Manitoba: Hotels to watch for sex exploitation

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | 6:05 PM CT

CBC News

The Manitoba government and the provincial hotel industry are teaming up in an effort to crack down on child sexual exploitation.

Wednesday, the province said staff at hotels will be trained to spot situations where a child might be at risk of being exploited by a guest and how to notify authorities of their suspicions.

‘There should be jail time. There should be huge penalties. There should be fines’—Rebecca, a former sex-trade worker

“We’re working with the hospitality industry and putting abusers on notice that people aren’t going to look the other way when they bring these young victims into hotels,” Gord Mackintosh, the provincial family services minister said.

The announcement comes as Manitoba is in the middle of Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week. “We will remain vigilant and continue to make every effort to reach out to children who are or at risk of being exploited,” Mackintosh said.

Jim Baker, head of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said everyone from housekeepers to front-desk staff will be on the lookout for potential child abuse. But it’s not simple to spot, he said.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “Old man, young girl — it could be a niece, it could be a granddaughter. But the things that housekeeping might see in a room when they are doing their daily routine, it’s important to have a central point where people can raise their concerns.”

Workers will be given a dedicated phone number to report any potential exploitation, Baker added.

Winnipeg police Insp. Bill Fogg said officers are hard at work every day to catch sexual predators. But hotel workers are also in a good position to spot and deter them.

“There are sexual predators patrolling the streets of Winnipeg, and Manitoba, who are looking for the young, the weak and the disenfranchised, the marginalized because those are the most vulnerable people who can be sexually exploited,” Fogg said.

“The way to overcome that is, as a community, to become aware and to be willing to take action together to change things.”

The move to include hotel staff as part of the battle against child sexual exploitation comes after the Alberta government conducted a similar campaign launched last year.
Criminal Code changes sought

One former child sex-trade worker, however, said the province isn’t going far enough.

Rebecca said she was forced into the sex-trade at the age of 10. She said the government should focus in on enforcing harsher criminal penalties for johns — men who solicit a sex-trade worker’s services. CBC News is not revealing her last name.

Getting hotel staff to spot johns won’t deter them from engaging sex-trade workers in the first place, Rebecca said.

“There should be jail time. There should be huge penalties. There should be fines,” she said.

“There should be so much more … They rob the women that are out there of their very being,” she said.

The director of justice for Manitoba Southern Chiefs Organization also spoke out Wednesday after the provincial announcement, telling the same conference where the provincial plan was revealed that the best way to quell the sex-trade is to criminalize the customer.

“They’re just getting away with everything. They just walk off,” said Nahanni Fontaine. “They rape people and they walk off and there’s nothing,” she said.

The province said details about how hotel staff will learn to spot suspicious-looking situations between adults and children will be revealed in April.

See Original at CBC News

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