Canadians will no longer be able to hire temporary foreign workers as exotic dancers or for other sex-trade work under changes to be made by the federal government.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that they will no longer provide the paperwork needed to bring in temporary foreign workers for employment in the sex industry.
Finley's department, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, will "issue negative Labour Market Opinions" for applications from employers linked to the sex trade, which will deny them permission to hire temporary foreign workers. As of July 14, Kenney's department will stop processing new work permit applications from temporary foreign workers who plan to work for strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours.
The release says the negative labour market opinions will also apply to other businesses linked to the sex trade, "particularly if there is a heightened risk of abuse or exploitation of workers."
The temporary foreign worker program is jointly managed by the two departments and is intended to fill gaps in Canada's labour market.
Finley and Kenney say the move will protect temporary foreign workers who could otherwise be exploited.
Immigration officials got greater power under recent legislation to deny work permits if they believed there was a threat of exploitation or risk in general.
The exotic dancer option has been less and less available over the years, with only 496 visas issued between 2006 and 2011 — much less than the 1,713 visas issued to exotic dancers between 2001 and 2005. The majority of permits issued recently have been for people who are already in Canada, as opposed to those who applied for the permits from outside the country.
Risk to be determined case by case
Speaking in Toronto, Finley said officials will look at each situation on a case-by-case basis.
"If there's a risk of exploitation, a risk of human trafficking for that individual, then we're going to protect that individual and say no," she said.
As for the risk of workers coming into the country illegally, Finley said the government recognizes people will try to circumvent the law.
"That's why we do have mechanisms in place to track who's here, who's not, who's coming in and indeed vigilance at the border," she said.
"We are familiar with the ways that they try to go around the law and we're going to be very alert in paying attention to those options."
This isn't the first time exotic dancers and immigration have made the news together. In 2004, then immigration minister Judy Sgro came under fire for granting a temporary residence permit to an exotic dancer who had volunteered for her election campaign.