Canadian Strippers Speak Out on Immigration Bill

TORONTO — Strippers have just as much a right to ply their trade in Maple Country as anyone else, a group of exotic dancers said Wednesday at a public meeting held by the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada in opposition of the pending Bill C-17.

The measure, tabled earlier this year in the House of Commons by citizen and immigration minister Diane Finley, seeks to tighten restrictions on foreign workers entering the country for employment that purportedly would put them at risk of sexual exploitation, humiliation or degradation.

But according to AEAC director Tim Lambrinos, the bill is designed specifically to go after strip clubs, whose work force is largely made up of women from Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. According to Lambrinos, the bill seems to ignore other professions that exploit foreigners.

"How many fruit pickers and farm workers are subjected to degrading and humiliating conditions on a daily basis, working in huts with no ventilation and getting blisters in bunk beds?" Lambrinos asked. "Why is it that a few hundred exotic dancers are being criticized?"

Lambrinos also noted that there has been a shortage of native exotic dancers because Canadian women tend to look down on the profession.

One dancer, Nadia from the Czech Republic, said during the meeting, "It was always my choice to be here. Nobody made me stay. My work as an exotic dancer is not humiliating or degrading to me."

Another, Amanda Hamilton, stated, "I don't understand how this woman [Finley] has the right to deny people the right to come into our country and work."

"Nobody in the industry condones degradation and abuse," Lambrinos emphasized, explaining that the AEAC is offering suggestions to lawmakers that would address the issues tackled by the bill. These suggestions include: Barring agents from applying for work permits on behalf of foreign dancers; setting up a toll-free tip line for dancers to report abuse; allowing them to be eligible for re-entry visas; and only permitting them to work in accredited clubs.

The AEAC is holding public meetings across Ontario throughout the month to raise support for their proposed changes to the bill. Having passed through two readings in the House of Commons, the bill is now in committee review. It must go through one more review and a third reading before it can be voted into law.