These stories are the result of a joint investigation by Toronto Star reporters Robert Cribb, Jennifer Quinn and Julian Sher, and El Nuevo Herald reporter Juan O. Tamayo.
James McTurk is 78. He has wispy white hair and glasses, and speaks with a soft Scottish accent. He lives on a pension and in a jail cell.
He has been twice convicted on child pornography charges, and his legal troubles have just intensified: McTurk could become the first person in Canada to be convicted of sex tourism in connection with the abuse of children in Cuba.
He is now one of a very small group of Canadian men to face charges for the crime of child-sex tourism.
McTurk does not travel to Cambodia or Thailand, destinations of choice for those who seek sex with children. All of his known and alleged victims have been Cuban girls. All were young, and some were very young as young as 4.
McTurk has spent several years on Canadas sex offender registry, but he was able to make repeated trips abroad until he was caught last summer, almost by accident. He was arrested at Torontos Lester B. Pearson airport, returning once again from Cuba.
According to court documents and to McTurk himself, in interviews with police he travels there frequently.
Like tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders across Canada, McTurk was free to come and go, whenever he wanted, to destinations where sex is cheap and victims are young. Despite an addition to the Criminal Code in 1997 allowing the prosecution of Canadians for crimes committed against children outside the country, child-sex tourists appear to be undeterred, and mostly undetected.
A succession of Canadian governments have declared their intention to eradicate the problem of child-sex tourism, saying children abroad are as deserving of protection from predators as kids in Canada. UNICEF estimates there are as many as two million children involved in the sex trade.
But there are big loopholes in the system. Supervision of the travel of sex offenders is lax. The privacy of convicted offenders is prioritized. The process of filing sex tourism charges is an arduous one for police. Ultimately, it appears Canada is failing in its moral obligation to protect children.
Talking about child protection is really easy for governments to do because there is nobody who is going to argue the other side, says Mark Hecht, a co-founder and legal counsel for Beyond Borders, a Winnipeg-based group that fights global child exploitation. If you stand up as a government and say you stand firmly against children being sexually abused, who is going to say they disagree with that?
But if you actually break that down into what that requires, thats where there is a lack of political will.
An investigation by The Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald, the Miami Heralds Spanish-language sister paper, has revealed loopholes in the system meant to monitor offenders. The result is that Canadian sex offenders, unlike those convicted in the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, arent closely monitored:
In Canada, sex offenders dont have to tell anyone theyre traveling if its for less than a week and they can advise just before getting on a plane. The U.K. demands all travel by convicted offenders be reported, and they have to tell authorities at least seven days in advance. The same is true in Australia. Many American states require 21 days advance notice of travel.