The Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, which lists 51 member Ontario strip clubs on its website, held a public meeting in Toronto yesterday on Bill C-57.
If passed, it will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give officials the power to turn down work permits for foreigners if it is suspected they are at risk of being exploited or abused.
And while the legislation applies to all lines of work, strip club employees who attended yesterday's meeting said they believe the bill is aimed at their profession.
"I don't understand how this woman has the right to deny people the right to come into our country and work," said Amanda Hamilton, referring to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley.
Several dozen people showed up to the meeting, at least three-quarters of them women.
Ms. Hamilton, who said she has been an exotic dancer for the past seven years, guessed that 75 per cent of her fellow co-workers are from other countries and are concerned about how the new legislation might affect the renewal of their work permits.
"I'm sure they are quite fearful of speaking up," she said. "I'm sure they have families at home that they are supporting."
Several other women who spoke at the meeting also said they, too, had concerns about their livelihood if the legislation comes into effect.
Association spokesman Tim Lambrinos said the government is "picking an industry out which is a legal occupation, which is a legitimate business and they are targeting it to close it down."
Tim Vail, press secretary for Ms. Finley, said the bill, indeed, targets the abuse of strip club workers, but added he would not comment on any specific risks the government has identified with the profession.
"The bill was drafted specifically to protect [against] the exploitation of foreign workers coming in and strippers were cited as one of the predominant industries where that happens," Mr. Vail said yesterday.
Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto, said that the proposed law would only do so much.
"It may close that door of lawful entry... but it would be naive to believe that closing this door to lawful entry would result in the non-entry of women and others who are trafficked," she said.
Mr. Lambrinos said his group hopes to bring its list of proposed bill amendments - still to be determined as it conducts further public meetings in Windsor and Niagara Falls later this month - to an immigration subcommittee in September.
So far, the bill has made it through two readings in the House of Commons and is now undergoing a committee review. It still requires an additional review as well as a third reading before it can be voted into law.