‘Don’t underestimate the power of your footsteps:’ Walk draws 150 people to fight human trafficking

About 150 people took part in Prince Albert's Walk For Freedom on Oct. 19, 2019. The group stopped in front of City Hall to read a pledge, promising to do their part to reduce human trafficking. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“this is something that we need to stand up (for) and say ‘Enough is enough.’”

– Joeline Magill, Hope Restored Canada

Saturday’s Walk For Freedom in Prince Albert had about 150 people silently marching in a single file line, sporting black, orange and yellow merchandise.

Prince Albert is the only Saskatchewan city that took part in A21’s initiative to spread awareness for human trafficking. The city’s walk was one of over 500 across the world.

Gen Klingenberg, host and coordinator for the local event, said it’s all about spreading awareness and educating the public. That’s why participants hand out flyers with Canadian human trafficking statistics.

She told the group a story of someone who received a flyer from a walk in Europe, and passed it on to a friend who was being sex trafficked.

“(That victim) is now in our care in Greece in our aftercare centre, so don’t underestimate the flyers that you are handing out. Don’t underestimate the power of your footsteps,” she said.

“The reason why we do it is because we love our city and we love the people in our community.”

A21 Walk For Freedom local host and coordinator, Gen Klingenberg, speaks to participants at Plaza 88 on Oct. 19, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Executive director of Hope Restored Canada, Joeline Magill, also made a speech before the walk. She emphasized the high prevalence of human trafficking in the country.

Magill said an eye-opening statistic for her is that 93 per cent of human trafficking victims in Canada are Canadian citizens.

“Often we think these are people coming from different countries and they are kind of feeding this system. In fact, it is our own people that grew up in our towns, grew up in our cities, that were born in our hospitals and so this is something that we need to stand up (for) and say ‘Enough is enough.’”

Hope Restored Canada is opening their first Saskatchewan home for victims in Saskatoon within the next month.

Executive director of Hope Restored Canada, Joeline Magill, speaks to participants of Prince Albert’s Walk For Freedom at Plaza 88 on Oct. 19, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

According to A21, human trafficking is slavery. It comes in several forms, including forced labour, bonded labour and sex trafficking.

It says signs of human trafficking are being controlled by another person, signs of physical abuse, substance abuse, feeling trapped and a lack of personal belongings.

A21 says it’s the fasted growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion a year ($197 billion CAD).

Deputy Mayor Don Cody attended the walk on behalf of the city. He said he’s proud of the hard work volunteers have put in to shed light on an important topic.

“It kind of tells you what Prince Albert’s all about. We’re a very caring city,” he said.

“Is slavery stomped out? No, it’s not,” he added. “Until it isn’t an issue, we have a responsibility I think as a city and as a society to do something about it.”

Prior to the walk, participants gathered in Plaza 88 for refreshments. Representatives from the Prince Albert Sexual Assault Centre and the Prince Albert Safe Shelter for Women had information booths set up.

Andrea Bird, a crisis intervention worker at the shelter, said abuse continues to feel like a hidden topic.

“Often, those who are in it have grown up with it and it’s their normal. They don’t realize necessarily that it’s not okay, it’s not normal and there is freedom from it,” said Bird.

She said some of the signs of abuse are name calling, isolating you from your friends, family or work, threatening to take or hurt your children and physical violence.

If you’re a victim of any form of abuse, Bird said to phone the Safe Shelter for Women at (306) 764-7233.