|Downtown Toronto (Photo credit: J. Good)|
The head of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada says he is considering challenging a new ban that stops strip clubs, massage parlours and escort services from bringing foreign temporary workers into the country.
“What the government is doing is destroying an industry, creating a labour shortage and driving those women into more precarious situations,” executive director Tim Lambrinos said Wednesday.
The government needs to provide evidence that strip-club owners are exploiting anyone, he added.
“Strip clubs are a very safe environment.”
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced earlier Wednesday that strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours will no longer have access to temporary foreign workers under new immigration changes.
Foreign nationals brought in to work in sex trade-related businesses are particularly at risk of being exploited and abused.
Denying these businesses access to temporary foreign workers will help protect vulnerable individuals by keeping them out of these situations, Finley said in Toronto.
She said there was “good reason” to believe these workers are at risk.
Finley pointed out that an RCMP report in 2010 called “Human Trafficking in Canada” shed light on a flourishing trade in sexual services, many of them operating out of Eastern European escort agencies based in Toronto and Montreal.
Women are shipped in and out of Canada by transnational prostitution rings, stated the report. Foreign workers are lured to Canada with the promise of legitimate jobs but the women are then forced to work in brothels.
Finley said organized crime networks have been facilitating the entry of women from former Soviet states into strip clubs and escort services in both the Toronto and Montreal area.
The new measures from the government are to combat this human trafficking in Canada, she added.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada will no longer provide any positive Labour Market Opinions (LMO) to these businesses and, hence, they will now not be able to apply for work permits, which are issued by Citizenship and Immigration.
(Temporary foreign workers need a positive LMO to be eligible for work permits.)
Also, strippers currently working in Canada will be allowed to continue to work, but their work permits will not be renewed.
An Immigration Canada spokesperson said 496 visas were issued to exotic dancers between 2006 and 2011. The majority of permits issued over the past few years have been for those already in the country.
There are about 800 strippers on work permits at various clubs across Canada, said Lambrinos. Many of them have been here for a few years and have renewed their work permits numerous times.
“What happens to them now . . . has anyone thought about that?” he asked. These women opted to come to Canada “because of our reputation of being fair. And this is how we treat them?”
Lambrinos said the real victims in this situation will be women who have been following the rules and are comfortable with their lives as exotic dancers.
The manager of a Mississauga strip club, who refused to give his name, called the government’s move discrimination.
“If there is such a big problem, then why are these places, these strip clubs still open?” he said.