyle McNish, who looked into how such applications were handled in other communities.

The District of Kitimat has received a letter from a prospective business owner which sets out the entrepreneur’s intent to open an escort service.

The only change since the letter was received and administration compiled the report is that the applicant is now likely to establish a call centre office out of town, in Prince George.

That still leaves questions as to how to include provisions for escort services in the town’s Municipal Code.

So far there are no direct references to such businesses however as administration has learned there is not much legal recourse to prohibit such businesses, as Canada’s Supreme Court has upheld the legality of escort services.

The town can’t deny a business licence unreasonably, and because the business would be legal in the eyes of Canada’s laws, to deny such applications would be deemed unreasonable.

It was suggested to councillors in the staff’s report that they include a number of restrictions including hours of operations (such as only between 5 p.m. and 4 a.m.) as well as requiring a process for recording the employees and clients of the business.

The proposed definition of an escort service, as defined in other municipalities, is a “service business or agency run by a licensee that charges or receives a fee for providing an escort for social occasions…”

In their further research, councillors will look over the legal opinion received by the Regional Municipality of the Northern Rockies, which is publicly available on their website.

In that legal opinion it sets out much of what McNish explained, and it also notes that a bylaw cannot infringe on criminal law. So a bylaw cannot make illegal what is not illegal under Canada’s Criminal Code.

“Local governments cannot ban escort services and/or adult oriented businesses from their communities on primarily morality grounds,” the legal opinion summary states.

That may be a bitter pill to swallow for some residents. Three people attended last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting to see how the issue played out, and a brief post to the Sentinel’s Facebook page that this issue was coming up was met with dozens upon dozens of comments, mostly expressing upset over the proposal.

Do you have thoughts on how the District should handle applications for escort agencies? Send a Letter to the Editor at newsroom@northernsentinel.com or send it to our office at 626 Enterprise Avenue, Kitimat, BC, V8C 2E4.