MONTRÉAL, QUÉBEC--(Marketwire - Nov. 18, 2010) - The first-ever nationwide Canadian campaign to combat the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism was officially launched today at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport to mark International Children's Rights Day. This country-wide effort is the first time that stakeholders from the private sector (Air Canada, Aéroports de Montréal), government agencies (Canada Border Services Agency, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal and Sûreté du Québec) and non-governmental organizations (International Bureau for Children's Rights, Plan Canada and OneChild, with support from UNICEF Canada) are co-operating on such an initiative.
The campaign's purpose is to raise travellers' awareness before they depart on trips. The main tourist populations targeted are those travelling to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean—which are the principal destinations for "sex tourism" by Canadians (among offenders, they are now more popular than Southeast Asian nations for reasons of cost and proximity).
"The Government of Canada is strongly committed to the fight against the sexual exploitation of children," said Daniel Petit (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles), on behalf of the Honourable Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety. "We continue working to strengthen law enforcement's capacity to combat child sexual exploitation, and increase public awareness on child sexual exploitation."
The International Bureau for Children's Rights (IBCR) is pleased to have succeeded in bringing together a broad-based coalition to promote legislation granting extraterritorial jurisdiction over child sex tourism offences: "We know that the general public in Canada cares about children's rights. With this campaign, we are urging them to be vigilant, and to report suspicious situations, even during their travels to sun destinations," explained Nadja Pollaert, the organization's General Director.
Aéroports de Montréal is a proud partner in the campaign: "We believe it is important to remind Canadians that they are not immune from the laws of their own country when they travel abroad. This is why we are supporting this initiative of the IBCR," said Christiane Beaulieu, ADM's Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communications.
The growing number of prosecutions of so-called sex tourists is a phenomenon little known to Canadians. Under extraterritorial legislation enacted in 1997, Canadians who sexually abuse children while outside the country can be prosecuted in Canada. A study conducted by law professor Benjamin Perrin from the University of British Columbia has found that at least 146 Canadians faced charges in foreign countries for sexually abusing children between 1993 and 2007. One of the most recent examples is Kenneth Klassen, who this past July was sentenced to 11 years in prison for sexual touching of prepubescent girls in Columbia and Cambodia.
Cheryl Perera, a children's rights activist and the founder of OneChild, praised Air Canada for its commitment to the fight against sex tourism: "Air Canada has been airing a video on this issue aboard its flights for four years now. The airline's involvement shows its commitment to go even further and continue to raise awareness of child rights while educating Canadians. Air Canada is a key player in the travel industry and it is needless to say that its support is extremely important for our common cause."
For her part, Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada, said: "While we work hard to address the issue of sexual exploitation of children from many different angles, including working with children, communities, civil society organizations and government, we need to be tougher and more persistent on targeting the issue of demand."
More than two million children around the world are victims of sexual exploitation every year, often as part of "sex tourism," i.e., the sexual abuse of minors by travellers, usually in developing countries. There is no unique profile of offenders, as they might be persons who travel frequently abroad for business, leisure or even humanitarian work. They are most often "situational" criminals, leading seemingly ordinary lives, but attracted by the appearance of impunity when they commit such offences in other countries. Their crimes nevertheless have severe repercussions on their victims: long-term psychological and physical trauma, possible contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, drug and alcohol abuse, exclusion from school, and stigmatization within the family unit, all of which feeds a vicious cycle of dependency.
"The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal unconditionally supports the efforts of the IBCR to protect young people," emphasized Commander Jérôme Morissette, Chief of the Montréal police's Sexual Assault Section. "Watching out for children, and making sure they are safe at all times, is everybody's shared responsibility. Any wrongful act committed against a child must be reported to the police immediately."
This initial campaign has been developed and made possible thanks to the pro bono work of advertising agency BCP, which has invested all its skills and heart in it. We would also like to emphasize the participation of Astral Media in the dissemination of this campaign.