Montrealers are gathering to denounce the exploitation of minors on pornography platforms 

monthly demonstrations continue raising awareness while demanding change

A group of Montrealers have been gathering monthly in front of MindGeek’s headquarters, the parent company responsible for many explicit websites such as Pornhub. The group recently joined outside of MindGeek’s building to denounce the company’s affiliation with the exploitation of minors on the site. 

The monthly demonstrations began in 2020 when organizer Rafaela Diaz-Byers Lee heard about MindGeek’s involvement in exploiting pornographic material of minors on Pornhub, including videos of rape and spy cam footage. Several investigations have shown Pornhub’s involvement in child abuse is deeply catalogued. 

Arrêter ExploitationHub is a Quebec-focused, non-religious, non-partisan campaign against MindGeek. 

“I wanted to mobilize a team here in Montreal because it was happening in our own city,” said Diaz-Byers Lee. 

As a master’s student studying creative arts therapy at Concordia, Diaz-Byers Lee was shocked to find out that the co-owner of MindGeek was a Concordia alumnus. 

“I wanted to just get people out there, the only thing I knew how to do is just to stand on the side of the road and educate people and raise awareness,” added Diaz-Byers Lee. 

Among the demonstrators was Arnold Viersen, a Member of Parliament for the Peace River—Westlock, Alberta riding. Viersen joined to show his support and ongoing work for the cause. 

Viersen has been actively working with the government on this issue. In 2016, he moved a motion in the House of Commons to request an investigation on the impacts of pornography on Canadian society. Through this process, he also learned about MindGeek’s involvement. 

“We’ve been pushing on the government to do something about this. So one side is like trying to keep porn out of the hands of kids. But the other side is to keep kids out of porn,” said Viersen. 

Viersen recently introduced Bill C-270, Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISE), a law that would require those making or distributing pornographic material for commercial purposes to verify the age and consent of each person appearing in the video. 

“So that’s kind of why I’m here today, is to just raise awareness about the horrific actions of this company and their impacts on people’s lives,” said Viersen. 

Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, was also present in solidarity.

On her end, Miville-Dechêne has been working on Bill S-210, an Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material.

This bill would recognize the portrayal and exposure of porn to kids as a criminal act, an initiative already adopted by France. In 2020, the French Parliament unanimously agreed to pass a law requiring age verification on pornographic websites to prevent access by children under 18. 

Miville-Dechêne is emphasizing the idea of age verification to access these pornography platforms. She explains that these websites are very accessible to children. 

“We know that a lot of kids have been on these platforms for hours and hours and days, especially during the pandemic,” she said. 

“What is shown, according to scientific research, we can make links now between kids watching porn, a lot of porn, and different harms, like becoming more aggressive in sexual relationship having a distorted view of sexual relationships,” Miville-Dechêne said. 

A ranking lists Pornhub as the 12th-most-visited website in the world. Though statistics for 2020 are unavailable, 2019 statistics show that this platform attracted 42 billion visits that year, or an average of 115 million visits per day. 

“We want to preserve the innocence of children, they have to learn about sexual relationships in another way. So yes, I want sexual education for our kids and our teens. But I don’t want porn to be sexual education. And this is what it has become,” said Miville-Dechêne.

The demonstrations will continue to denounce the harmful impacts of the platforms. The next protest will be on Dec. 17.

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