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Canada's "Strippergate" Scandal Turns Heads in Ottawa

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Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: Women

December 6, 2004

Canada's "Strippergate" Scandal Turns Heads in Ottawa

by Shannon Hines

In reaction to what is now called the "Strippergate" scandal, the federal government will no longer assess the need for dancers in Canada's exotic dancer industry.

In late November 2004, after hearing news of special visas granted to foreign exotic dancers, opposition officials asked for the resignation of Judy Sgro, Liberal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Sgro was accused of favouritism in the case of 25 year-old Romanian dancer Alina Balaican, to whom Sgro granted a special residency permit while she worked on the minister's re-election campaign this past summer.

In the last year alone, over 600 foreign women have received temporary work permits for exotic dancing - a significant number of them from Romania.

According to Sgro and the ministry spokespersons, "Canadian women do not want to work any more in this profession." They argue that the scarcity of performers such as lap dancers could only be filled by recruiting women abroad and by granting them special visas. According to the Minister, "There are needs in the exotic dance industry," and the government has "the obligation to answer them."

In an announcement made December 1, by Human Resources Minister Joe Volpe, strip club owners will now have to prove that no Canadian talent is available before recruiting foreign dancers. As CBC reports, this is a move that will "remove a loophole that put hundreds of foreign women on an immigration fast-track." The controversial visa program, which dated back to 1998, simply required exotic dancers to provide a letter offering them a job in the industry and prove they were qualified to dance.

"I didn't feel in the slightest bit comfortable with the program, and I didn't think there was any justification for it," Volpe said Wednesday. "The category for exotic dancers is no longer there."

The "Strippergate" scandal indicates even more problems to cure than just the closing of an immigration loophole, including concerns from anti-trafficking groups; allegations of backroom prostitution and threats of deportation for refusal of additional services; and the question of forged documentation and age verification of the strippers coming to Canada.

Before the special visas inquiries, Sgro made headlines in mid-November after vowing to reform Canada's beleaguered refugee process and speaking about the need to attract more immigrants to sustain economic growth in the face of a declining birth rate and aging population.

» CBC: Ottawa shuts loophole for exotic dancers

» LifeSite: Canada Abruptly Ends Special Visas for Exotic Dancers after Inquiries into Underage Strippers

» Sisyphe: Canada Contributes to the Sexual Trafficking of Women for Purposes of Prostitution

» Globe and Mail: Minister targets bogus refuges

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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