March 8, 2013: International Women’s Day. Foreign dancers face exploitation in Windsor: ‘Natasha’s’ story

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor
Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Listen to entire program here:

We pass them all the time on Wyandotte St, downtown, on Huron Church, over on Seminole and various other locations without much thought. Mostly they are nondescript looking places, others though feature signs with provocative images, drink specials and lap dances. I’m talking of strip clubs. Rarely do we think of the human being inside working on stage, her person-hood reduced to objectified body parts.

 The women who work this trade face long hours, arduous work, low pay, and are often pressured into illegal activities. Increasingly, these workers are coming from other countries.

In my capacity as a worker advocate at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, I met a young woman who came in looking for help. She had come over on a contract and Work Permit for a specific club in Windsor and knew what here hourly rate would be, the cost of room and board and that was about it. She later found out she would be required to pay an additional $500 a week for “taxes” and if she was to earn enough to make it all worthwhile she was faced with many hours of overtime and risked being pressured into illegal activity to earn extra money.

'Natasha' in the CJAM studio ( Photo: Doug MacLellan & click image for gallery of his work)
‘Natasha’ in the CJAM studio ( Photo: Doug MacLellan & click image for gallery of his work)

She left that place for another and faced more exploitation, had her passport held by the employer, and was injured on the job ending up with a medical bill. She sought legal help last year and has applied for another work permit to work in the hospitality industry out west.

 Last year, CBC in Windsor reported that “  At least 22 foreign adult entertainers in Windsor, Ont., will have to leave the country when their temporary foreign worker visas expire within the next 11 months”, because “[c]hanges announced by Ottawa on July 4 [2012] now make it illegal for a an employer to hire any temporary foreign worker “linked to the sex trade” — and that includes strippers.”

On Friday’ s International Women’s Day program, CJAM Program Director Sarah Morris and I spoke with ‘Natasha’ ( her name was changed for security and privacy reasons) about her experiences and we began with her life in her home country:

In this segment ‘Natasha’ describes her decision to come to Canada and here experience in Windsor:

In this segment ‘Natasha’  describes her sense of insecurity when she quit one exploitative job for another. Pressure to be an escort or prostitute was intense and not in her experience as a dancer in European cities.

She described her hopes to stay under a new Work Permit. Mostly, she wanted listeners to understand that she is a human being with feelings who is here to make a better life for herself:


Featured CD

Click image for more on this Windsor artist
Click image for more on this Windsor artist

Track played on air: “Something Holy”:

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