OTTAWA — The Adult Entertainment Association of Canada is disputing reports that immigration minister Diane Finley was forced to cancel a meeting with tobacco farmers in Ontario due to threats from the country's sex industry.
The controversy surrounding Finley's cancellation stems from her endorsement of Bill C-17, a proposal to block foreign strippers from entering the country. According to reports, police claim they've increased security around Finley as a result of threats against her from criminal elements in the sex industry.
"[These accusations] have been directed at an industry that hasn't been able to properly defend itself," AEAC executive director Tim Lambrinos told the Globe and Mail. "I'd like to know where those things took place. What was done about it? Why aren't those people being charged?"
Finley presented Bill C-17 to the House of Commons in August, drawing harsh criticism from Lambrinos and others at the time. The measure would give immigration officers the power to deny work visas to anyone they felt might be at risk of sexual exploitation, humiliation or degradation.
The AEAC and other critics contend that the bill is aimed directly at adult clubs, which rely heavily on foreigners to serve as dancers. The adult industry is not the only one that would be affected by the bill, Lambrinos argued in a letter to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, leaving plenty of open possibility that the alleged threats against Finley could have come from elsewhere.
Former Liberal immigration minister Joe Volpe cast doubt on that suggestion. "In an environment where this industry is generating substantial profits, my officials told me that there was pressure from many of those very questionable [adult industry] groups that was problematic," he said.
Work visas for foreign strippers became a public issue in 2004, under the former Liberal administration, in a scandal dubbed "Stripper-gate," involving then immigration minister Judy Sgro granting a residency permit to a Romanian stripper who had served on her election campaign.
The AEAC has been publicly lobbying to amend the bill with a series of meetings in Ontario. The group claims that if the bill takes effect as-is, it could force the business underground, where dancers would potentially be subject to much more serious danger.
Representatives from Finley's camp have refused comment on the precise reason behind canceling her trip. She was scheduled to speak at a meeting of tobacco farmers in Delhi, Ontario.