Quebec is being hit harder by the problem of juvenile prostitution because of the “exotic” attraction of the French language among “customer/abusers” in the rest of the country, a provincial commission created to examine the issue said Monday.
The travelling commission, headed by Coalition Avenir Québec MNA and former Montreal police officer Ian Lafrenière, opened in Montreal on Monday and is a multi-partisan panel that will present its findings to the Legault government.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Lafrenière said discussions with police chiefs across the country had confirmed that there was “a prevalence, a large presence of young Quebecers in their provinces and it’s a reality,” adding that those who pay for underage prostitutes should be referred to as “customer/abusers” since they are not engaging in any form of equitable business exchange.
He added that the reason Quebec minors were so heavily represented in juvenile prostitution is because there is a demand for them from abusers.
“There is an attraction, there is a demand. … It’s what they want,” said Lafrenière. “Unfortunately these customer/abusers want the youngest (prostitutes) possible. And you’ll see we don’t use the word ‘young girl’ — we’re talking about children. Under 18 years old, they’re children. That’s the clear message we want to send to the population.”
Pimps also take advantage of the fact many Quebec children only speak French, which allows them to be more easily isolated. “They are taken out of their framework, from their friends, their families, and taken to work in another province,” said Lafrenière, who noted that prostitution is no longer conducted on street corners but on social media, which is also used to recruit girls into prostitution networks.
“They could say (on social media), ‘Listen, I’ve had an argument with my mother.’ The pimp will approach her in that moment of vulnerability and make a connection, an approach. … Many people put their life on social media, all it takes is a pimp without scruples to approach them.”
Parti Québécois MNA Méganne Perry Mélançon said there are at least 300 establishments in the Montreal area alone offering sexual services, a number she found “compelling.”
“We want to examine (those numbers) to see if we, at the political level, can try to come up with more restrictive measures for the people working in that industry.”