Advocates joined together to walk along Davis Drive Sept. 17 in the pursuit to end human trafficking in Canada
More than 30 people attended Newmarket’s Walk4Freedom, a fundraiser for the Christian charitable organization Fight4Freedom. They journey across Davis Drive, highlighting common locations where trafficking can begin, such as schools. The annual event takes place in more than a dozen cities, primarily in Ontario, in a bid to raise awareness about the crime.
Local volunteer organizer Amanda Stassen said human trafficking is a significant issue that can happen anywhere.
“Any establishment, in any location in any community,” she said. “Unfortunately, people who are minorities, and sometimes people who have disabilities or mental health issues, these are the ones that are often targeted. It really isn’t an establishment issue. It’s a human rights issue.”
The initiative has raised approximately $19,000 across all event locations this year, with the organization setting a $45,000 goal.
There could be new efforts to combat human trafficking coming to York Region. Central York Fire Services support services deputy chief Jeremy Inglis was a guest speaker. He said he had been part of a program in Niagara providing training for emergency services to identify and respond to human trafficking, with more than 500 trained.
“The hope is we can bring this program to York Region," he said. "Hopefully, to mimic some of the success we had.”
Several dignitaries attended, including Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas and Newmarket councillors Christina Bisanz and Grace Simon.
“I’m doing this walk because of my awareness of the rising of crime,” Simon said. “There’s still not a lot of education around human trafficking … It’s very prevalent in many different fields.”
A contingent from Trent University’s policing and community well-being program, Durham Campus, also attended. Professor Amy Spendik said they are looking to address how to address human trafficking in Durham.
“We’re here today in hopes to learn something a little bit new and implement it back at Trent-Durham,” Spendik said.
Stassen said they hope to help those in trafficked situations and that it’s “not about pointing fingers.”
Awareness is key to that, she said.
“We’re all so busy in our lives. We don’t see the things happening,” she said. “The first step is for everyone to be educated in what the signs of trafficking are.”
The donation campaign runs until Oct. 1, and you can give through canadahelps.org.