Fine against Ottawa sex shop likely to be withdrawn
Published Thursday, October 1, 2015 5:34PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, October 1, 2015 7:57PM EDT
Ottawa's acting deputy city manager wants a fine against a sex shop withdrawn. Venus Envy was dinged after a complaint from a parent about their child buying a product in the ‘adult entertainment’ store. That contravenes a local bylaw. The store at 226 Bank Street sells books and sex aids, along with products for people who are transitioning genders. That bylaw is about 30 years old and introduced so that kids wouldn't access porn magazines in corner stores. The computer and cellphone, though, made that bylaw almost irrelevant.
It's a product called a ‘chest binder’ that prompted a visit Monday to Venus Envy from Ottawa bylaw officers, sporting a $260 fine for the store owner.
‘It’s a compression vest,’ says owner Shelley Taylor, ‘that you wear like a tank top to compress the chest area.’
It's not the sale of these products to minors that's the problem. It's that anyone under the age of 18 was even in the sex education store.
‘We don't card folks who seem old enough to buy a health product,’ says Taylor. ‘I wasn't surprised that at some point some parent would be mad at us for helping out their kids.’
The problem is, it's against a city bylaw.
‘I feel the bylaw needs to be changed immediately,’ says R.J. Jones. R.J. is non-binary, doesn't want to identify with any gender but has used chest binders and says access, as a youth, to stores like Venus Envy, is critical.
‘There's nothing more important than someone wanting to be like themselves,’ says Jones, ‘to look at themselves in the mirror and be like ‘That's who I am’ and a binder enforces that.’
The acting deputy city manager for Ottawa, Susan Jones, says she probably helped write that bylaw some 30 years ago but times have changed and so, too, she says, should this regulation.
‘Yes, this bylaw needs to be reviewed,’ says Jones, ‘I think the charge should be withdrawn and I will reach out to our provincial offences office to do that.’
The councillor for the area says she's brought her 8-year-old to Venus Envy for years and says it's not up to the city to monitor our shopping habits.
‘This one was written 30 years ago,’ says councillor Catherine McKenney, ‘things are different so we have to look at the modern realities we face today and ask is it relevant today and I don't believe it is.’
McKenney has asked city staff to come back with a report recommending that the bylaw be repealed. The public will get its chance to comment on it as it goes through that process.