News/Canada: In communities large and small, child sex trade thr...

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Subject: News/Canada: In communities large and small, child sex trade thr...
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 11:23:46 EDT


          In communities large and small, child sex trade thr...

APws 4-3-00 2:22 AM

The Associated Press.

By TOM COHEN
  Associated Press Writer
    SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (AP) -- Chastity Scott lowered her pregnant
torso onto a cushioned sofa, her dark eyes trying to follow the careening
figure of 13-month-old Jorden.
    She sighed like only a weary mother can, realizing Jorden would be awake
long past bedtime and require countless more struggles to stand up and run
her down.
    It's demanding for any young woman, particularly a 15-year-old living in
a Salvation Army home. For Scott, though, anything is better than her life
of the last few years.
    "I started working at 9," she said, using the euphemism for selling sex
on the streets. "I was living in a foster home and I didn't like it and
left. I had to support myself."
    Work meant two tricks a day at 120 Canadian dollars each, or about dlrs
165 total, mostly with "older guys driving around looking." The money paid
for food, clothes, makeup -- the necessities for a self-perpetuating
existence focused on surviving until the next dawn.
    Police and social workers say Scott's story is far too common in Canada,
where the child sex trade frequently snares troubled young people almost
always from backgrounds of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
    In major cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, such sexual
exploitation has an underworld atmosphere involving children from all
social and ethnic groupings.
    Out in the smaller towns and rural areas of the world's second largest
country, children forced or lured into the sex trade tend to reflect the
local population. Most are Indian or mixed-race Canadians like Chastity,
desperate for money, alcohol, drugs, food or just a ride, said Jannit
Rabinovitch, a consultant for Save the Children Canada.
    A recent study by the Canadian Council on Social Development, a
nonprofit social service advocacy group, called sexual exploitation of
children a growing problem that is luring pedophiles to Canada. Internet
sites devoted to child sex list "kiddie strolls" for some Canadian cities,
while Rabinovitch and others say the abuse -- they refuse to call it
prostitution -- occurs everywhere
    "In all the communities I've been into in British Columbia, there is no
question there is some sort of abuse taking place," said Sgt. John Ward,
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police coordinator for missing and exploited
children in the province.
    Ward said half the 60,000 children who run away from home in Canada each
year fail to return within 48 hours, with most ending up entangled in
street life.
    "There are a lot of runaway kids, street-wise kids, who will barter sex
for anything," he said. "It's not an organized thing."
    Rabinovitch, the Save the Children consultant, helped set up a 1998
conference in Victoria, British Columbia, where sexually exploited children
from Canada, the United States and Latin America gathered to tell their
stories.
    Sarah Ninnie was one of them. She used to work the Saskatoon stroll
along 21st Street to get money for the Ritalin and morphine that she and
two members of her family shot up several times a day.
    Wearing a neat wool skirt, her dark hair held by a butterfly clip, the
19-year-old shifted uncomfortably when talking about life on the street.
    "People would drive around the house, looking for me," she said in a
hushed voice. "A couple of times I got beat up, but I didn't really care. I
had no hope for myself."
    Ninnie mostly remembers the isolation. Her family wouldn't listen, the
pimps and kids on the street weren't interested, and few social services
addressed the child sex trade.
    A plea from her younger sister finally got Ninnie to give up street
life, and an invitation to the Victoria conference introduced her to others
like herself. Finally she could share her sorrow.
    "I didn't know anything about child abuse, that I was being exploited by
people," she said. "It was so painful to talk about it."
    Today Ninnie is finishing high school and works with a project for
sexually exploited children spawned by the Victoria conference. Her life
goal is to get other youths off the streets, where "you're always alone."
    Isolation and loss of identity -- two common traits of aboriginal
children forced into the sex trade -- are products of a cycle of social
woes dating back generations.
    Government policy from after World War II to 1979 forced most aboriginal
children to attend residential schools away from their families. They lost
their native language and culture and often faced physical and sexual
abuse, returning home with emotional scars that exacerbated the poverty,
joblessness and alcoholism endemic to many Indian reservations.
    Sandi Leboeuf, director of the Saskatoon Tribal Council Family Center,
said the residential schools also left parents isolated, breeding
alcoholism and family dysfunction.
    Her own story illustrates the problem. One of 17 children, only eight of
whom lived to adulthood, she was sexually assaulted by a distant relative
who had been a victim of sexual abuse at a residential school.
    Only with unusual support, such as a father who gave up drinking, did
she manage to avoid the streets, Leboeuf said. Two cousins abused by the
same relative now have large families struggling with alcoholism and
physical abuse.
    MORE


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