'Buying sex is not a sport' campaign launches ahead of Montreal Grand Prix

Grand Prix enthusiasts will see a new ad this summer that says "Buying sex is not a sport" as part of a new campaign to draw attention to problem of human trafficking and sexual exploitation on race weekend.

Groups aim to raise awareness of human trafficking, high level of sexual exploitation during race weekend

Shanie Roy worked in the sex trade when she was just 15 years old. Now she leads workshops against sexual exploitation. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Beyond the scantily-clad models posing with expensive products, Grand Prix enthusiasts will see a new ad around Crescent Street this summer declaring "Buying sex is not a sport."

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Montreal spike dramatically during race weekend and local human rights groups want to draw attention to it.

"The Grand Prix brings in a lot of money and the men want escorts," said Shanie Roy, who worked in the sex trade between the ages of 15 and 18 and now leads anti-sexual exploitation workshops.

"There are also those who feel they can abuse and harass women."

Roy works for La Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle (CLES), one of the groups involved in the new campaign announced Wednesday.

The Grand Prix is notorious for using women's bodies for promotion, said Nathalie Khlat, president of Beacon of the Freed.

"We must stick to our principles and not trivialize the issue, as has been done with the commercialisation of women's bodies," said Khlat.

The group of organizations launching the campaign say Grand Prix brings with it one of the most harmful events in terms of human trafficking. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The ads will appear on an illuminated publicity truck circulating downtown Montreal, as well as billboards and STM buses.

Province backs campaign

Lise Thériault, the province's minister responsible for the status of women, was on hand for the announcement.

The Quebec government is giving $30,000 to the campaign. 

"Sexual exploitation, in all its forms, is unacceptable," she said.

Montreal police worked to crack down on the annual increase in prostitution last year.

Police sent out a specialized squad to patrol in strip clubs, hotels, motels and massage parlours, as well as on sites related to the Grand Prix.

with files from Sarah Leavitt