Montreal to target human trafficking during Grand Prix weekend

Montreal's Grand Prix is known as a hub of prostitution. REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images

The recruitment of young women in the weeks surrounding Montreal’s Formula 1 weekend isn’t new, according to a coalition of organizations fighting human trafficking in the city.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has called on the Conseil des Montréalaises, an advisory body that addresses issues of gender equality and the status of women on a municipal level, to come up with recommendations on how to fight human trafficking during the busy weekend.

READ MORE: Montreal mayor says Canadian Grand Prix will go ahead in 2017

“We plan to take all the necessary steps to gather the already-existing information from various organisms who fight the human trafficking of women and girls,” said Cathy Wong, president of the Conseil des Montréalaises.

The study will take place over three years, and then the group will present its findings to the city.

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READ MORE: 32 people charged with 78 offences in Canada-wide human trafficking investigation

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The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (CLES) said women who approach its organizations have said that demand is so high during the Grand Prix, that women and girls are brought in from Ontario, and even the U.S, to work as escorts or hostesses.

“To make some quick money and to live a weekend of luxury and ‘glamour.’ But in the end, it’s prostitution,” said Martine B. Côté, a spokesperson for the coalition, in a statement.

“During the Grand Prix, Montreal becomes, more than ever, a hub of exploitation and trafficking, a city where you can pay for sexual services just by clicking your fingers and a place known for international sex tourism.”

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Coderre said he’s already spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on how to address the issue.

“The economic benefits and the recognition of the Canadian Grand Prix Formula 1 are known by everyone,” he said.

“For many years, however, there have been criticisms of criminal activities related to trafficking in women and girls during the event. This is not tolerated by my administration.”

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The event’s management insists it has always deplored any actions related to human trafficking on the island of Montreal and “hopes that the recommendations and actions resulting from the study will aggressively combat actions of this nature in our metropolis.”

READ MORE: Montreal mayor says deal reached on Grand Prix track upgrade

Francois Dumontier, president and CEO of Octane Racing Group Inc., the Formula 1’s promoter, commended the city’s initiative.

“The celebration of Montréal’s 375th anniversary ensures that this year will be an important one for the tourism industry and I intend on supporting Mayor Coderre and our police department director, Mr. [Philippe] Pichet, as well as Le Conseil des Montréalaises in their initiatives,” he said.

The Grand Prix Formula 1 takes place in Montreal from June 9 to 11 on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, with parties taking place on Crescent Street and around the city.

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