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Fight against the sexual exploitation of minors | “It haunted me so much”



In interview with The Pressthe Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, confides what drives her to increase her efforts in the fight against the sexual exploitation of minors.

Shortly after her appointment as head of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault attended a presentation at the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) that still haunts her today.

A vision of horror that will become an important source of motivation in his fight against the sexual exploitation of minors.

That day, police officers showed him the map they use to follow in real time Quebec pedophiles who broadcast images of sexually assaulted children in the depths of the web.

“When you saw this map, you can’t pretend it didn’t exist,” says the minister in an interview with The Press. The number of points that there are on this card is overturned. »

The SQ uses spyware developed by an American non-profit organization, the Child Rescue Coalition. A bit like a surveillance camera in a bank, the software monitors the actions of predators in the depths of the web and identifies the IP address of their computer, which makes it possible to locate them geographically.

In the last year, in Quebec alone, the software recorded 4,477 IP addresses of different computers that were broadcasting child pornography images on the Web, half of them on the island of Montreal, revealed The Press in its continuous investigation “The other epidemic” last January.

“It’s one of the first things I saw when I became minister, continues the big boss of the police in Quebec. It haunted me so much that’s why I created the Integrated Child Pornography Team (EILPJ). »

The Deputy Prime Minister granted an exclusive interview to The Press in this first National Week for the fight against the sexual exploitation of minors, which will take place every year the first week of March. A day on the same theme will be held on March 4.

Recognize the pitfalls

The other key moment in his fight against this scourge that crushes lives is his meeting with a young victim of sexual exploitation – Clémentine. The latter told how she fell into the trap of a pimp in the podcast show sugar baby of Radio Canada.


Minister Geneviève Guilbault and Clémentine during a press conference in October 2021

“It’s so insidious. They are handsome young men, they are fine. It starts insidiously, and then you are caught in a cycle, ”describes the minister still upset by the testimony of the young victim.

A cycle from which adolescent girls do not emerge unscathed. “Clementine, she went back to school, she does her business, but she is destroyed. She is still afraid to leave her home, ”continues the minister. Any child can fall into the trap, she points out. “Clementine is a super-brilliant girl who comes from a good background, with good parents,” she insists.

In Quebec, more than a third of people involved in prostitution are minors. The average age of entry into this environment is 14 in Canada.

Quebec is launching a shock advertising campaign this Monday – that The Press was able to watch for the first time – to raise awareness among teenagers and their parents on the theme “Let’s learn to recognize the pitfalls”.

A young girl dances in a TikTok video. Another chats on social media and sends photos of her lying on her bed. A third accepts gifts from a handsome young man she has just met. It shows banal situations that can have dramatic consequences.

The idea is not to condemn young girls who do it in all innocence, because they are comfortable in their bodies or like to dance, we explain to the communications department of the Ministry of Public Security, but to understand that people can look at these images with other eyes – with malicious intentions. Because sexual predators are no longer just in parks. They are on screen.

En plus des médias traditionnels, l’État mise sur les réseaux sociaux et la collaboration d’influenceuses. « Je veux vraiment que les jeunes les voient, lance Mme Guilbault. Si ça permet d’en sauver juste une. » La campagne a coûté près d’un million de dollars.

L’exploitation sexuelle des mineurs la préoccupe comme ministre, mais aussi comme mère. « Ma fille a 4 ans et elle est déjà attirée vers la tablette », décrit la maman de deux jeunes enfants.

Une « priorité nationale »

Ces évènements et cette campagne de publicité font suite aux recommandations de la Commission spéciale sur l’exploitation sexuelle des mineurs (CSESM). Le gouvernement affirme avoir apporté des réponses partielles ou complètes à 56 des 58 recommandations de la CSESM.

Parmi les réponses « partielles », la ministre de la Sécurité publique a écrit à son homologue fédéral pour lui demander de durcir les peines envers les proxénètes. Or, c’est toujours silence radio du côté d’Ottawa.

Concrètement, Québec voudrait qu’Ottawa favorise l’entrée en vigueur d’une disposition autorisant l’imposition de peines consécutives lors de causes impliquant la traite de personnes âgées de moins de 18 ans et ajoute l’ensemble des crimes liés au proxénétisme aux activités visées par la confiscation des produits de la criminalité.

Concernant la lutte contre les cyberpédophiles, la ministre fait valoir qu’elle a fait plus d’actions que ce que la CSESM suggérait. La création de l’EILPJ ne faisait pas partie de ses recommandations. « Je l’ai fait quand même » au coût de 12,6 millions, dit-elle, visiblement fière de cette équipe composée d’une vingtaine d’enquêteurs.

Cette nouvelle équipe a mené une première opération d’envergure en novembre dernier en arrêtant 26 cyberpédophiles allégués. « [Les policiers] saved children at the same time by going to arrest them. There were some who had children at home, ”she says.

Specialized investigators entrusted to The Press in recent months that they would be able to arrest many more cyber predators each year if technical resources were less limited. The technical units (which search the computers to extract the images) – essential to the searches – serve the entire SQ, not just the team responsible for trapping the pedophiles who abound on the Internet.

“It’s hard to think that we’re going to overcome this scourge, it’s so chronic on the internet,” agrees the minister. However, “we cling to whatever we can do,” she says.

“If you tell yourself that you are just saving a small percentage in an endless ocean of victims that you do not see, that you will never find and that you will never save, it is too discouraging. »

His government has made the fight against the sexual exploitation of minors a “national priority”, recalls the Deputy Prime Minister. Some 150 million over 5 years will be injected to follow up on the recommendations of the CSESM, including nearly 100 million in repression, largely to improve the integrated team to fight against pimping.

Resource requirements

In our investigation “The Other Epidemic”, we also revealed that waiting lists – to treat both young victims and sex offenders – have never been so long. Waiting times that can be explained by the “scarcity of mental health resources”, laments Mme Guilbault.

Whether it’s for the children of the DPJ, violent men, sex offenders, victims of sexual exploitation, “these are the same resources that we tear ourselves away”, she illustrates. More will need to be trained, she says. “That’s why we created scholarships [aux étudiants dans le domaine de la santé et des services sociaux], said the Deputy Prime Minister. There are a lot of requests, and it’s hard to supply. »

Minister Guilbault is convinced of the importance of a national week and day. These events “force us every year to come back to the subject, to reassess, to talk about it again and, hopefully, from year to year, to have fewer and fewer young people who are exploited and fewer and fewer parents desperate the situation,” she said.

The opposition parties would have liked Quebec to target the tourism and hotel industries so that they do more to fight against the phenomenon. The government plans to set up a training program for the hotel industry, accompanied by a seal, a kind of certification, but all of this on a voluntary basis. He would also have liked compensation for victims of sexual exploitation – included in the recent reform of the compensation program for victims of criminal acts – to be retroactive.

“For the moment, we are doing a lot of things, and if we feel that there are other needs, we will act,” replies the Deputy Prime Minister.

Learn more

  • 2200
    In 2020, Quebec police services recorded more than 2,200 offenses related to sexual exploitation. One-third or more of these offenses were committed against persons under the age of 18.

    source: Government action plan 2021-2026 in response to the recommendations of the special commission on the sexual exploitation of minors

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