Ontario’s beauty and personal care industries launch ‘Red Balloon Wednesday’ campaign for industry support
Photo: Heather Wenman, owner of Studio H Artists Group
ONTARIO’S BEAUTY INDUSTRY is lashing out at the Ford government’s ongoing public health restrictions and their place with the Red Balloon Wednesdays campaign — a quiet protest in solidarity with the 100,000 people who work in the province’s personal care sector.
With Red Balloon Wednesdays, the Allied Beauty Association of Canada and the Ontario Professional Hair Stylists Association are asking supporters to tie a red balloon on their front steps or on a tree in their community — “a safe protest that shows the solidarity of those that have been impacted by the lack of government support for the personal care sector” that will coincide with representatives of the ABA and OPHA going to Queen’s Park to demonstrate in support of the campaign.
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Local independent salon owner and ABA board member Heather Wenman, who runs the Studio H Artist Group on Ann Street, says that many of the more than 850 salons in the London region are being “segregated from other regulated trades.”
While other industries with professional colleges have been deemed essential, personal care services have gone in and out of lockdowns, with some sectors (like aestheticians) having been closed for the majority of the pandemic. “We feel that we are equal in certification, and governing bodies need to come together and see us,” she says.
“We’ve been open three different times, and those times we’ve opened, we’ve had to limit everything,” Wenman continues.
When the province’s reopening plan was announced, the industry noted that it would be among the last to reopen, despite many salons spending thousands of dollars on sanitization measures and protective installations. “It’s now almost June, and we’re looking into July and having a lot more businesses suffering,” says Wenman. “Hairdressers are being forced to go underground, taking the integrity away from those hairstylists.”
“This is the biggest blow yet to our industry,” says Sandra Fiore, ABA chairperson, in a press release. “It’s time for us to unite as an industry and raise awareness about the impact this decision has had on over 100,000 people who work in the industry in Ontario. It’s time to fight back and raise awareness.”
The industry’s complaints echo what’s been seen across the small business sector in recent months: complaints that even though many businesses invested heavily in modifications to comply with public health protocols, they have been shut down anyways, while big corporate chain stores have thrived.
“Those in the beauty sector argue that they’ve been ready to open for months and have everything they needed to follow public health and safety protocols,” the ABA says in a press release. “The government has failed this industry and it’s time for them to safely go back to work.”
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Wenman is quick to note that the industry is not reflexively demanding the government lift all lockdowns — but rather that they feel they have been closed arbitrarily.
“We really consider ourselves as qualified as a dental office or many other medical services,” Wenman says. “But if we are [a source of infection] then help our industry. Open us, or support us financially, because there is no place to go.” Kieran Delamont