TORONTO, Canada: Sexual exploitation of children around the world must stop. Several Canadian organizations and companies have formed a coalition and joined forces to take action to this end. On Friday, September 17, Canada‟s flagship carrier, Air Canada, hosted a forum in its Toronto offices.
Organized by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR) in collaboration with leading child-rights NGOs, the event brought together key players in the travel and tourism industry, as well as the Canadian government. Topics of discussion included raising awareness and education strategies, as well as the importance of a strong coalition to better protect children.
“NGO’s, governments, and the private sector have different mandates and play complementary roles in protecting children’s rights,” observed Nadja Pollaert, director general of IBCR. “We must work together as there is urgency for everyone to get involved now and take action to stop sexual exploitation of children around the world.”
It is estimated that over 2 million children are sexually exploited every year, with travelers counting among the offenders. Since 1997, the Canadian extraterritorial law has allowed Canada to prosecute nationals who sexually abuse children abroad. These crimes carry maximum sentences of 14 years in prison. According to international standards, child sex tourism is a crime, worldwide.
Cheryl Perera, international children’s rights activist and founder of OneChild, congratulated Air Canada for their leadership and commitment: “Air Canada has been airing a video on this issue aboard their flights for four years now. Their present involvement shows their 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 their support is extremely important for our common cause.”
In the upcoming campaign, the coalition intends to demonstrate that offenders do not have a unique profile and travel abroad for various purposes such as business, tourism, leisure, or even humanitarian work. They come from all backgrounds and all ages, and can be men, as well as women. Their crimes have severe repercussions on the victims such as long-term psychological and physical trauma, health risks, and stigmatization by family, which generates a vicious cycle leading back to prostitution.
“For too long, children around the world have been victims of sexual abuse by travelers,” said Nadine Grant, director of programs for Plan Canada. “We are proud to be working with our partners, including Air Canada, to raise awareness of child rights while educating Canadians. At Plan, we strive to support social justice for children by bringing an illegal issue like sex with children to the public‟s attention. We believe we are doing just that.”