Twenty years after Operation Scorpion, a book takes us with the lead investigator on the case behind the scenes of the investigation into child prostitution that shook Quebec and changed methods, even if a lot of work remains to be done today.
Former SPVQ investigator, Roger Ferland accepted the invitation of criminologist Maria Mourani to dive back into the memories of what he calls it the most difficult investigation of his career.
In 2002, Scorpion made headlines because of its shocking nature.
It was all there: young girls victimized by pimps linked to organized crime, known and powerful clients like radio host Robert Gillet , media leaks, juicy rumors that fueled the circus that lasted several months.
Roger Ferland felt a certain vertigo when he plunged back into it.
“[…] At times, it caused me flashbacks, post-traumas of events that I relived while reading my notebooks. I plunged back into the emotions of the moment and I won't hide that it was difficult”, confides the policeman, affirming that even if we would like our police officers to be “Robocops”, it was impossible to remain insensitive to what lived these young girls.
Doing useful work
This is the story told by Operation Scorpion: The Underside of the largest survey on child prostitution in Quebec, published this week.
The story of the huge spider web that the pimps had woven around the young victims. The story of this first milestone in a struggle that continues to this day. By returning to the methods of investigation, interview and modus operandi, the duo of authors wants to do useful work.
“I hope that it will be useful for the next responders, whether police , parents, social workers. I want it to be another brick to consolidate this wall, ”says the ex- investigator, now teaching police techniques at Cégep Garneau.
Because the scourge still exists, insists Maria Mourani. “Despite the Scorpion earthquake, human memory is short, and we must remember that the problem is still there,” argues the criminologist and former federal deputy.
The book approaches without filter this harsh reality, but important to reveal. These methods of enlisting young girls which enabled the network dismembered by Scorpion to grow to the extent it had.
“It is training that is done where there is a mixture of violence , manipulation, charm, love”, laments Ms. Mourani.
And Roger Ferland was able to see through Scorpion and its sequels the devastation that this demolition work of pimps can do.
“These young girls, we broke them. They brought them another way of thinking completely in relation to success, work, self-esteem. […] Which means that maybe 50% went back there afterwards, ”regrets the investigator, adding that Scorpion had nevertheless made things happen.
The SURVEY IN FIGURES
Ongoing from September 19, 2002 to May 15, 2003
650 subjects checked, met, interviewed, connected
200 interviews with young girls and witnesses
61 young girls identified as victims
86 warrants for search and wiretapping electronic
38 days of listening time, 27,000 conversations in 7 languages
150 calls< /strong> receipts to the citizen line generating 900 pieces of information to analyze
6000 documents paper processed
3 yearsof legal proceedings
41 criminal convictions
Excerpts from the book< /strong>
“The first 72 hours of investigation will be decisive and reveal the rest of this investigation. Already, the police can arrest pimps and clients. However, the story will turn out to be much more complex than it looks. The desire to go further and the desire to put an end to impunity will allow the establishment of one of the largest investigations into juvenile prostitution in Quebec. »
“Prostitutors and pimps are important cogs in the prostitution system. They are the two actors involved in this game of supply and demand. When several victims talk about them, they describe them as soul killers, because after passing through their hands, they are only a shadow of themselves. Far worse than death is what dies inside them for the rest of their lives.
“Today, the feeling of injustice has still not left me. I live in a lot of anger about everything that happened to me. I was good at school. I had dreams. I dreamed of being a singer, I had a beautiful voice. My life has been destroyed, and these men continue theirs as if nothing had happened. […] I was an immature child, too young to understand the consequences of my actions. As I grew up, I understood the harm they did to me. Telling you my story, I feel like throwing up. I still cry often. »
– Testimony of Rachel, one of the victims of child prostitution
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Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128