November 19, 2004 : Are Prostitutes And Strippers A New Version of Citizenship and Immigration’s Idea Of “Skilled” Workers?

Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration has boasted for some time that it is bringing in large numbers of skilled immigrants and that it is being cautious about issuing visas. Most Canadians can see clearly that large numbers of immigrants are entering Canada. But two recent stories will make many Canadians ask if prostitutes and strippers are a new version of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration’s idea of “skilled” workers. Also, many Canadians will once again ask why visas are being issued to some people.

Regarding the visa issue, CBC Radio’s World Report revealed Thursday, November 18 that Washington State police have charged a Washington state man (Mr. R. Choi) with smuggling “significant” numbers of Asian women (Koreans, Malayasians and others) from British Columbia into the U.S. (An exact number was not provided.) Many of these women had been granted visas to enter Canada. The women crossed from Canada into the U.S. at forested or rural points and were picked up and transported to places in Washington state. The women were to be employed as prostitutes in areas as far away as Los Angeles.

A British Columbia man of Chinese background has been identified as an organizer of the smuggling ring on the Canadian side of the border. No charges have yet been announced by Canadian authorities against the B.C. man.

Two questions have to be asked of Citizenship and Immigration:

(1) Why were these women allowed into Canada?

(2) What is going to be done to stop this smuggling operation which has been going on for some time?

The second story involves a Romanian female stripper. The woman was given a temporary residence permit by Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister. The permit was issued three days before the June 28, 2004 federal election. Co-incidentally, the stripper had worked on the Minister’s June 28 election campaign. The Minister has been accused of favouritism and has referred the case to the federal Ethics Commissioner.

These cases illustrate, once again, the very questionable state of affairs within the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The following is a Vancouver Sun editorial of Thursday, November 18, 2004 regarding the actions of the federal minister and her department.



Playing favourites tarnishes immigration process

Vancouver Sun
Thursday, November 18, 2004

While it is always gratifying to see the federal government offering support to the performing arts, one has to wonder exactly what Immigration Minister Judy Sgro was thinking when she personally interceded to allow a Romanian stripper to stay in the country.

This would, of course, be the same immigration minister who recently announced she was going to crack down on failed refugee claimants who had the audacity to hide in church sanctuaries, which don’t even serve draft beer.

Sgro has tossed this hot-potato issue to federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro to decide whether there was anything improper about her approval of a temporary-resident permit for Alina Balaican, a 25-year-old nude dancer. However, Shapiro’s office says he isn’t sure what he will do, since Sgro has not forwarded any material to him yet.

What is known, however, is that Balaican’s immigration work permit was about to run out last year. Her husband, Toronto businessman Howard Mulholland, says the couple became frustrated with the immigration department’s refusal to grant Balaican a temporary residence permit, so they worked on Sgro’s re-election campaign in a bid to expedite his wife’s application.

In fact, it was a mere three days before the June 28 federal election that Sgro signed the permit for Balaican. It is a generous dispensation — a two-year extension of her working permit, and the chance to apply for permanent resident status after that.

Sgro dismisses her ministerial largesse, noting that she doesn’t even know Balaican, who apparently worked every weekend at Sgro’s campaign headquarters, and knew the minister’s senior political staff.

Nor has Sgro given any indication why Balaican needed her protection, although Romania’s sex trade is cruel and dangerous, and anyone in their right mind would do whatever is needed to keep well away from it.

The only information revealed was offered by Sgro’s parliamentary secretary, Hedy Fry, who said Sgro was concerned that Balaican could suffer as a result of being deported, something which could be said about many applicants — not all of them successful.

Song Dae Ri, a high-level North Korean trade official who defected to Canada in 2001 and hid for a year in the South Korean community in Toronto, had his asylum plea rejected last year by the Immigration and Refugee Board. It branded him a potential war criminal, even though his father and his wife had already been executed by the North Korean government because of Ri’s flight.

In the end, it took a decision by the office of the minister of public safety last March to overturn that decision and allow Ri to stay in Canada for the time being with his six-year-old son.

Balaican’s speedy relief also contrasts with that of American television actress Sharon Gless, whose request to immigrate to Canada as an entrepreneur to develop a television series has been gathering dust for more than a year. She has been told it will be next year before her application is even considered, although she has lived and worked in Toronto for much of the past five years.

The recent history of Canada’s immigration ministry and its various agencies is rife with inconsistency, as well as serious concerns about security and fair treatment for would-be immigrants. Sgro does not appear to be improving its image.

Canada has long been regarded as a compassionate and safe haven for those who need shelter from harsh and arbitrary treatment in their own lands. But when its minister is seen to be acting in an arbitrary manner, the fair reputation of that haven becomes tarnished.

The Vancouver Sun 2004