Chilliwack RCMP have raided a pair of massage parlours they say were operating as bawdy houses.
Mounties executed a search warrant on Jan. 12 at a business in the 8300 block of Young Rd. Mounties arrested three woman—aged 44, 48 and 70—along with a 41-year-old man.
Last weekend, police executed another search warrant, this time at another massage business in the 9200 block of Young Rd. A 38-year-old female worker from Hong Kong and her 38-year-old male customer were arrested.
Police say the raids are the result of a year-long investigation. They follow several arrests of alleged street-level prostitutes and their clients last spring.
"As a result of those successful stings, the city saw a significant decline in the number of street workers in the downtown area," RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth said in a press release. "Recently, the second phase of that project was completed, targeting two local businesses that were allegedly offering sex for hire services. A thorough investigation revealed that local businesses were operating under the umbrella of providing massage services, but were suspected of offering sexual services to their customers."
No charges have yet been laid, but those arrested have been released on a promise to appear in court in April, according to police.
While prostitution itself is not technically illegal in Canada, many of the surrounding activities are. Operating, and being found in, a bawdy house has long been one of those outlawed activities. Last March, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled that the bawdy house law is unconstitutional because it restricts the ability of prostitutes to protect themselves. The decision would essentially legalize brothels. Its implementation has been suspended, however, and the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the government's appeal of the decision.
Mounties, however, say brothels are a concern because of their potential links to organized crime and human trafficking.
"At this point in the investigation, there is no indication that these two investigations are linked to each other, organized crime, or human trafficking, but investigators continue the process to rule that out conclusively," RCMP crime reduction unit Sgt. Steve McLeod said.
While Mounties haven't released the names of the units raided, Mayor Sharon Gaetz said one of the parlours is Lotus Relaxation, which operated out of an office building at 8364 Young Rd. The address of the company's website includes the words "escort-site" and directs visitors to a page that warns people that the site includes "adult content."
That page states: "Under no circumstances does the creator of this site or myself consent to or has knowledge of any illegal activity committed by anyone associated with this website. No sexual activities are implied or condoned by myself or the creator of this site. This site does not promote a prostitution ring nor is this advertisement or content therein an offer for prostitution. Money exchanged is for companionship only and anything beyond that is a choice made between two consenting adults and not contract for by the site or myself."