In the same spirit of ideas as women and indigenous peoples demanding that we stop talking and take initiatives for them, but without them, the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR) works so that young people can participate in decision-making on issues that concern them.
In February 2021, cybertip.ca, the Canadian Internet Child Sexual Exploitation Center, registered an 88% increase in reports of sextortion. While children were glued to their screens for practically everything during the pandemic, often even school, the IBCR launched the Word for young people project last summer. to better prevent and combat sexual exploitation. Five groups of about ten young people aged 14 to 17 have been set up: three in Montreal (at the Collège Notre-Dame, at the Maison des jeunes MAGI in Mercier-Ouest and at Motivation jeunesse, which helps young dropouts to studying and preparing for the job market) and two on the North Shore, at the Patriotes high school in Saint-Eustache and the Externat Sacré-Coeur in Rosemère.
In particular, during the monthly workshops, they were invited to create their own definition of sexual exploitation.
“Then they discussed various issues that they considered important, such as healthy relationships, manipulation, free and informed consent, power relations between adults, children, boys and girls, girls and boys,” explains Geneviève Trépanier, in charge of the Word for Young People project!
There is also talk of non-consensual sharing of intimate photos. “We discussed what they can and cannot do,” she explains. We also encourage them to ask themselves what to do if this happens to them or a friend. We want young people to be equipped to help each other. We’ll also discuss the importance of engaging an adult you trust, as sometimes you may need to take legal action. †
In recent years, prevention campaigns were also shown to young people to find out what they thought of it.
Consultations and recommendations
The workshops held during the year have given rise to many reflections and questions; so this summer young people will start collecting data. “They will consult other young people who are not involved in the project and who have a different reality from them,” explains Geneviève Trépanier. They will also consult adults and experts. †
The young people will then make recommendations. An advisory committee, made up of people responsible for campaigns to prevent and combat sexual exploitation, is mandated to educate young people about the issues to consider when defining new policies.
“The members of the supervisory committee also see the added value of youth participation: there are things that stand out that are obvious, but others that we had not thought of,” says Geneviève Trépanier.
Ways of doing things change
For the IBCR, Words for young people! is one of the ways used to get decision makers to listen more to adolescents and to create policies that are better adapted to their needs and their realities. The international cooperation organization, present in Quebec but also in Africa and Latin America, thus promotes the right to participation of the child, Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“If progress has been made in Quebec in families, where we generally listen to children, and in schools, where we now often find children’s councils, there is still a lot of work to be done to further integrate speech youth into the square about the issues that engage them,” says Julie Dénommée, deputy director for expertise and learning at the IBCR.
It is a change of view on the children that the organization is trying to bring about.
“We want children to be seen not only as vulnerable beings who need to be protected, but also as beings who have something to say,” says Julie Dénommée.
To achieve this goal, the organization also has other initiatives such as REPERE training (Making children’s participation effective to enhance their experience) to better support child victims or witnesses of crime in Quebec.
“For example, we work with social workers, judges, police officers and other professionals to get them to encourage better participation of children,” adds Julie Dénommée.
The IBCR was founded in 1992 by Andrée Ruffo, a former judge in the youth division of the Quebec Court and Dr. Bernard Kouchner, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France.