Every few weeks, the Toronto Sun
runs a hysterical cover story about the sex industry. Headlines like “Brothels in downtown Toronto!” “Pole dance at city hall!” “Strip clubs recruiting teens!” It’s positively Victorian, but it does sell newspapers. I can’t help but notice that most articles feature a quotation from someone named Tim Lambrinos, executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada.
“We have nothing to hide,” Lambrinos tells me. “The AEA has a board of directors, an executive committee, and media is welcome to attend our meetings. The industry has to be available and transparent.” The AEA represents 15 Toronto strip clubs, including Remington’s, and advocates on behalf of exotic dancers. Right now, they have their hands full as the dummies who run the federal government assume that every person in the sex industry must be part of the white slave trade. So they have stopped the renewal or granting of work visas to foreign exotic dancers, under Bill C-38. The law has caused a dearth of strippers, leading venues to threaten to recruit girls at college and university campuses across Canada, which, of course, attracts the usual outrage.
The white slave trade may exist. There are probably illegal strip clubs somewhere, forcing girls from Russia and Thailand to give head to thugs and get paid nothing but bruises. That’s likely not the case in any of the AEA’s signatory clubs. Indeed, one of the reasons the AEA came into being 15 years ago was to protect dancers from corrupt cops. “One dancer, with no criminal record, was pulled over in a Canadian Tire parking lot and strip searched,” Lambrinos says.
Now, approximately 800 dancers whose work visas have expired have either gone home or gone underground, making them prey to the exploitation the legislation is meant to protect them from. According to Lambrinos, the police typically leave gay establishments alone, so places like Remington’s and Flash are, seemingly, safe. They won’t have to worry about Bill C-38 unless Quebec separates.
The AEA is not taking the new rules lightly and has retained the services of immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. And although they won’t make good on their threat to recruit girls on college campuses, they are considering bringing strippers to Parliament Hill for a demonstration. In fact, they recently did something similar at Toronto City Hall when they invited a dancer named Viviana to demonstrate pole dancing to councillors, the point being that these people are entertainers, not prostitutes. The AEA now wants the city to define “sexual contact,” thereby preventing police from laying bogus charges during random inspections. “They ticket entertainers $250 for shaking hands, because the bylaw stipulates absolutely no physical contact,” Lambrinos says. “So our new proposed definition of sexual contact adheres to the court’s decision. We also recommend that they send in female officers to inspect female dancers.”
The AEA does not represent massage parlour employees, pornstars or escorts, and Lambrinos does not support businesses that operate outside of the AEA, calling private strip clubs and swingers’ clubs “sham businesses” and wondering why the police still allow them to operate. He makes me laugh with his description of an incident the AEA investigated at Flash, a private members’ club on Church Street, last year. “They did a live sex show and there were some complainants . . . a big tattooed man [Sam Swift] with a little freckle-faced guy named Jeremy Feist who claimed he was 19 at the time, but he looked 14.” God, Jeremy, you must be so flattered.
So what is the future of strip clubs in Canada? Only a few decades ago, there were 63 clubs in Toronto alone. Now there are 15. Does the internet have to kill everything, for god’s sake? “I believe in the industry,” Lambrinos says, “because there will always be a demand for the social experience of the strip club.” And as long as there are strip clubs, Tim Lambrinos will be busy fighting for something.