Canada

Immigration minister under fire for 'Strippergate'

Opposition MPs say Immigration Minister Judy Sgro should step aside while ethics office examines why she fast-tracked a stripper.

Embattled Immigration Minister Judy Sgro is fending off demands by opposition MPs to step aside while the ethics commissioner investigates allegations that her office helped a campaign volunteer get on the immigration fast track.

The volunteer, an exotic dancer from Romania, was given a temporary resident permit three days before the June 28 election.

The permit allows Alina Balaican, 25, to remain in Canada for another two years and apply for permanent resident status.

As minister, Sgro has the power to grant temporary visas on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

In the House of Commons Monday, Conservative MP Peter MacKay demanded Sgro step aside from her duties while the commissioner examines what has been dubbed "Strippergate."

Sgro responded by repeating: "The matter is before the ethics commissioner and I await his report."

Balaican had come to Canada on a temporary work permit, which allowed her to perform as an exotic dancer. She won the second permit after she volunteered on Sgro's re-election campaign in her Toronto-area riding.

Sgro has cited "humanitarian factors" in approving the permit, but also says she can't remember Balaican.

'Beer store' for immigrants: MacKay

On Monday, MacKay accused Sgro of running a "beer store" at her campaign office.

"Apparently people could just come in, ask for what they want and walk out with a permit to stay," MacKay said in the House.

He added that it was well-known on the streets that Sgro's office could help put immigration claimants on a fast track.

In the past, Sgro has said she will propose sweeping changes to the immigration system, since economic migrants are abusing the country's refugee system, in her view.

Sgro has also come under fire for urging Canadian churches to abandon the practice of providing sanctuary to people under the threat of deportation. She accused them of providing a "back door" to Canada for a chosen few potential immigrants.

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