What’s this debate over Canada’s move to ban foreign strippers, escorts and massage-parlor workers really about? On one side, you have the Adult Entertainment Association, which is upset that the government is stripping away a pool of potential moneymaking workers, whereas on the other side, you have the government, which is saying that cutting back on human trafficking and exploitation is at the heart of the decision.
The Conservative Party government’s Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, announced that starting next month, Canada will no longer renew visas for foreigners working as strippers. Already the government has cut back on how many new visas it grants, down to just 12 in 2011. But it had been continuing to renew previous visas. Not anymore.
Kenney says the decision is part of a larger government effort to crack down on human trafficking, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has expressed repeated concerns over the link between escort agencies, brothels and massage parlors and human-trafficking and sexual-exploitation cases.
The move will put hundreds of foreign strippers out of work in Canada and with no valid workers’ permit when their yearlong visas come up for renewal. The Globe and Mail reports that Kenney, in a speech given in Calgary, said, “The government cannot in good conscience continue to admit temporary foreign workers to work in businesses in sectors where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation.”
There could be anywhere from 500 to 700 women working in Canada on one-year visas. The Adult Entertainment Association says limiting access to the legal trade hurts the industry and creates a labor shortage. Other opponents of the move say it could have an adverse effect by pushing the industry underground and have threatened to hold workshops at universities to recruit foreign students to the industry, a loophole they plan to exploit.
But stories of repeated exploitation and abuse of exotic dancers in the legal industry have become widespread, according to the Globe and Mail. Women in Canada on a temporary visa are tied to a single employer, giving that employer quasi-power over the individual.