The City of Toronto Attacks Holistic Health
This was written April 16, 1999 and appeared in the May 1999 Vitality Magazine
The Toronto City Council passed an amendment to a licensing bylaw at the end of October (1998), effective immediately that affects Holistic Practitioners. It requires practitioners of many holistic modalities to register with the city, to pay an annual (so far) fee of $143, provide 2 pictures, proof of education in the field from a Canadian institution, agree to be subject to a police background check, must have insurance and practice in a location that is zoned for this purpose. Many holistic practitioners object to this threatening punitive action, its cause, serious consequences and the way it is being handled.
Practitioners do not comprehend the ramifications of this ugly move. This is a highly serious issue and folks are accepting it as another "oh well, I don't like it but I'd better do it" kind of thing. The consequences of its acceptance are far worse than the difficulty of eliminating it.
This is an obvious move to try to control and eliminate holistic practitioners in Toronto, Canada and the world. Toronto has a marvelous holistic scene and we are fortunate in the amount of modalities and practitioners that are here.
The night I heard about this legislation, I had a dream. I dreamt that I went in to a restaurant in Toronto for dinner and waited to be seated. They refused to serve me. The reason they refused to serve me was that I did not have a license to eat in a restaurant in Toronto. I would have to go to City Hall and pay the $15 licensing fee before I could get permission to eat in a restaurant in Toronto. That dream is coming closer to reality as the Holistic Practitioners by-law makes as much sense as that dream.
The purpose, i.e., the alleged purpose of this by-law is to discourage body rub operators as the government says body rub operators are posing as holistic practitioners and they want to end that. What a shameful and obvious ruse! Once again, not only are they exhibiting extreme Victorian prudery but this is a sham and a sad and weak excuse to put the squeeze on competition to the Medical System, They are saying that people in the City of Toronto can not distinguish between Holistic Practitioners, such as Shiatsu, Reiki, Acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch practitioners, etc., and people who work in body rub parlors and we will be victimized and duped by body rub parlour people posing as holistic practitioners.
The comic aspects of this concern aside, this is a serious issue. Aside from the fact that I do not believe it is the goal of say, a Lymph Drainage Therapy or Aromatherapy practitioner to encourage or assist one's client towards ejaculation (as it is in a body rub parlour), I do not think it is difficult for the members of the public to differentiate between the two. And, why should this onus be on over 10,000 Holistic Practitioners? This is not a simple business decision. It is a declaration of war against holistic practitioners by those who are dressed up in business clothes.
Why are the wrong people being punished? Why don't they take the enforcers who will be used to police holistic practitioners and use them to police body rub operators? Is it because the Holistic Practitioners are more compliant open individuals and thus easier to intimidate?
Once you allow legislation such as this, you are allowing them to tell you how to run your business. This is not the purpose of the government.
According to Vitality Magazine, a Reiki and Reflexologist in Toronto, a woman who has a baby and works part time has already been shut down by this legislation. What's going on? Who or what is being protected here?
Is the sexual shame and fear so great that the touching of a Feldenkreis Practitioner needs to legislated in this manner? Are we so clueless that we accept this brand of sick and ugly logic and allow such draconian legislation? Are we so beaten down that we can no longer recognize these red herrings? Can we not read, think and analyze for ourselves what is really going on and where this can lead to?
Where was the notification that this bylaw was even being considered? There was none. There was no adequate notification, no fair consultation. I have been reading Vitality, Toronto's monthly wellness magazine and voice of Toronto's Holistic Community that reaches over 100,000 readers, for over 8 years and saw or heard nary a mention of this until the March 1999 issue. I am a member of 3 consumer and one professional organization, I take courses, workshops and seminars with groups, holistic centres, registered institutions, etc. I remain au courant in the leading edge of holistic modalities and news and have a wide network of holistic colleagues. None of us have ever heard of this bylaw until recently.
A report reviewing the legislation is supposed to be submitted to the Emergency and Protective Services Committee 6 months after the By-law amendment comes in to effect. This would mean April 30th. What kind of a review is possible in this time frame? Where is the fairness in this to those most affected?
Who started this legislation? Does it originate from spontaneous combustion? What individual or small group instigated this and when and what is their interest? What is the real reason behind this?
It is probable that there is a concealed Provincial mandate precipitating this legislation. Toronto, Markham and Vaughn are rushing to create their legislation under guise of the threat that if they don't do this, then the Province will step in. Private Vocational schools are also getting squeezed to conform to more stringent regulations. This will force smaller schools out of business. If the City and/or the Province forces the smaller groups out of business so they are left with a handful of larger groups, they have fewer organizations that have more at stake and are easier to control.
Appearing before the Emergency and Protective Services Committee in connection with this by-law amendment are: Linda Caplan and Diane May who are on the Advisory Committee on Complimentary Therapies, Janette Strong, Sandra Wagman, Mario Paliska, Maggie Mann and Mary Jane Louth. I do regret that I have never heard of any of these people, aside from seeing Linda Caplan's name advertised in Vitality for her Holistic services. Who has represented the Holistic community here that has a right to do so? Who is the Advisory Committee? How were they chosen? When? What are their qualifications?
Why was nothing heard about this legislation -- -which was purportedly under advisement for the last 2 years --- until mid February --- over 2 months after it was passed --- at which time there was a flurry of registrations by practitioners feeling confused and victimized? Why such secrecy? Why such a rush to shove through such a poorly thought out incomplete haphazard legislation? If the City feels it has adequately notified us, what did that notification look like? When? Where? I do not believe it exists. If we were not adequately notified of pending legislation which has such a tremendous impact on our lives, I feel the legality of this amendment is questionable.
The municipal government in Vancouver tried to enact similar legislation but the residents found out about it in advance and lobbied against it with faxes, letters and phone calls to their city officials so that it did not pass. Could it be that certain parties feared that if the holistic community in Toronto was duly notified, that it would also fail to pass and so this is why they snuck it in the back door?
Who benefits? Who loses? More people lose than benefit so we will look at that first.
The biggest losers in this are the people in the City of Toronto. Whenever restrictive and fees based legislation is enacted, the cost of doing business for the practitioner goes up and that gets passed on to the client. Since these services are not covered by OHIP, this takes a bigger bite out of the client's pocketbook. And, since this discourages holistic practitioners from practicing, there will be fewer practitioners available despite the fact that the demand for these services is growing. If this legislation is allowed to continue, this will put a damper on how holistic practitioners do business.
An ironical aspect to this is it increases the size of the bureaucracy in adding salaries of licensing clerks and enforcement personnel. So we have to work harder to earn more money to pay more taxes for yet another layer of bureaucracy we do not want.
Holistic Practitioners lose since in addition to the fees some can not or will not meet the demands of these licensing restrictions and will be forced out of business or out of Toronto.
What I think few have stopped to realize is the actual ramifications of agreeing to become "licensed". Have Holistic Practitioners actually read the contents of this by-law?
What happens if you do decide to register is, you agree to allow the government to be a controlling and silent partner in your business . It is irrevocable. You help to feed the system. You agree to put yourself in to a system where you are a unit that can be regulated. It is a form of voluntary slavery. Line 6 of the Application for this License states: "I am aware that if a License is granted I will carry on my business ... only in compliance with the requirements of By-Law Number 20-85 of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, as amended from time to time." This means you give the government the right to tell you what you can and can not do in your practice as they see fit. There are medical doctors who would like to offer some holistic type of services but do not dare so as some of these practices might contravene the contents of their licenses. One is careful not to do things out of fear, in the fear that one may lose that Almighty License. This is not a very holistic way of looking at things. We lose --- we give up --- or at least curtail --- our Freedom.
What happens if the fee is raised to $160 or $200 or more? What happens when they start telling you things you can and can not do? Once your neck is in the noose they can tighten it as much as they like. And if you complain too much your license may not get renewed.
Another result is that you allow the government to force you to drown in paperwork. Section 16 of the by-law details the proper books and records and gross receipts and "the Commission shall at all times have access to such records." Many practitioners do their own paperwork or hire a bookkeeper part time. You will have to spend more time with paperwork and have to hire more help for this. This of course will cause a raise in your rates. You will also have to keep records that are available to the scrutiny and satisfaction of this Commission.
You are subject to demands by the Commission, any peace officer, by-law enforcement officer, Medical Officer of Health or public health inspector.
Now let's look at the few --- but those few with definite economical interests -- who benefit from this bylaw.
As this is a move to discourage competition, the clearest winner in this is the conventional medical community. As more and more paying customers use alternative practitioners because their methods work, the income, power and control of medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies decreases. This is the community, run here in Toronto by the C.P.S.O. ( the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, whose members are political appointees) who convicted Dr. Krop because his methods of practicing medicine ---- i.e., they worked --- were not expensive or invasive and had no side effects to be treated later on --- despite the fact that their were not patient complaints against him --- were not to their personal liking. It is motivated out of greed and out of fear.
The government benefits because they become even fatter through the added income of approximately $1,500,000 --- a heinous cash grab ---- and they can hire more staff to process and police. And the government has more power and control over what you do, when and where you do it and who you do it with. And then they will sell the list of names and addresses to companies so they can send you junk mailings and have to process it so you can throw it out and increase trash.
Aren't we being licensed and regulated to death? Consider the many more restrictions placed upon your work, personal and financial environments in just the past 3 years.
Clinic Owners is another group that benefits --- in the short term. Clinic owners will earn extra income through rental payments when practitioners who work out of their homes and are not zoned for this will come to them for clinic space. Linda Caplan said "It's not that bad. They may have to move their practice to a commercial space or work in a licensed clinic. What they're looking at is an expense of paying rent." She has a clinic and can look forward to increased rental income. Why shouldn't practitioners be allowed to practice out of their homes? Why should they be forbidden to do this? What space is more wHolistic than a home? Rent, and everything else that goes along with it is a significant expense, especially for part time people and those who are building a practice and who start out in their homes. Clinic owners who are eagerly anticipating increased rental income now will be dismayed in a few years when they find out what happens when you put your head in the mouth of the tiger.
With regard to the home based practitioner --- there are several occupations where people work in offices and/or from their homes. Some of these occupations are: computer programmers, personal trainers, accountants, artists, tutors and managerial consultants. Are they going to be required to be licensed as well for permission to exist? Are they going to be subject to police background investigations and zoning requirements and licensing fees? Why should someone who offers aura balancing or teaches meditation require this draconian legislation and not these other professionals? Is everyone going to be required to obtain and carry a license? There is no sense to this nonsensical legislation.
Why do practitioners have to submit to the City of Toronto satisfactory documentation that they have "successfully completed a course of training at an educational institution in Canada"? Does that mean that even though if you were to study Therapeutic Touch with Dolores Krieger, PhD., R.N., Professor Emerita of New York University and the developer of Therapeutic Touch, or Irridology with Bernard Jensen, Father of Irridology, does that mean it would not be admissible because they are not Canadian Institutions? Could it be that these legislators know that every time someone is certified with proof that they have been certified from an acceptable organization that the government collects a fee and has control over how everything is run?
Why is any kind of certification required? It is not the responsibility of the City of Toronto to be involved in this. Many modalities, such as Reiki, Reflexology and Therapeutic Touch have their own organizations, their own guilds that people pay membership fees to. Another layer of bureaucracy is unnecessary.
Why must Big Brother enter in to this? Section 9 states that "Every applicant for an owner's license shall, at the time of making the application, file with the Commission a list showing the names of all holistic practitioners employed by, or performing holistic services in, the holistic centre and all such persons intended or expected to be employed or to perform holistic services in the holistic centre." Must the Big Carrot or Zeller's or KPMG file their employees or consultants names with a commission? Aren't Federal tax returns sufficient? How many businesses must file their employee names with a government in a "democracy"? Why can the province's Information and Privacy Commission rule that Names of individuals are private property and can be withheld under municipal freedom of information laws for certain elite groups and not holistic practitioners? Or is this ruling solely available to the Toronto Police Force?
And what about the other uglier aspects of this which are not just unholistic, they are decidedly anti-holistic:
Why must holistic practitioners agree to submit to a police check? This is not the energy holistic practitioners want to be around, and holistic people are careful and aware of the energy in their environment. Are teachers required to submit to a police check before they get a teaching license? Are city councillors and other politicians required to submit to a police check before they take office? This is a gross indignity, sets up an atmosphere of criminal suspicion and creates a negative energy which is reinforced through obtaining and displaying the license.
There are enlightened doctors who do work with nutritionists, acupuncturists and naturopaths so they can work with one another's expertise to combine the best tools for the good of each patient. They realize they are getting the best of both worlds of western technology and the rich experience of thousands of years of healing practices which come from China, India and other places. Why aren't practices such as this studied and encouraged by the City Council rather than taxing and restricting struggling practitioners?
A University of Integrative Medicine, in Washington D.C. recently celebrated its first graduating class. (James Earl Jones was their guest speaker.) Their purpose is to integrate the best aspects of both worlds, where a neurosurgeon interacted with a nutritionist and an opthamalogist interacted with herbalists. There are dozens of articles indicating the exponential rise of visits to alternative practitioners. Why in the City of Toronto are they now being strangled rather than assisted?
One of the biggest --- if not the biggest --- political and social issues is the rising cost of health care today. Alternative practitioners, whose methods involve preventive care and whose recommendations are relatively inexpensive and usually involve education, awareness and lifestyle changes, are the solution to the problem of rising needs and costs for health care.
If more effort was put in to educating people about proper diet and exercise and making healthful choices available, we would need to spend a lot less money on hospitals, hospital beds, medical machinery, etc. And people would feel better and be more productive. Why is this not considered as the answer to rising health costs? Especially since 25% of all medical diagnoses are incorrect and the 4th highest cause of death are Iatrogenic (doctor caused) illnesses.
About 15 years ago, before there was such an awareness about the link between health and food I worked for a renowned heart surgeon. I asked him why didn't he help his clients improve their diets in lieu of surgery. He told me that he would love to sit down with his clients and talk about improved diet, but as he earns thousands of dollars performing a bypass operation as opposed to the few hundred dollars he would earn discussing dietary improvements, he felt he was better off performing operations. This is the kind of mentality that wants to license, and through licensing --- restrict --- Holistic Practitioners.
Some practitioners might feel this is a positive move because of the recognition holistic practitioners are receiving. However, this is negative recognition. A positive form of recognition would be to cover holistic practices by OHIP. A point is made that people can receive medical care for free but many prefer to pay out of their own pockets for alternative modalities. If officialdom wants to take from Holistic practitioners they have to provide something of value in exchange such as coverage by OHIP.
David Rowland, Publisher of Health Naturally Magazine, in an open letter to Mel Lastman states that "What Toronto is doing is both discriminatory and unconstitutional. No city has the legislative authority to license health care practitioners. The Constitution Act, 1867 makes health care the exclusive domain of the provinces. In 1993 the Province of Ontario enacted the Regulated Health Professions Act which abolished the licensing of all health professions. How does the City of Toronto presume to be a higher authority in "bestowing" (or refusing) the right to practise?" This is an infringement on our rights.
What can we do about this?
Governmental strategy on issues like this has always been to rule by fear and punishment and in doing so to separate the citizenry in to small powerless units while they band together taking taking taking. And to beat us down by taking our money and our time. I may be just one small unit but this is one small unit that will not be bullied. I will not register for this, and I believe if enough people also withdrew their support this would fall apart.
I like Julia's editorial in the March '99 issue of Vitality where she suggests: "So, I propose that the bureaucrats acknowledge they've created a mess, toss this bylaw on the scrap heap and back off our holistic practitioners. If you agree, then perhaps it's time to raise a little hell. Please contact Mel Lastman to request that this bylaw be repealed. Tel: (416) 395-6464, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I figure that if each one of Vitality's 100,000+ readers were to make one phone call, or send one letter, the mayor would be compelled to give this thing the attention it deserves."
We can contact Mayor Lastman and our City Councillors, with especial attention to the members of the Emergency and Protective Services Committee which worked on this legislation. The members of this Committee are Councillors: Ashton, Balkissoon, Berger, Duguid, Flint, Gardner, Giansante, Holyday, Minnan-Wong, Moscoe, Nunziata and Mayor Lastman. The Chair is Councillor D. Fontinos. You can see pages 16-18 of the Government pages in the phone book if you don't know who your councillor is, or go to: http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/council/councillors.htm.
Visit, call, write or email. Most councillors are well meaning. They just need some education on how this effects their constituents and the health of the City of Toronto. Ask them their position on this, ask them why they think it is necessary (they might not be aware of all the issues on it) and let them know that you are against this bylaw. Let them know you would like the amendment to Bylaw 806-1998, what is called the "Holistic Practitioners Bylaw" which was passed October 30, 1998 rescinded. Tell them Toronto can be a leader in establishing a showcase Alternative Medical community. Ask them what they intend to do to achieve these goals and how you can help. Please take 15 minutes out of your day next week to do so --- that should be time enough to think about it and make a phone call. Please.
AND - if you would like to join your efforts to protect your rights and freedoms as a Holistic Practitioner and coordinate with a growing committee, send an email message to: TorontoHolistics@yahoo.com.** (Please include the name of your city councillor.) They have been successful thus far because we have been passive. No longer.
** NOTE: This email address is no longer active