The fight against the sexual exploitation of children has gained financial steam with the provincial government presenting $25,000 to the City of Prince George. For city council member Murry Krause, the grant represents the start of a concentrated effort to address the issue.
Krause says the provincial government’s grant will help to fund the early work, including research to define the problem in Prince George. The funding could also finance the development of an action plan to ensure the sexual exploration of children is eliminated from our society.
“It has been acknowledged that there is a significant number of sex trade workers who are children,” said Krause. “We also know, however, that the population is so transient and that it can change dramatically in a very short time.”
Mayor Colin Kinsley, along with RCMP Supt. Steven Leach, said Krause, brought concerns about Prince George’s child sex trade issues to Victoria, where Prince George MLAs Shirley Bond and Pat Bell helped carry the funding request forward.
For Prince George doctor Marie Hay the funding announcement is indeed good news in that the issue is finally being recognized and addressed. But, she says, much more action is needed to ensure children are not sexually exploited.
“Of all the children involved here, the youngest one I have heard of was 11 years old and she was working the streets,” said Dr. Hay.
By the time the child turned 15, said Dr. Hay, she was in the hospital fighting a serious infection contracted by using a dirty needle, facing sexually transmitted diseases, along with testing HIV-positive, with Hepatitis B and C.
Dr. Hay, a child advocate and general practitioner with more than 20 years experience treating abused children, estimates there are around 50 sexually exploited children in Prince George. Most of the time they are in hiding, and not seen by the public.
“The vast majority of them are in trick pads, or massage parlors,” she says.
Dr. Hay is currently writing an article on the subject for a medical journal. While her report is still in draft stage, she says the problem is very real, and very frightening. In a definition of commercial sexual exploitation of children, Dr. Hay states it is a “fundamental violation of children’s rights … the child is treated as a commercial sex object. This exploitation of children constitutes a form of coercion and violence which amounts to nothing less than forced labour.”
The recent opening of a new downtown core emergency shelter for children and teenagers is one positive step to preventing children from sexual exploitation.
Identifying those children at risk, along with defining the reasons why children end up among the exploited are two of the first subjects to be tackled, says Krause. He and other city council members will be discussing the issue, along with considering how to most effectively use the provincial government’s grant. Krause also says they will be looking at other funding for the area, including matching grants. Council will consider whether the research on child sexual exploitation should be performed by a city department, or perhaps granted to one of the existing organizations already performing work in this area.