News/Canada: Lax immigration rules encourage sex slave trade

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Subject: News/Canada: Lax immigration rules encourage sex slave trade
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 08:59:12 EDT


Lax immigration rules encourage sex slave trade
Stewart Bell and Marina Jimenez
National Post, April 15, 2000

TORONTO - Canada's open immigration policies are contributing to its
emerging role in the international trafficking of sex slaves, according to
women interviewed for a year-long federal government study on the issue.

During interviews with almost two dozen sex workers lured to Canada from
Eastern Europe, University of Toronto researchers were told the women were
brought to Canada partly because of the relatively easy entry requirements.

While the women said they thought Canada would be a nice place to live,
they also said "it was the easiest place to get into without formal papers,
so the women themselves identify that," said Brooke Moore, a PhD student
who co-wrote the report for Status of Women Canada.

Human Resources Development Canada introduced a policy in 1997 allowing
foreign women to work in Canada as "burlesque entertainers" in strip clubs.
The policy was introduced after strip club owners reported a shortage of
Canadian strippers in a poll conducted by HRDC. Canada's pivotal role in
the trafficking of foreign sex workers was exposed this week when police
said they had brought 650 criminal charges against 300 club owners and sex
workers in a year-long investigation in the Toronto area called Project
Almonzo.

Criminal gangs have been filling Canada's strip clubs and brothels with
so-called fresh faces by recruiting women from Asia, Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. The women are often told they will be working at
legitimate jobs but once they arrive, they discover they are expected to
work in the sex trade, police said.

A report prepared for the Central Intelligence Agency also said that gangs
are bringing foreign sex workers into Canada and then smuggling them into
the United States because of Canada's easier entry requirements for
citizens of some countries, such as Korea.

Once the women arrive in Canada, the pimps often take their passports and
restrict them to their hotel rooms. They often feel they have no choice but
to enter the sex trade because they owe so much money to the pimps for
their airfare and accommodation. They seldom speak English and are too
frightened to go to police.

Ms. Brooke, who conducted the research project along with co-authors Lynn
McDonald and Natalya Timoshkina, said the women who were interviewed for
the government study, completed just a week ago, all were subjected to
various degrees of control.

"I talked to a couple of women who had no control over their lives at all
-- that applies to their finances, where they lived, how they got to work.
I mean these women were literally driven to work, they were picked up by
the driver, brought back to the hotel where they were housed with the other
women and it was the same thing day in and day out," Ms. Brooke said.

Other women said they were relatively free but in reality their movements
were curtailed. "The women themselves would perceive that they had complete
control. However, if you kind of dug down deeper into it one would question
how much control the women really did have, not taking anything away from
them because a lot of these women are very strong individuals, educated and
very smart."

The women were recruited by word of mouth or through newspaper ads. "A lot
of them are told that they are going to be dancers -- they don't know that
it involves any form of nudity -- or that they're going to be waitresses,
babysitters, a whole range of things.

"Basically they get here and they realize the job is something entirely
different. There's also been stories told where [the pimps] will say, 'oh
you came a little late, the other girl got that job, so this is what you'll
be doing,' " she said.

"There's this element of control about them coming over and a bit of
deception and then once they get over here it's very difficult for them to
leave, they don't understand, they don't know what to do. [The pimps] will
do whatever they need to to get them over here and once they're here the
majority of women are controlled in some manner."

Rene Mercier, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the
department has tightened rules on exotic dancers coming to Canada after
discovering some were prostitutes. The dancers are now required to
demonstrate they have experience in the field before the department issues
a work permit.

But he said some sex workers come to Canada as visitors. He said
investigating sex crimes is a police matter, but if non-Canadians are
caught they will be deported.

Jeff Ramdawar, a case manager at Streetlight Support Services in Toronto,
said he has heard foreign prostitutes talk about Canada's easy entry rules.
"But I don't think immigration is to blame here.

"The floodgates opened after HRDC's policy was introduced allowing foreign
women in as strippers. The real issue is that these girls are being used as
sex slaves."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The report doesn't seem to be on line, but the home page for
Status of Women Canada is:

     http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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