OTTAWA, August 5, 2004 ( – Evidence from an internal memo by Canadian visa officers, insisting that women wishing to enter Canada to work as strippers must provide nude photos, has sparked a closer look into Canada’s dealings in the trafficking of women.  The startling report, which was issued in late July by the Toronto Sun after it obtained the memo through freedom of information requests, was quickly denied by immigration officials.

Despite the fact that the memo by Sergio Mercado, of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico issued to all Canadian Immigration Officers said, “If they don’t have pictures in the nude, they are not going to wiggle their bottoms in Canada,” Immigration Canada is denying the need for nude photos.  Immigration Canada spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi told reporters, “We never, never ask for nude photographs.”  The revelations have made news around the world, and while some might be surprised as Canada’s controversial involvement in such exploitation of women, those who fight trafficking in women were not surprised.  Gregory Carlin, director of the largest anti-trafficking coalition in the British Isles, told that he thought it was “appalling for Canadian officials to be sifting through photographs of naked foreign girls.”  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.”  While Canada portrays itself as a morally superior nation which respects women, showboating abortion on demand as evidence of its superiority, those fighting trafficking of women on the front lines know better.  Pointing out the impudence of government working with strip club owners for immigration purposes, Carlin said, “We get more complaints about Canada than any other western country.  Of course, it is not every country which climbs into bed with organized crime as a human resource partner.”“The sex trade in Canada is frequently connected to some of the most exploitative crime and trafficking syndicates in Eastern Europe. The Canadian government has been complicit in trafficking and coerced sex and has failed to check the ages of girls,” Carlin told  The Canadian government is seriously lacking in transparency over the issue.  Even researchers on the topic within Canada struggle to learn the facts.  Aurélie Lebrun, a PhD researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal studying trafficking in women, told she has tried unsuccessfully to obtain information.  “I’ve tried to know more about the visa’s procedure knowing that some of these dancers end up in prostitution. I wrote to Immigration Canada and to Human Ressources Development Canada to get information on how many visas they deliver the origin of the women, their age, etc. Nobody was willing to give me any info,” she said.  See related coverage:  Canadian Government Insists Immigrant Strippers Bare All for Officials   jhw