Quebec girls, teens advertised for prostitution on U.S. site
Montreal police have cases involving under-age youth and sex services linked to website
A U.S.-based classifieds site is on the radar of police in Quebec for selling sex with both young women and teenagers.
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Backpage.com is used to buy and sell products and services and is popular among escorts in both Canada and the U.S.
As controversy swirls around a Laval group home linked to a string of runaways, experts have raised concern about how social media can be used to lure vulnerable girls into prostitution.
Montreal police say they are overseeing cases involving minors being advertised on Backpage while Laval police confirm they are aware of the website.
"We got a few cases here and there that are linked to that website," Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière said.
"We are talking about juveniles posted on that website."
Laval police wouldn't comment on specific cases involving the website.
'You will find kids, adolescents'
Advertisements are posted daily for young women, some of whom look no older than 14, in the areas of Montreal, Laval, the South Shore and the West Island.
Backpage has guidelines prohibiting human trafficking of exploitation of minors but some of the advertisements even use special wording to sell under-age teenagers.
The nondescript website features hundreds of advertisements for an array of sexual services. Postings are detailed with price lists, the age of the escort, a gallery of photos and which services the escort is willing or not willing to perform.
The majority of ads also demand contact be made through text message.
René Morin, a spokesperson for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, says the organization is aware of the website.
"You will find kids, adolescents in the same category in the grid of sexual services and it shows the extent of which the internet facilitates the selling of these minors," Morin said.
Calls for change
Backpage has been controversial for years south of the border, where the CEO was subpoenaed by U.S. Senate to appear last November. He did not not show up to the committee hearing.
Maria Mourani, a former MP and criminologist, says Canada and Quebec need to act on the laws surrounding human trafficking and prostitution.
"There is absolutely nothing being done as we speak," Mourani told Radio-Canada.
"I ask why the prosecutor of Quebec and the minister of justice on are waiting to act on this file — not even about the ads but at the level of clients."
Backpage.com did not respond to request for comment.