|More and more Toronto strippers are going underground to avoid being sent home by border agents.
TORONTO - At least 12 exotic dancers in Toronto and Hamilton are suspected of going underground to work in massage parlours and remain in Canada illegally since Ottawa slammed the door shut on foreign strippers.
About six of the dancers are from Toronto. The others hail from clubs in Hamilton, according to officials of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada.
The women, who are mostly from European countries, were sponsored here by strip clubs and given work permits for one year. Many renewed their permits and were allowed to remain in Canada for several years.
“The employers are not escorting them to the border,” association director Tim Lambrinos said on Thursday. “It is up to the girls to leave the country when their visas expire.”
Ottawa last month stopped issuing visas or extensions to strippers claiming it can lead to the trafficking of women.
Lambrinos said the women may have gone underground to avoid being sent home by border agents.
“Many of the women have financial obligations here and to their families back at home,” he said on Thursday. “We don’t know where they are.”
Industry officials believe the women who disappeared are working in massage parlours because they feel it will be harder for the authorities to find them for deportation.
Lambrinos expect more women to remain here illegally to work in the sex trade as their visas expire.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said action is underway to prevent some of the women from being sent back home.
Kurland said he will brief senior immigration officials in the fall on a proposal being developed.
Meanwhile, association officials said they can use an additional 1,000 dancers in Ontario to fill the demand.
One Windsor club to attract women is offering students tuition of up to $1,700 providing they keep up their marks; it will loan them funds for first and last month’s rent and help cover their move to Windsor.
Officials of the Canada Border Services Agency said their mandate is to remove anyone who is not in Canada legally.
There are up to 800 foreign strippers in Canada and they’re mostly from Eastern Europe and South America. They represent about 5% of the 38,000 strippers working in clubs across Canada.
The controversial “stripper visa” dates back to 1998 and allowed hundreds of foreign dancers into the country each year. In 2001 for example, 660 foreign dancers, mostly from eastern Europe, were admitted.
All they had to do was provide a Canadian job offer from a strip club and prove they were qualified to ‘dance.’
Support for the program has plummeted ever since MP Judy Sgro, a former Liberal immigration minister, resigned in 2000 after facing accusations that she fast-tracked a stripper who worked on her campaign -- a scandal dubbed “Strippergate.”