The International Bureau for Children’s Rights launched a forum entitled “The Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” co-organized with Thomas Cook and SkyLink Voyages at the offices of Tours Chanteclerc in the Old Port of Montreal on December 2, 2009.
The forum was successfully coordinated and presented by Mr. Marco Sotelo, program manager for the Prevention of Child Sex Tourism, and Ms. Catherine Beaulieu, senior adviser of the bureau. In addition, the bureau had the privilege of having Mr. Claude Levac, director of international relations and of the protocol at the Sureté du Quebec; Ms. Carmen Rioux, the director of Criminal and Penal Proceedings of Quebec; and Ms. Camelia Tepelus, coordinator of the Secretariat of the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism as key presenters of the forum.
This event was designed for representatives of the private tourism sector in Quebec, as well as other Canadian governmental and non-governmental organizations. The primary objective of this forum was to raise awareness about the principal manifestations and the scope of Child Sex Tourism (CST), including its legal implications and consequences. The forum also functioned as a key platform to share good practices and tools to effectively combat and prevent CST in Canada and abroad.
The forum’s key presenters called for the urgent participation of the formal travel and tourism sectors in the prevention and denunciation of offenses pertaining to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. This included the importance of companies’ collaboration and their social responsibility to counter the use of tourism networks and establishments for the purpose of child commercial sexual exploitation, an indispensable element to successfully accomplish a responsible and sustainable tourism sector and the chief objective of The Code of Conduct. Presenters displayed and shared different tools to inform tourists about the consequences of CST, as they also expressed the importance of distributing such information within tourist-sending countries, such as Canada.
The main private tourism representatives participating in the forum included Ms. Nicole Bastien from Vancances Tour Mont Royal, Mr. Jean-Pierre Caron from Incursion Voyages, Ms. Collette Girard from Jolivac, Mr. José Leroux from Thomas Cook, Ms. Patricia Perez A. from Canandes International Tours, Ms. Patricia Recinos from Sunwing, Mr. Claude St-Pierre from Tours Chanteclerc, and Ms. Joane Tétreault from SkyLink Voyages.
The response of the forum’s participants was exceptionally positive and constructive. The main outcomes resulting from the Round Table discussions held at the end of the session included the following recommendations:
– to develop a common message to be included permanently in companies’ informative correspondence;
– the diffusion of friendly yet cautionary and straight-forward awareness raising messages through both physical and electronic channels of information (documents, brochures, booklets, websites, email) regarding CST and both its social and legal consequences;
– there was a strong interest from specific participating companies and agencies in receiving training and informative resources from the bureau regarding the components of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, of its scope, and of additional cautionary tools to effectively collaborate in its eradication; and
– to incorporate the protection of children to participating companies’ agendas and to elaborate a more efficient system of communication.
These inputs have provided the basis for a decisive plan of action to be developed and for the strengthening of a much-needed, inter-sector collaboration in the struggle against the commercial sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism worldwide.
After the forum, some companies have expressed their interest to establish a small committee to create awareness messages for the prevention of child sex tourism, which could be adapted to different kinds of companies and materials. It is very important to highlight that the private sector in Quebec is taking the leadership for the implementation of this preliminary campaign. IBCR is providing support and assistance to the companies to create an adequate campaign and has provided examples of messages. It is expected that the campaign will be strong and will be able to involve as many companies as possible in the future, using a common message. Canadian travelers need to be warned about the implications of child sex tourism, because this problem is almost unknown among the population. For more information, please contact Marco Antonio Sotelo at: firstname.lastname@example.org .