“…It is happening locally, and it is happening globally, and it is an issue.”
While it’s a difficult subject to talk about, human trafficking, among the most egregious of crimes, does exist around us.
On Wednesday, members of the Bonnyville Friendship Center, local dignitaries, pastors from Lakeview Gospel Church, elders, and family outreach workers from the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre and WJS, took part in the Red Sand Project, an event to raise awareness in the Lakeland about human trafficking.
Human trafficking is defined as the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.
The Red Sand initiative is an international one first launched in 2014 when Molly Gochman did the first Red Sand Project action in Miami, where she filled the cracks of sidewalks in and around the Art Basel Miami Beach pavilion with red sand.
The act is symbolic, said Megan Kwiatkowski, Health and Social facilitator at the Bonnyville Friendship Center, and their Human Trafficking Prevention Board decided to join the movement this year.
“Our purpose is just to bring awareness to our community about human trafficking and work towards mitigating risks and giving families a place to go if they’ve experienced any of the human trafficking trauma,” said Kwiatkowski.
“The red sand symbolizes the people that fall through the cracks of our society. It’s symbolic, it’s art, but it also starts that conversation of what is this about? And how can we help? What can we do?”
Police services reported 511 human trafficking incidents in Canada in 2019, including 31 in Alberta.
In March, Alberta accepted 18 of 19 calls to action stemming from a report released by the province’s task force on human trafficking, which was established in 2020 and advocated for by Paul Brandt.
Action items includes creating an office to combat trafficking in persons, legislation updates and harmonization, and enhanced access to services for victims.
“This event we put together to raise awareness for the community for human trafficking, and just having those conversations, bringing up what human trafficking is and how it is prominent….it is happening locally, and it is happening globally, and it is an issue,” said Kwiatkowski.
Bonnyville mayor Elisa Brosseau along with many council members participated in the event.
“It means a lot to see the Friendship Center bring this awareness to human and sex trafficking, and as a mother and a member of this community, I think it’s important that we continue to have these conversations because it is happening here,” said Brosseau.
“It’s not something that’s happening in a faraway place and we shouldn’t be thinking about it or talking about it — it is a reality. I’m so grateful that the Friendship Center came out today and brought awareness.”