'Hotel of youth': How an Ontario hotel ad campaign tackles sex trafficking
From a menu of opioids to room service intercourse, Hotel de Jeunesse's website builds awareness
A new hotel ad campaign launched by Toronto Crime Stoppers online is tackling the issue of human trafficking, which targets many vulnerable youth, in hotels across the Greater Toronto Area.
From a restaurant menu of OxyContin, marijuana, cocaine and heroin, to room service amenities, such as intercourse, threesome, backrubs and bondage, Hotel de Jeunesse's website aims to build awareness about sex trafficking at these lodgings.
"Every day Canadian girls and boys as young as 12 are trafficked for sexual services. If you're travelling, you might find yourself in a sex trafficking hotspot. Please take a moment to learn the signs," the website read.
Hotel de Jeunesse, which is French for "hotel of youth," is a mock booking site, Toronto Crime Stoppers vice-chair Sean Sportun told reporters last Tuesday.
The ad also explains the warning signs that hotel staff need to look for, as experts say many people don't realize human trafficking is happening in plain sight.
'It may save one or two girls'
A Southern Ontario woman, whose niece escaped the sex trafficking trade nearly three years ago, is optimistic the campaign will "make a difference."
"Even if just one person happens to see this ad and opens up their eyes and says, 'hey, what's going on down the hallway?' … It may save one or two girls and one or two girls makes a difference," Mary said in a Metro Morning interview.
Mary, whose name CBC Toronto has changed in order to conceal her identity, says her niece, 18, was trafficked throughout hotel rooms in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland, Ont.
"She had been staying in the hotel room, the cheaper hotel rooms on Lundy's Lane. They would keep her in that hotel for two or three days, travel to another one when they sobered up — kind of got antsy, wanting to get out — they would take them to the bigger hotels, the five-star hotels, keep them there for a night or two, butter them up and bring them back," she said.
'They take them to a hotel room'
Human trafficking experts say pimps typically target vulnerable teens living in group homes.
Mary says her niece was 15-years-old and living at a Children's Aid Society group home in Guelph, Ont. when she met a man online.
"There's usually one main character of these guys who befriends them on Facebook, social media, pretending to want to meet up with them, be their friend," she explained.
Even if just one person happens to see this ad and opens up their eyes and says, 'hey, what's going on down the hallway?' … It may save one or two girls.- Mary
"They eventually become their best friend and portray themselves as their boyfriends, say they love them. They draw them in, tell the things they need to hear, pick them up wherever they are."
Mary's niece was picked up and taken by the man in London, Ont. while visiting her sister.
"She jumped in [the car] willing because these guys, you know, 'come on, let's go party, whatever,'" she said. "A 15-year-old willingly jumps in. They take them to a hotel room and we find out they're feeding them with booze, cocaine — getting them high, getting them drunk — and still portraying to love them."
The men will say, "oh it's okay, you can sleep with them, I'll still love you," Mary added.
'Crime is repeated night after night'
Conservative MPP Laurie Scott, whose private member's bill "Saving the Girl Next Door Act" is still on the order paper, has been instrumental in developing an official task force, headed by the provincial government, to combat human trafficking in Ontario, says these types of operations are repeated in every corner of the province.
"Crime Stoppers in Toronto realizes the need for awareness and education with the general public, specifically hotels and motels where the crime is repeated night after night," Scott told Metro Morning's Matt Galloway on Wednesday.
Crime Stoppers in Toronto realizes the need for awareness and education with the general public, specifically hotels and motels where the crime is repeated night after night.- Laurie Scott, Conservative MPP
While many people don't realize human trafficking is happening in plain sight using these rooms, Scott says the ad campaign will be most "impactful" in educating hotel staff on what to watch for.
When many first learn human trafficking operations are occuring within their place of employment, Scott explains most are like "What, this can be happening? I didn't know this was happening."
"This ad campaign builds awareness with this group so they can alert Crime Stoppers anonymously," Scott said, having seen a tip allow Toronto police to save 14 girls and put a pimp away for 13 years in the past.
- An earlier version of this story said Conservative MPP Laurie Scott's private member's bill "Saving the Girl Next Door Act" was adopted in June when in fact it has not moved past the second reading and is still on the order paper.Aug 09, 2017 4:27 PM ET
With files from Metro Morning