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lundi 29 novembre 2004

Canada Contributes to the Sexual Trafficking of Women for Purposes of Prostitution

par Elaine Audet

Écrits d'Élaine Audet

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On November 27, 2004, news about the visas granted by Canadian immigration officers to foreign stripteasers, called "exotic dancers", made headlines across Canada. After learning about this, and about how these women were required to supply pictures of themselves naked during their shows, Opposition members of Parliament asked for the resignation of the Minister of Immigration, Judy Sgro.

Moreover, they accused her of favoritism when it was learned that she had given one of these dancers who had worked on her campaign for election a visa. They also pointed out how she had covered what seems to be a shameless sexual trafficking of women, many of whom are from Eastern Europe, especially Rumania.

According to the Minister and the spokepersons of this ministry, "Canadian women do not want to work any more in this profession ". They argue that the "scarcity" of perfomers such as lapdancers 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.". Under cover of this spurious excuse, immigration officers worked hand in hand with organized crime to supply the owners of clubs with a constant renewal of foreign women to meet the alleged "needs" of the prosperous Canadian sex industry.

If one applies this same logic to the globalization of trafficking in women and children, one can only presume that the Canadian "artists" are regularly exported worldwide to fill the unquestioned needs of the customers of the sex industry ("prostituters" and voyeurs) abroad. Moreover, for the pimps who own the clubs, this logic would also support their going to court arguing violations of international law on the "mobility of the workforce" should politicians move to abolish this immigration policy ! After all, they could argue, there is always a steady market for these dancers !

The increasing importance of the recruitment of foreign stripteasers and their integration into local prostitution systems, puts Canada among the countries with the greatest participation in the world trafficking of women, according to several specialists who have studied these matters. And there is no doubt that the recruitment is increasing year by year at a rapid pace. For example, data from the Canadian Ministry of immigration report that 25 Rumanian strippers landed in the country in 2001, 216 others in 2002 and 552 in 2003. If the numbers continue to double every year, one can imagine what the situation will be like in Canada in a few years. No wonder Canada already represents a much sought-after destination for sexual tourism.

When the news made headlines, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc québécois voiced opposition to this immigration policy for "exotic dancers", noting they do not understand the need for such a program. Nevertheless, they themselves participated for several years in parliamentary committees aiming to completely decriminalize or legalize prostitution and did not use these positions to change policy.It is about time they reacted with more than words against this oppression of women and girls that already makes more victims than did the slave trade or the Holocaust.

The following article, from an alternative press agency, LifeSiteNews.com reveals that this situation has been known for a long time by groups which fight against the international trafficking of women and children for prostitution. Clearly it is urgent to ask for a public debate about prostitution in Canada, as it was demanded recently in Quebec, by more than thirty personalities who are worried that the government could present a bill which would professionalize prostitution and decriminalize the prostituted persons, the customers-prostituters and the pimps.

LifeSite Daily News

"More complaints about Canada than any other western country", says anti-trafficking leader.

OTTAWA, August 5, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Evidence from an internal memo by Canadian visa officers, insisting that women wishing to enter Canada to work as strippers must provide nude photos, has sparked a closer look into Canada’s dealings in the trafficking of women. The startling report, which was issued in late July by the Toronto Sun after it obtained the memo through freedom of information requests, was quickly denied by immigration officials.

Despite the fact that the memo by Sergio Mercado, of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico issued to all Canadian Immigration Officers said, "If they don’t have pictures in the nude, they are not going to wiggle their bottoms in Canada," Immigration Canada is denying the need for nude photos. Immigration Canada spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi told reporters, "We never, never ask for nude photographs."
The revelations have made news around the world, and while some might be surprised as Canada’s controversial involvement in such exploitation of women, those who fight trafficking in women were not surprised. Gregory Carlin, director of the largest anti-trafficking coalition in the British Isles, told LifeSiteNews.com that he thought it was "appalling for Canadian officials to be sifting through photographs of naked foreign girls."

Carlin, who is with the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition charges that, "Many of the Romanian girls we interview complain of being coerced into prostitution in Canada by club-owners and lied to by Canadian officials." Carlin, the principle advocate responsible for Operation Quest which resulted in hundreds of anti-trafficking arrests, added "There are also threats of arrest and deportation if they refuse to provide additional VIP services. Canadian officials fail to inform the females that in Canada, lap-dancing invariably involves sex, full contact and penetration etc."

While Canada portrays itself as a morally superior nation which respects women, showboating abortion on demand as evidence of its superiority, those fighting trafficking of women on the front lines know better. Pointing out the impudence of government working with strip club owners for immigration purposes, Carlin said, "We get more complaints about Canada than any other western country. Of course, it is not every country which climbs into bed with organized crime as a human resource partner."

"The sex trade in Canada is frequently connected to some of the most exploitative crime and trafficking syndicates in Eastern Europe. The Canadian government has been complicit in trafficking and coerced sex and has failed to check the ages of girls," Carlin told LifeSiteNews.com.

The Canadian government is seriously lacking in transparency over the issue. Even researchers on the topic within Canada struggle to learn the facts. Aurélie Lebrun, a PhD researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal studying trafficking in women, told LifeSiteNews.com she has tried unsuccessfully to obtain information. "I’ve tried to know more about the visa’s procedure knowing that some of these dancers end up in prostitution. I wrote to Immigration Canada and to Human Ressources Development Canada to get information on how many visas they deliver the origin of the women, their age, etc. Nobody was willing to give me any info," she said.


For related coverage, see :

Canadian Government Insists Immigrant Strippers Bare All for Officials

Sisyphe, november 29, 2004.

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Elaine Audet

Poet, essayist and independent researcher, Elaine Audet was born in Quebec in 1936. She published in Quebec, France and Switzerland, and collaborated to magazines and collective works. From 1990 to 2004, she wrote a literary and feminist column for the monthly magazine of political information, l’aut’journal. She is presently associate editor of Sisyphe. She is the author of : Pour une éthique du bonheur, (essay, remue-ménage, 1994), Le Cycle de l’éclair (poetry, Loup de Gouttière, 1996), Le Cœur pensant/courtepointe de l’amitié entre femmes (essay, Loup de Gouttière, 2000).
Her latest books are :

 Prostitution - perspectives féministes, (éditions Sisyphe, 2005).
 La plénitude et la limite, poésie, (éditions Sisyphe, 2006).
 Prostitution, Feminist Perspectives, (éditions Sisyphe, 2009).
 Sel et sang de la mémoire, Polytechnique, 6 décembre 1989, poésie, (éditions Sisyphe, 2009).

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