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    Canada vows to take action against sex tourists who target children

    Posted on Monday, 03.18.13

    Canada vows to take action against sex tourists who target children

    By Juan O. Tamayo

    The Canadian government has vowed to stop sex offenders from travelling

    abroad to abuse children in the wake of a series by the Toronto Star and

    El Nuevo Herald that exposed how easily Canadian sex tourists can slip

    through the cracks — and across borders.

    Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews on Monday said the government was

    concerned about Canadians who leave the country to prey on vulnerable

    children and noted some steps had already been taken to combat the offence.

    "It is clear that more needs to be done to protect children from the

    heinous crime of sexual abuse," Toews told the House of Commons. "Our

    government is committed to protecting children in Canada and abroad from

    sex offenders. We intend to take further action against international

    sex tourism and, indeed, we welcome the support of the Toronto Star."

    Toews did not elaborate on what steps the government could take. But the

    Star series revealed a number of loopholes in the system designed to

    monitor sex offenders, making it relatively easy for them to travel

    abroad to exploit children.

    Supervision of their travel is lax. Front-line border officials do not

    have easy access to police databases or the sex offenders registry.

    There is no integrated system for tracking and monitoring sex offenders.

    And the process of laying sex tourism charges is an arduous one for police.

    And in Canada, convictions for sex tourism are rare. More than 200

    Canadians have been convicted abroad of sexual crimes against children.

    But at home — under a 1997 law that makes it possible to prosecute

    Canadians for crimes committed outside the country's borders — there

    have been only five known convictions for child sex tourism.

    Last week, Toronto police announced they had filed child sex tourism

    charges for the first time. The accused, 78-year-old James McTurk, is to

    appear in court Thursday on a dozen counts.

    It is alleged McTurk, already twice-convicted on child pornography

    charges related to Cuban girls, travelled to the island dozens of times

    to abuse children — some of whom, police alleged, may have been as young

    as four.

    UNICEF has estimated there are as many as 2 million children involved in

    the sex trade globally, and Cuba is emerging as a destination of choice

    for Canadian men who are seeking sex with young people.

    A confidential RCMP document cites Cuba as a top destination in the

    Americas for Canadian sex tourists, and says the issue of "travelling

    child sex offenders is likely greater than previously thought." The 2011

    report obtained by the Star acknowledges "a more determined, yet

    strategic, response by Canadian police could uncover many more Canadian

    offenders committing sexual offences abroad."

    Beefing up the country's police response to travelling sex offenders,

    the report concludes, will take "additional resources, more effective

    coordination and collaboration between Canadian law enforcement and

    foreign police, and better reporting mechanisms for Canadians who

    witness suspicious behaviour abroad."

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