Thursday, July 5, 2012

No sex please.  We're Canadians

Canadian employers will be blocked from hiring temporary foreign workers in sex trade-related jobs under new rules announced by the Harper government Wednesday.

The changes are intended to prevent temporary foreign workers from taking employment as exotic dancers, with erotic massage parlours or escort services, or in any other field deemed "degrading" by the government.

While anti-human trafficking groups praised the move, the government also was criticized for going after an easy target and stoking societal stigmas about exotic dancers, rather than making policy based on empirical evidence.

"If you want to stop the exploitation, you bring the industry out of the shadows . . . This is creating more of an illicit market," said Chris Bruckert, a sex industry management researcher at the University of Ottawa.

"Closing the legal door is just going to make the (illegal) door more attractive."

The association representing licensed strip clubs nationwide said Wednesday it was looking at all options, including legal action, to reverse what it sees as a policy aimed at shutting down clubs.

"This is nothing more than political brownie points for their western, ultraconservative base," said Tim Lambrinos, executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada. "We're going to be challenging this in some way."

Effective immediately, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada will issue negative Labour Market Opinions, or LMOs, on all temporary foreign worker applications submitted from businesses linked to the sex industry, or "other businesses where the workplace presents a risk of sexual exploitation or degrading work."

The move will prevent those businesses from hiring temporary foreign workers.

"Businesses outside of these categories may also be included if there is reason to believe that temporary foreign workers are at risk of exploitation and abuse," Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said in Toronto.

The rules will get even tougher on July 14, when Citizenship and Immigration Canada will no longer process new work permit applications for temporary foreign workers linked to sex-trade related employment.

"We are relieved to learn the Conservatives have barred strip clubs and other adult services from using temporary foreign workers. We must continue to set up the necessary road blocks to prevent Canada from being on the trafficking circuit," said Bridget Perrier of the anti-trafficking group Sextrade 101 in a statement.

Right now, about 40 per cent of strip clubs in Canada hire temporary foreign workers, according to Lambrinos, a figure based on internal polling the association conducts with its members.

The association argues it needs foreign workers because there aren't enough Canadians willing take jobs as exotic dancers.

And strip club managers are more interested in hiring exotic dancers in Canada legally to avoid run-ins with the law, Bruckert said.

The number of exotic dancers entering Canada under the temporary foreign workers program has steadily fallen under the Harper government. Between 2006 and 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued 496 visas to exotic dancers, down from the 1,713 visas the Liberals issued between 2001 and 2005, according to government figures.

"The government cannot in good conscience continue to admit temporary foreign workers to work in businesses in sectors where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in Calgary.

HRSDC figures show almost all exotic dancer applicants received extensions between 2007 and 2011, while new work permits have been given to eight per cent of applicants over the same period.

Kenney also said that as of July 28, open work permits issued to foreign workers that normally would allow them to work for any Canadian employer will see a new condition on the permit forbidding them from working in the sex industry.


Romney Won't Be 'Flip-Flopper' On Immigration, He Tells Murdoch

Mitt Romney will not modify the hard-line immigration stance he established during the Republican presidential primaries, the presumptive Republican nominee told supporters at a private meeting.

Politico reports that people at the meeting pushed Romney to counter President Barack Obama more aggressively on the issue. Obama recently bolstered his standing among Latinos, a demographic that overwhelmingly favors him over Romney, by announcing a new policy that will shield thousands of young immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally.

"You have to take the fight to Obama on this," NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch reportedly told Romney.

Romney noted that he has enlisted the campaign trail help of Marco Rubio, an ascendant young Cuban-American senator from Florida, but added that "I am not going to be a flip-flopper" on immigration even if some of the positions he took during the primaries hurt him.

As Romney sought to rebuff criticism that he was too moderate to be the Republican standardbearer, he aligned himself with the strict pro-enforcement elements of the party. He took on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the controversial Arizona immigration law, as an informal adviser; advocated a policy of encouraging "self-deportation" and denounced several reform measures, from the DREAM Act to offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, as "amnesty."

That appeared to serve him well in primaries dominated by more conservative voters, but his harsh rhetoric risks alienating moderates, not to speak of Latinos, in the general election. Romney has tread carefully, refusing to explicitly say he would repeal Obama's new policy and saying he would instead pursue comprehensive reform.

The contours of that reform emerged somewhat in a speech Romney delivered recently to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Romney offered some ideas to streamline immigrant worker programs, offer more green cards to foreign students who get advanced degrees, and ease limits on green cards for immigrants' spouses and minor children of permanent residents.

Romney also stressed enforcing immigration laws, promising to fortify border security, tighten workplace enforcement and focus on measures to "make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration." But he did not address what to do with the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

"I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner," Romney said. "We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."


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