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New naturopathic, acupuncture HST exemption a wake-up call to massage therapy profession

don_suit.jpgFeb. 24, 2014 — In a Feb. 11 Financial Post online article, “Canada Budget 2014: 10 Things You Need to Know,” it was reported naturopathic and acupuncture services would become exempt from the harmonized sales tax (HST).

"The 2014 budget exempted acupuncturists’ and naturopathic doctors’ services from HST and GST, adding them to list that already included physicians, dentists, nurses, midwives and optometrists. The government noted acupuncture and naturopathic services are now regulated in at least five provinces," the Financial Post article stated.

February 24, 2014  By Don Quinn Dillon

Naturopathic and acupuncture – once considered fringe alternative medicine – have obtained a new level of legitimacy with regulation in five provinces and the ability to opt-out of the HST, a consumption tax. It’s expected that regulation and HST exemption for naturopathic and acupuncture services can bring a higher level of legitimacy in health-care policy and funding.

Massage therapists may woefully consider the consequences of receding to the back of the pack.  Once considered a forerunner in regulation and legitimacy, massage therapist associations appear to suffer an inability to collaborate nationally and collectively in relations with government, insurers, gatekeeper health-care disciplines, the public and media. Massage therapist associations have been plodding along for decades, with only Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland/Labrador – and recently New Brunswick – obtaining regulation. 

Legitimacy for the massage therapist profession is a chronic problem. In many cases, the media still uses “massage therapist” when speaking about a brothel or the sex-trade.  Proactively, the Massage Therapist Association of Manitoba (MTAM) are leading efforts in Winnipeg for the word “massage” to be removed from sex-trade businesses using massage services as a front. The MTAM previously launched successful bus and short video campaigns in an effort to reform the public and media image of massage, but their efforts should be coordinated and emulated on a national level.

Massage therapists face being left out of other key initiatives. In a recent article in Canadian Chiropractor , author Treena Hein writes, “The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is calling for proposals to design, plan and implement more effective management of low-back pain through a primary care low-back pain (PCLBP) pilot program (PCLBP). Minister Deb Matthews stated in October 2013 this initiative will be geared towards family health teams, nurse-practitioner-led clinics, community health centres and aboriginal access health centres. Under this program, leaders in these primary care settings will recruit allied health providers with the appropriate skills, including chiropractors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and kinesiologists.”


Kinesiologists were only recently regulated in Ontario, yet have been included in consideration with chiropractors and physiotherapists for the PCLBP.  Massage therapists are glaringly absent from the list.

Hopefully, the regulation and HST exemption of naturopathic and acupuncture services are a strong nudge to the massage therapist profession to shake from a position of learned helplessness and step up its efforts to pool resources, work together and advance regulation and relations with government, insurers, gatekeeper health disciplines and the public/media.

Donald Quinn Dillon is a registered massage therapist, author and speaker. You can contact him through his website,

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