31 Jul Charity group aims to raise awareness of human trafficking
Published Tuesday, July 30, 2019 2:26PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 30, 2019 6:39PM EDT
Courage for Freedom is trying to raise awareness to the sinister side of Ontario’s 400 series of highways.
They say more than 60 per cent of those trafficked in Canada reported that their situation started in Ontario, with Highway 401 acting as a corridor for human trafficking.
Survivor Katarina MacLeod says she bounced from city to city, including Waterloo Region, stuck in a whirlwind of sexual exploitation, abuse, drug addiction, kidnapping, domestic prostitution, and trafficking.
She started Rising Angels, an organization that helps women stuck in the sex trade get out with mentoring, counselling, and financial aid.
She was recruited to Courage for Freedom by a woman in an abuse support group.
“I ended up trapped for 15 years,” said MacLeod. “When I was offered this job, I thought I could escape my abuser if I could save money.”
The charity group was at On Route pit stops along Hwy. 401 on Tuesday as part of International Day to End Trafficking.
The Ontario Minister of Infrastructure was at the event in Cambridge and says awareness is step one.
“Everyone has to be made aware of it so they can watch for their neighbours, grandchildren, and children,” said Laurie Scott. “They may be lured into this horrific crime of sexual exploitation. We need to get them out and get them help.”
The goal of “Project On Route” is to raise awareness in the hopes of putting an end to human trafficking, forced prostitution, and sexual exploitation.
Part of the project includes airing messages on screens at the pit stop calling on the community to take action.
Kelly Franklin of Courage for Freedom says most sex trafficking ads were inaccurate.
“Every girl that was trafficked had dirty hair, looked like they were drug-induced,” she said. “That’s not what girls look like. We look like regular girls.”
The plan is to push the ads beyond the On Routes and have them go viral. The group is expecting to release a new one every month and have them appear in malls, movie theatres, and coffee shops.
The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region says they had over 140 calls for service in 2018 and more than 60 clients enrolled in active support.
More than 50 per cent of the clients are under the age of 18.
The centre provides public education addressing trafficking for service providers, educators, and the broader community.