If the federal government has serious concerns about the welfare of foreign women employed by Canadian strip clubs, it should not be kicking them out of the country.
The government has already cut back on the number of visas it issues to exotic dancers from abroad. But in changes to federal rules announced this week by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, strip clubs – along with escort services and massage parlours – will no longer be allowed to hire temporary foreign workers and existing visas will no longer be renewed.
Strip clubs are legal businesses in Canada. Yet in a speech announcing the changes, Mr. Kenney said the government could not in good conscience admit women into the country to work in a sector in which there is “reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation.” (Foreigners on other visas will not be permitted to work in those businesses either, putting paid to the adult entertainment industry’s less-than-constructive suggestion that it will now turn to international students for a supply of dancers.)
If the government has evidence that some clubs are fronts for illegal activity and that foreign women are working there against their will, it should concentrate its efforts on its current crackdown on human trafficking. Instead, the Conservatives seem to be seeking the moral high ground – and perhaps playing to their support base – by taking action against a group of women with little constituency among the general public.
Rather than leaving the country when their visas are not renewed, some of the women may go underground, where they will be all the more susceptible to the sexual exploitation the government says it fears. The move is ill-conceived at best; at worst, it’s hypocritical.
Many Canadians may share the government’s suspicion that strip clubs aren’t safe places for women to work, and it may well be that foreign women are even more vulnerable to exploitation or assault than the Canadian-born. Policing the clubs and providing easily accessible social and legal services to all exotic dancers would seem a more effective way of addressing that concern than throwing some of them out of work. If foreign strippers need help, let’s help them.