Projet Intervention Prostitution Québec (PIPQ)
Before meeting with Geneviève Quinty, the organization’s director, I wanted to see the website, which is increasingly becoming the gateway to the PIPQ. Right away, I noticed that the target audience is very specific; the portal is designed with clear and direct language, a colourful look, simple navigation mechanisms, as well as a quick-exit feature that leaves no trace. PIPQ website [website in French only]
The portal has been in operation for only a few weeks, and here is the type of anonymous message received on it that the workers must respond to: [TRANSLATION] “I don’t know how to get out of this environment. I’m pregnant; I probably have STBBIs; I’m afraid of the police. Can you help me?”
A person simply being able to make that kind of call for help is liberating. It helps the person acknowledge their situation and consider escape routes.
For the 35 years that the PIPQ has been running, it has been increasing its tools for helping young women caught in the spiral of sexual exploitation. In 10 years, the number of employees has increased from ten (10) to twenty-two (22).
Since the start of Opération Scorpion (2002), which intended to take down a child prostitution network in Quebec City, public authorities have decided to invest in combating sexual exploitation. And they have committed to funding both research and field work, including with the PIPQ team. And they believe in it.
Under the PQ government of Pauline Marois, a provincial consultation around the phenomenon of sexual exploitation was initiated. The results of that consultation gave rise to an action plan tabled in 2016 by the Couillard government. That will continue until 2021. The strategy calls upon 12 government ministries and organizations. Together, they are prioritizing fifty-five (55) actions around three pillars: a) prevent, b) intervene, c) develop and share in order to take better action.
Opération Scorpion and the resulting strategy brought about better stakeholder coordination. At that time, Geneviève Quinty was on the youth centre’s Board of Directors and, at her suggestion, the Director commissioned a task force on the matter. Over time, that committee has become a regional issue table made up of representatives from the national capital school boards, representatives from the CSSS, now IUHSSC, police officers, youth centres and lately the PIPQ workers. That organization recognized the training needs of the stakeholders across the sectors and the need to focus the training on collaborative work.
With no false modesty, Geneviève Quinty is proud to say that the PIPQ is the driver behind this collaborative work. For intervention to be effective, it requires an cross-sectoral approach. But as she says so well: [TRANSLATION] “Before we build collaboration, we need to deconstruct beliefs, biases and our automatic reflexes.”
This is why the training set up and delivered by the regional issue table on child prostitution and sexual exploitation is dyadic—a PIPQ worker paired with, as the case requires, someone from the school board, the police or a youth centre. It’s important to recognize each other’s practice. The groups that the training is provided to must also be blended and have participants from a variety of settings: community, police, school and health. It is the pooling of views that enriches the approach. This difficult subject requires finesse and diplomacy with the people affected by the phenomenon.
The training has already been given to about 600 people in the Quebec City region and they are starting to travel to the regions to disseminate it to the settings most affected by this problem, which unfortunately is so widespread.
Public Safety Canada is also investing in the fight against sexual exploitation and is funding a pilot project that involves activities for girls placed at L’Escale, the Quebec City rehabilitation centre. The PIPQ also wants to work with boys using a systems approach to change attitudes, change behaviours. The problem cannot be changed with girls if we don’t work with the boys who are sometimes contaminated in their education, influenced by their associates with a negative view of women. However, before going to Le Gouvernail, the boys’ rehabilitation centre, it will be necessary to adapt the materials, the wording and the approach. That should be done during the year.
The phenomenon is becoming better understood through the collaborative work, and every party can contribute through their expertise. As a result, parents in distress are referred to the PIPQ. These are difficult situations, and the reception is important. Listening, being attentive, making parents understand that it’s important to not break the bond, despite the feeling of powerlessness, sometimes of failure, that they may have.
Geneviève believes in the importance of blended teams. Thus, there are several guys employed as workers at the PIPQ: one in the community, one youth street worker and one web worker. Positive male role models exist and need to be made better known to girls.
In addition to being able to contact the organization through social media or by phone, people can also go there for food assistance, rest and personal hygiene, group kitchens, and other creative and resourcing activities. A nurse comes in regularly to meet with people who have health concerns.
About half the FDG contribution is used in prevention, the other half goes to street work. The new sex education program at school enables the PIPQ to be involved in the training provided at that level at the time when students are ready to consider factors related to sexual exploitation. As such, roughly 2,500 students are met with each year at the right time in young people’s lives and their sex education path, right in the schools. As for the street workers, they go to young people’s natural environment, namely low-income housing, bars, parks and public spaces, rehabilitation centres, etc.
A visit to the sites occupied by the PIPQ, on rue des Oblats in Quebec City, convinced me that they offer unconditional acceptance of girls and women caught in the web of sexual exploitation. It is at the crossroads of prevention and protection and many other little-known aspects of this phenomenon.
By Hélène Dufresne
March 26, 2019