Monday, May 21, 2007

Bill has politics written all over it

The Sudbury Star
Editorial - Friday, May 18, 2007 @ 09:00

It is hard to understand why the federal Conservative government, having been in power for so little time, has decided the plight of exotic dancers needs to be pushed to the top of the national agenda.

The industry in Canada, apparently, has a shortage of workers, so immigrants are needed, but very few are actually entering the country for that purpose.

It is not possible to make an impassioned argument that a shortage of workers in the exotic dancing industry would somehow be damaging to the nation's economic health, but it is also hard to buy into Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley's bill aimed at barring foreign exotic dancers from entering Canada.

Bill C-57 would give immigration officers at foreign missions the power to refuse temporary workers thought to be at risk of exploitation.

It has the look of political opportunism, with the idea of sustaining the spectre of Liberal scandal.

Finley says the new legislation was merely a response to the previous Liberal government's scandal in which former immigration minister Judy Sgro fast-tracked immigration papers of a Romanian stripper who worked on her election campaign.

Said Finley: "The good old days of Liberal Stripper-gate will be a thing of the past."

She is also trying to play the moral card, which, on the surface, is hard to argue with.

Said Finley: "What we're trying to do here is protect vulnerable foreign workers, ones that could easily be exposed to sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse."

In 2005, after the rules were tightened up by the Liberals, 10 people were admitted into the country with temporary work permits for the purpose of working as exotic dancers.

And now the issue has somehow made it onto the national agenda.

While we cannot question Finley's stated and worthwhile intention of protecting immigrant women from being forced into prostitution, how does this bill address any problems with the exotic dancing industry?

Said Annie Temple, who operates an advocacy website for strippers: "Keeping foreign exotic dancers out of Canada will not address the issue of exploitation. If the Conservative government is truly concerned about exploitation of exotic dancers, then they should focus on ensuring health and safety standards exist at strip clubs." Fair enough.

If there are problems with the industry, address them. Simply barring foreign strippers, while leaving whatever problems exist to Canadian workers cannot be a pragmatic solution.

Finley will likely continue to paint this legislation as humanitarian gesture, but she has not made a convincing argument for the need for a new law, which will take up the time of parliamentary committees.

Bill C-57 is too half-hearted to be taken seriously and it is not an effective use of a valuable government legislative agenda.