Stripper bill may make things worse: critics
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2007 9:33PM EDT
Critics say a proposed Tory law that will stop immigrants from coming in on a stripper's visa solves a problem that largely no longer exists and may make things worse.
If adopted, Bill C-57 would permit immigration officers to reject foreign workers at risk of being humiliated, degraded or sexually exploited.
"What we're trying to do here is protect vulnerable foreign workers, ones that could easily be exposed to sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse," said Immigration Minister Diane Finley on Wednesday.
"The previous Liberal government gave blanket exemptions to foreign strippers to work in Canada," she told the House of Commmons.
"(This was) despite warnings that they were vulnerable to forced prostitution and other exploitation ... Thanks to (this legislation), the good old days of Liberal Strippergate will be a thing of the past."
'Strippergate' is a reference to a scandal involved one-time Liberal immigration minister Judy Sgro.
She fast-tracked the residency permit of a Romanian stripper who had worked on her 2004 campaign. A 2005 report found Sgro didn't intend to abuse her authority, but noted her staff knew about the situation.
Liberals scoff at the Tories' tactic.
"It's going to backfire, just like any of the other cheap stunts that they've been pulling over the last few weeks. I mean Canadians are not fooled by this," said MP Omar Alghabra.
An NDP member echoed that view.
"If they are truly serious about this they wouldn't be resorting to a cheap political dig at a former Liberal cabinet minister," said Ontario MP Irene Mathyssen, her party's critic for women's issues.
"It's playing with a very serious issue in a very partisan way ... It speaks to their disregard for women, all across the board."
In 2004, when Liberal Paul Martin was prime minister, there were 423 visas issued for foreign exotic dancers.
Since Conservative Stephen Harper took over in early 2006, 17 permits have been issued -- seven so far this year.
Under the current law, the onus is on strip club owners to prove there is a shortage of Canadian dancers each time they apply to bring in a foreign exotic dancer.
The new law will take the restriction one step further, and is based on the government's concern that foreign dancers are in some cases forced into the illegal sex trade.
Many strip clubs rely on dancers from Asia and Eastern Europe to fill their rosters.
However, immigration lawyer Peter Rekai said: "I think it's about the government having a little fun with their predecessors, the Liberal government, but I don't think it has anything to do, frankly, with the problem but unfortunately it may create a problem."
Tim Lambrinos of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada said: "All it's going to do is drive the demand to perhaps illegal enterprises and actually make it worse for the women are potentially here."
Finley has refused to meet with his group so far, he said.
"Keeping foreign exotic dancers out of Canada will not address the issue of exploitation," Annie Temple, who runs NakedTruth.ca, told The Canadian Press.
"If the Conservative government is truly concerned about exploitation of exotic dancers, then they should focus on ensuring health and safety standards exist in strip clubs.
"Club owners and agents who are sponsoring foreign dancers should be investigated for exploitative practices."
The bill isn't guaranteed to pass in a minority Parliament, but if it does, strip club owners say they'll challenge it in the courts on the basis that it discriminates against their perfectly legal businesses.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told Newsnet's The Verdict that if nothing else, the legislation will allow for a transparent debate on this issue.
With a report from CTV's David Akin and files from The Canadian Press