Laval youth centre followed proper procedure, Quebec says

Lucie Charlebois, Quebec's minister for youth protection, says the Laval youth home that's seen a stream of runaways has her complete confidence, but more must be done to address the problem.

Audit launched after concerns teenage girls at Centre Jeunesse de Laval targeted for sexual exploitation

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux and Lucie Charlebois, the minister responsible for youth protection, said teen runaways are a problem across Quebec. (CBC)

Quebec's minister for youth protection says the Laval youth home that's seen a stream of runaways in recent weeks has her complete confidence.

Lucie Charlebois says an independent auditor found that the Centre Jeunesse Laval followed all the procedures when dealing with the teenage girls who fled the group home. 

But Charlebois says the province must do more to address the problem of teen runaways.

"For us, it's a priority to address runaways," Charlebois, accompanied by Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, told a news conference Tuesday in Quebec City.

"We can be better."

Coiteux added that the "problem doesn't only exist in Laval or in youth centres."

The 40-page report, prepared by independent social services consultant André Lebon, details the factors that contribute to teen runaways across the province and stresses the problem isn't limited to the Centre de Jeunesse Laval.

Charlebois and Coiteux pointed to new funding announced last month aimed at addressing the issue. Prévention Jeunesse will be set up in five areas around the province at a cost of $3 million over the next five years.

In the case of Laval, the focus will be on sexual exploitation.

The Centre jeunesse de Laval, a group home for troubled teens, came under scrutiny after several teenage girls ran away from the group home in early 2016. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Parent 'disappointed and angered'

The province sent an auditor to the Laval group home after several teenage girls went missing earlier this year. All the girls have since been found. 

Police say the girls may have been targeted for sexual exploitation. Parents had expressed hope the province's report would help address the problem.

But one parent said the findings of today's report only left him upset.

"I was very, very disappointed and angered. We're talking about our children today," said Eric Hauptman, the father of one of the runaways. "In my opinion, it was a political show that report. There's nothing that's concrete that happens as of today.... It's all, 'We're going to have reflections.'"

The Parti Québécois has criticized the government's response.

MNA Jean-François Lisée said it took a "major crisis" for Premier Philippe Couillard's government to take a "minor step" to address the problem of sexual exploitation of teenage girls.

In particular, Lisée said, more needs to be done to prevent street gangs and pimps from using social media to lure teenage girls into prostitution.