28, 2008 ó Strip
clubs in Ontario are facing a staffing shortage, mainly because the federal
government isn’t granting visas to foreign women who
want to come to Canada and bare it all on stage.
At least that’s what the head of the largest association of
strip clubs in Canada says.
“We’re facing a very real problem,” says Tim Lambrinos,
the executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada,
which represents 42 strip clubs across
government’s putting a real squeeze on the industry and it really
is affecting our ability to find dancers.”
|Strip clubs in Ontario have been sliding down
the pole lately. Some blame a decline in business on a lack of
foreign dancers being allowed into the country.
Lambrinos says that the federal government has been stripping down
the number of visas granted to foreign exotic dancers since a scandal
involving former Liberal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy
Sgro and the questionable visa extension of a Romanian stripper who
worked on Sgro’s campaign.
Things only got worse for the industry when the Conservatives came
into power in 2006, Lambrinos says, and the issue took centre stage
after Diane Finley was handed the Citizenship and Immigration portfolio.
In addition to the policy measures already in place to crack down
on the number of women given permission to strip in Canada, Finley
introduced Bill C-17 — formerly known as Bill C-57 — that
would have allowed the department to reject any foreign worker whom
the government had reason to believe would be subject to sexual exploitation,
humiliation or degradation.
Lambrinos believes these restrictions are illegal and discriminatory,
and unfairly target strip club owners, who often rely on dancers from
Eastern Europe and Asia.
are generally much more comfortable with the job than Canadians.'
He says that this policy has resulted in the rejection of 93 per
cent of the applications for foreign workers put forward by members
of his association between 2005 and January of this year.
His association estimates that there are 5,000 women a year who want
to come to Canada to work as exotic dancers.
“You can’t just arbitrarily pick a legal occupation and
make it nearly impossible for business owners to find staff,” he
says. “It’s obvious that they’ve got something against
Lambrinos even hired a Toronto lawyer to review Finley’s bill,
who claims it would have been struck down by the courts if it hadn’t
died in the last election. The association is considering either taking
legal action against the government, or finding a way for foreign dancers
to attend private schools in Ontario, which would allow them to work
for up to 20 hours a week as international students.
Conservative with a capital-C
Though Lambrinos says the need for foreign workers is immediate and
very real, these plans are still tentative. He hopes that Finley’s
newly sworn-in replacement, Jason Kenney, will be more receptive to
But that’s not likely, says the minister’s director of
communications, Alykhan Velshi.
He says that the previous Liberal government effectively fast
tracked visas for foreign exotic dancers before Sgro’s “Strippergate” affair.
He says the current minister has no plans to do the same.
The Brass Rail in Toronto advertises "totally
nude European style female dancers", an apparent neccessity
in the stripping industry.
“We’ve closed the Liberal stripper loophole and we have
no intention of revisiting that decision,” he says. “Our
government doesn’t believe that one industry should receive preferential
treatment when we have a shortage of skilled workers in a range of professions,
like doctors, engineers and nurses.”
Lambrinos says the government needs to reconsider this stance and let
more foreign strippers into the country because there just aren’t
enough Canadian women willing to shed their clothes. He says that this
will inevitably have an effect on the economy.
“It’s a huge tourism generator,” he says. “Canada
has a reputation as a destination for this kind of entertainment, and
we need to maintain that.”
He says fewer Canadian women are willing to take tothe poll because
attitudes in Ontario are generally more “prudish.”
“It’s a cultural thing,” he says. “It has to
do with your background, what you’re comfortable with. Europeans
are generally much more comfortable with the job than Canadians.”
He also says they tend to be better at the job than their Canadian
“They are usually more reliable,” he says. “Many
of them come here solely to work, so they don’t have as many distractions.
A lot of them also come with a lot of experience.”
But Mary Taylor, the founder and director of the Exotic Dancers
Association of Canada, says the argument that there aren’t
enough homegrown strippers to fill the demand simply isn’t true.
“There’s not a shortage of dancers in Canada,” she
says. “There’s a shortage of dancers in Canada willing to
put up with the conditions of strip clubs here.”
With 21 years of experience in the industry as a dancer and an advocate,
she says she’s seen it all in terms of poor working conditions
— including unfair contracts, pressure to perform sexual acts on clients,
and unreasonable fines.
She says many foreign dancers are willing to put
up with these conditions because they are afraid of losing their privilege
to be here. To get a visa, foreign strippers have to sign a contract
with a single employer for an entire year.
This leaves them particularly vulnerable in their relationship with
their employer, and unlikely to complain. Canadian women are less willing
to put up with this kind of mistreatment, she says, and this explains
some of the industry’s current staffing problems.
Instead of investing so much effort in trying to change government
policy, she says Lambrinos and his association should change
the way they run their businesses.
“They should spend their time trying to make the industry better
for Canadian women so they will want to work here,” she says.