Newmarket residents who wish to take a stand against human trafficking can join the national Walk4Freedom Sept. 25.
Organizer Amanda Stassen, in support of anti-sex trafficking organization Fight4Freedom, presented to council Sept. 13 about the upcoming walk through town. The Walk4Freedom is part of an international event that will see participants travel along Davis Drive, passing by locations identified as part of the human trafficking process.
Councillor Grace Simon said it hits hard that human trafficking is happening in Newmarket.
“Everything in me trembles at the fact we have human trafficking going on in our neighbourhood,” Simon said.
The route includes locations such as Upper Canada Mall, hotels, schools and homes that organizers identify as key locations involved in human trafficking. Stassen said the walk is informal, breaking up into small groups to avoid mass gathering given COVID-19 restrictions. Similar walks are taking place in 21 Canadian cities and two international ones.
The presentation highlighted human trafficking statistics and a report from the Alliance Against Modern Slavery Ontario Coalition Research Initiative that identified Newmarket as a starting point.
“It’s known for erotic massage parlours as being a point of origin,” Stassen said. “That is why the Walk4Freedom on Sept. 25 is so important. To raise awareness for our community, for us to have those insights.”
Stassen complimented Newmarket’s new bylaw to regulate and license alternative massage businesses while prohibiting sexual services at them, although Asian advocacy groups pushed back on the characterization of these places as human trafficking sites.
“The slides open up the eyes of a lot of the residents in Newmarket,” Councillor Trevor Morrison said. “We’re making it more difficult for this type of activity to happen in our town.”
Stassen said councillors Simon, Christina Bisanz and Bob Kwapis have already registered to participate. Morrison and Mayor John Taylor said they would participate if they are able.
The event starts at 10 a.m. and registration is available through CanadaHelps.org. Stassen said organizers are not posting full details, and sending them to registrants directly to discourage a larger gathering.
“It’s a very special event,” Simon said. “We’re going to participate in this with great pride.”