Thursday, March 13, 1997

Southam Newspapers with Vancouver Sun

p. A6

Lapdancing outlawed by Canada's highest court

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has effectively outlawed lap dancing, the controversial form of adult entertainment involving varying levels of sexual contact between strippers and their customers.

The country's top court ruled Wednesday the practice was an "indecent performance" as defined by the Criminal Code and, therefore, illegal.

It overturned a Toronto judge's 1994 ruling calling the practices were relatively "innocuous," leading many Ontario strip clubs to become virtual brothels.

But the Supreme Court won't give its reasons for several months, so the exact scope of the banned activities is unclear.

It is uncertain whether the ruling prevents naked dancers from merely sitting on a clothed customer's lap, as long as it doesn't go any further.

The seven justices took less than two hours to make their ruling in a case involving Cheaters Tavern, a Toronto club charged in 1991.

Undercover police officers testified they witnessed strippers who sat on customers' laps and permitted men to fondle their breasts, buttocks and thighs, to kiss and lick their breasts and to perform oral sex on them.

In February 1996, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal of the club's owner and entertainment manager and effectively outlawed the practice in Ontario.

Locally, the Paramount in New Westminster is the closest legitimate operation that allows for a form of lap dancing. However, Craig Spencer, a manager with the club said the Paramount's operation is much different than the ones allowed in Ontario, and the court ruling won't affect his club's activities.

"I've been to one of them in Toronto, and it's grind dancing. Ours is much different. The girls here don't touch the customers," said Spencer Wednesday.

In B.C., lap dancing is not allowed in any establishment that serves alcohol. The Paramount serves only fruit juices.

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Created: April 9, 1997
Last modified: February 2, 2001
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