Sat, October 29, 2005 Stripper shortage No change in easy visas: 'still pimping for the underworld' By KATHLEEN HARRIS, SUN OTTAWA BUREAU OTTAWA -- Canada's welcome mat is still rolled out for foreign strippers and lap dancers who can get quick visas to fill a domestic "labour shortage." Last December, the Liberal government announced it was cancelling a controversial program that allowed exotic dancers to gain temporary work permits based on a national labour market opinion. But it was quietly replaced by a process that permits strip club owners to bring in foreign dancers just by filling out the proper paper work. NDP MP Pat Martin called the stripper visa policy "deplorable." "The door is still wide open for the type of wholesale exploitation that existed with the eastern European dancers, and, in reality, the minister of immigration is still pimping for the underworld," he said. "Five successive ministers of immigration have been pimping for the underworld by providing an endless stream of fodder for the underworld of pornography and prostitution under the guise of legitimate dancing." Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department released a study that condemned Canada's stripper visa for allowing clubs to hire foreign women who could face abuse and exploitation. Martin called the policy an "international embarrassment," and said it flies in face of Justice Minister Irwin Cotler's plan to curb human trafficking. "We're seen as a contributing factor in the international trafficking of sex slaves," he said. Under old rules, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada would conduct a national labour market opinion that gave a blanket approval for the exotic dancer category. Under the new process, the employer must apply for an individual assessment for each dancer. Temporary work permits can be issued for a few days up to three years, and can be extended if the labour shortage continues. HRSDC program director Sandy MacDonald said Canada can't discriminate against professions such as nude dancing that are legal in this country.