On December 3, the Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors — consisting of 13 cross-partisan members of the Quebec legislature — issued a new report with a clear message to the government: fighting the sexual exploitation of minors should be a priority.
The group studied the issue for 18 months.
Quebec already had a plan in place to "Prevent and Combat Sexual Violence" from 2016 to 2021, but the committee says it's not enough.
What problems did the committee find?
The committee found that little research and information on the sexual exploitation of minors in Quebec existed, and what did exist was not representative of the full scope of the problem.
The report, now made public, found that of 437 victims of sexual exploitation recorded by Quebec police between 2002 and 2013, 39% were under the age of 18.
However, police data only includes cases that result in arrests, leaving a significant gap that underestimates the reality of the situation.
As well, the report found that over 80% of adult sex workers in Canada were introduced to the sex trade as minors, starting at an average age of 14 or 15 years old.
In the province of Quebec, the report found more than 630 establishments linked to the sex industry, including massage parlours and dance bars where sexual services are "often offered illegally."
But it says the exploitation of minors is more common behind closed doors because licensed establishments are easier for authorities to monitor.
The report found that in Quebec, 85% of pimps are male and 15% are women — with some female pimps having been exploited themselves in the past.
What did the committee recommend?
The committee issued 58 recommendations for how to improve the province's handling of the sexual exploitation of persons under 18 in Quebec, as well as how to protect and rehabilitate victims.
Primarily, the committee found that more guaranteed funding is necessary to tackle the issue at hand.
Among the recommendations, the committee suggested that:
- The Government of Quebec needs to create an action plan based on the recommendations, to be reviewed periodically by an interministerial committee;
- The Government of Quebec declare the first week of March the "National Week Against the Sexual Exploitation of Minors," and March 4 to be the "Day Against the Sexual Exploitation of Minors";
- The Quebec government entrust experts with the mandate of producing an opinion on the presence of child pornography on sites linked to companies registered in Quebec and measures to prevent and suppress it;
- The Government of Quebec develop vast multiplatform and recurring awareness campaigns aimed at the sexual exploitation of minors, as well as Indigenous minors;
- Sex education courses in Quebec be taught by trained teachers and supported by sexologists or other qualified professionals;
- The Quebec government create a “No to the sexual exploitation of minors” seal and promote it in partnership with the hotel industry, festivals and major events, to be available to all businesses that implement mandatory staff training on preventing sexual exploitation in minors;
- The Quebec government ensures that convicted client abusers — meaning "clients" who buy sexual services from minors and then abuse them — are entered in the National Sex Offender Registry;
- Police services increase mixed patrols, involving both police officers and psychosocial workers, or use a “community policing” approach centred on the safety of victims;
- And that the Government of Quebec establish a special program for exiting prostitution with the aim of providing financial assistance to all victims, guaranteeing them a source of income, housing and psychological services.
How did the premier respond?
In a press conference on December 3, Premier François Legault told Quebecers that the commission's recommendations "won't be shelved."
"I found that very touching, because it's a subject where people worked in a non-partisan, constructive way," he said.
"There will be actions."
The premier said Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, would be in charge of implementing the committee's recommendations.