Canadian Press Newswire
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Section: National General News
Byline: BY ALEXANDER PANETTA
OTTAWA (CP) _ Foreign strippers would be prevented from working in Canada under legislation tabled Wednesday by the Conservative government.
If adopted by Parliament, Bill C-57 would allow immigration officers to reject foreign workers at risk of being humiliated, degraded or sexually exploited.
Immigration Minister Diane Finley said the legislation could apply to various types of jobs but is aimed at protecting thousands of women who are brought to Canada and forced into prostitution.
An advocacy group for exotic dancers blasted the bill as a crass move that would bar legitimate visa applicants while doing little to protect women from the underground sex trade.
The legislation would allow immigration officers to reject people under what it calls ``public policy considerations'' to be defined at a later date by the minister.
Finley cast the move as a humanitarian response to the Liberals' so-called Strippergate scandal.
``The previous Liberal government gave blanket exemptions to foreign strippers to work in Canada,'' Finley told the House of Commons.
``(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.''
Judy Sgro, the former Liberal immigration minister, resigned amid accusations that she fast-tracked the immigration papers of a Romanian stripper who worked on her election campaign.
The former government issued about 600 temporary work permits in 2004 to foreign exotic dancers despite warnings that some women were forced into prostitution.
But a woman who began an advocacy website for strippers said the Tories seem more preoccupied with embarrassing the Liberals than with helping exploited women.
``Keeping foreign exotic dancers out of Canada will not address the issue of exploitation,'' said Annie Temple, who runs NakedTruth.ca.
``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.''
She said the Tory bill will only hinder legal exotic workers because foreign travel is the nature of the business, and that Canadian dancers also work in many different countries.
``It seems to me that this move is a political one designed to remind us of the Liberal scandal rather than eliminate exploitation of women or exotic dancers,'' she said.
The RCMP estimates that about 800 people are trafficked into Canada annually and that at least 1,500 more are trafficked through Canada into the United States.
Finley said the legislation would help.
``We've taken avery method possible in the existing legislation to limit the number of exotic dancers and strippers that are coming into this country,'' she said.
``(But) at the moment immigration officers do not have the power to deny people entry Canada if they meet all immigration requirements. . .
``There are 5,000 people subjected to sexual exploitation. This is a problem we need to address.''
An NDP member says the government proved how little it actually cares about exploited women just by the partisan tone of its announcement.
``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.
I'm not sure why I felt the need to respond when I was contacted by the Canadian Press, but I guess my conviction that decisions should be community-based rather than made by a bunch of white guys (and gals) in suits who have never been part of the industry, overcame me.
I'm certainly no expert on immigration policies or foreign exotic dancers. I never danced outside of Canada, myself. Sam from Dancers Equal Rights Association or Mary Taylor from Exotic Dancers Association of Canada (now merging to be one organization) are both more appropriate spokeswomen for this issue - with experience impacting the laws around exotic dancing in Ontario cities.
I've received several emails requesting radio interviews but my son is not feeling well today (he's 2 years old) and I have lots of errands to run. (Plus, I think I'm still feeling media fatigue from Dancers for Cancer in February and March).
I do, however, feel that the important point to be made is that Bill C-57 will not impact exploitated women (the exotic dancers they refer to are women after all). It will impact dancers who legitimately wish to work in Canada. It's a transient industry.
Immigration Minister Diane Findlay is quoted as saying "We've taken every method possible in the existing legislation to limit the number of exotic dancers and strippers that are coming into this country." Does she realize how discriminatory she sounds? She must think, like many people do, that it's okay to discriminate against exotic dancers.