OTTAWA, December 1, 2004 ( – Today in the House of Commons, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan announced an abrupt end to the Canadian scheme of arranging visas specifically for exotic dancers, or strippers, which are used to fill positions at strip clubs in Canada. Those clubs, it has been acknowledged even by club owners, are notorious for forced back-room prostitution work. Weeks of House of Commons questioning directed at Immigration Minister Judy Sgro for her issuance of an exotic dancer visa to one of her campaign workers from Romania has left an opening for anti-trafficking NGO’s to address serious concerns about Canada.

Gregory Carlin, director of the largest anti-trafficking coalition in the British Isles, told that his contacts in Romania have noted that strippers returning from Canada have complained of forced prostitution and when the pressure to comply was rejected by any of the women their exotic dancer visas were revoked and they were deported. 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.” It has been revealed that last year alone, 601 foreign women received temporary work permits for exotic dancing; 582 of them from Romania. However even more serious allegations have been suggested against Canada. Carlin notes that Romania is internationally known for forged documentation, and that questions to Canadian immigration officials about verification of ages of the strippers coming to Canada have not been answered. Carlin suggested that girls as young as fourteen may have been exploited through such stripper visa programs. called Immigration Minister Sgro’s office inquiring about verification of identification for the exotic dancers from Romania, and despite assurances that calls would be returned, received no callback. has learned that other Canadian media were also asking similar questions of the Immigration Minister’s office. Hours after those calls, Deputy Prime Minister McLellan made an announcement in the House of Commons noting the exotic dancer visa scheme had come to an end. Reversing the position of Immigration Minister Sgro who only last week defended the strip club “industry” as having “a right to have their labour market needs approved,” McLellan said, “I can inform this House that HRSDC has decided that there will no longer be a national labour market opinion for this particular industry.” Conservatives blasted the ruling Liberals on the stripper visa scheme pointing out, as anti-trafficking groups have been saying for years, that such programs exploit women. Sgro retorted with “Let me say that when it comes to standing up for women’s rights, we on this side of the House are going to make sure that women’s rights are front and centre.” Later in the exchange Conservative Leader Stephen Harper asked the embattled Minister, “Can the minister explain this breathtaking hypocrisy to Canadians? See related story Conservative Women’s Group Gets U.S. Federal Money to Combat Sex Trafficking jhw