Montreal Grand Prix: Police crack down on sex tourism

Montreal Grand Prix weekend is the busiest time of year for women working in the sex trade, but local police are warning tourists that they may spend more time in jail than at the racetrack if caught trying to buy sexual services.

Protesters say no to sex tourism at Montreal Grand Prix while police patrol known hot-spots for johns

With Canada's new prostitution law in force, police are promising a crackdown 2:11

On Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, it's common to see models in miniskirts hired to perch on expensive cars and pose for photos on Crescent and Peel streets in the downtown area.

These women may not be selling sexual services, but many other women working the race are — race weekend is the busiest time of year for escorts in Montreal.

This year, local police are warning tourists that they may spend more time in jail than at the racetrack if caught trying to buy sexual services.

"We are aware that in Montreal there is an increase in prostitution [in Montreal] because of the amount of tourists," said Montreal police Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin.

She said a specialized squad will be on patrol in strip clubs, hotels, motels and massage parlours, as well as on all the sites in the city related to the Grand Prix festivities.

Paquin said more than 300,000 F1 race enthusiasts attend the Grand Prix race, and that doesn't include tourists in town who may visit the festival sites but not the actual event. 

She said police will be especially focused on watching for the presence of minors and johns where prostitution is known to take place. Escort websites are also being monitored by police.

Since Canada's new prostitution laws came into effect last December, it is now a criminal offence to sell the sexual services of another person and to buy sexual services.

"The new law… give us more tools in our tool box," Paquin said.

Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin of Montreal police said a specialized squad will be patrolling parts of the city where prostitution during Grand Prix weekend is known to take place. (CBC)

Protests against sexual exploitation

Shanie Roy, a former sex-trade worker, says Grand Prix weekend is big business for escorts. (CBC)

Protesters gathered in downtown Montreal on Saturday to raise awareness about the kinds of sexual exploitation the Grand Prix brings.

Earlier in the week, other groups including members of feminist organization FEMEN, protested against the sexual underbelly of the race weekend.

Shanie Roy, a former sex-trade worker who began working as a prostitute at the age of 16, said she doesn't miss her experiences working the annual Grand Prix weekend.

She said Grand Prix clients, pumped by the atmosphere of the festivities and far from their responsibilities at home, were more demanding than other clients.

"They are asking for more. They really want to have [a good] trip and a bigger experience. They are really going to insist to have something, they are not going to respect your limits," Roy said.

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