A voice for the victims: Upcoming walk to raise awareness for human trafficking

Participants pose for a photo outside of Prince Albert City Hall at last year's Walk for Freedom. (A21 Walk For Freedom – Prince Albert/Facebook)

Prince Albert the only Sask. city to hold Walk For Freedom

Gen Klingenberg says we often don’t know it, but victims of human trafficking are right in front of us—even in Prince Albert.

She’s the host and coordinator for the local Walk For Freedom coming up on Oct. 19 at Plaza 88. The event runs from 1 to 3 p.m.

The global initiative is hosted by A21, a non-profit organization working to abolish human trafficking. According to their website, it’s the largest growing criminal industry in the world. Human trafficking comes in many different forms, including sex trafficking, forced labour and child soldiers.

“We live in a first world where basically everything is at our fingertips. The victims that are in human trafficking, they have no freedom, they have less dignity, they have no self-worth,” said Klingenberg.

“We have our freedoms, and it’s I feel like our responsibility to bring freedom to those that don’t have it.”

Prince Albert is the only Saskatchewan city taking part in the Walk For Freedom this year. It’s the second annual walk for the city, which held the province’s only event last year as well.

However, this is the sixth annual walk for A21, which reached over 70 million people in 2018.

“Prince Albert is a gateway city of Saskatchewan and unfortunately it can also be a gateway for a lot of other things,” said Klingenberg.

She said a lot of human trafficking victims in the city are Indigenous people. They come to Prince Albert trying to escape addictions and other social issues, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking.

“It’s not something easy to advocate for because it’s so sensitive and a lot of people don’t want to talk about the young ladies that are on a corner street and many of them are there because they’re forced to. It’s not their choice,” she said.

“They just don’t have a way of escaping.”

Participants can register when they arrive at the Walk For Freedom or in advance online at www.a21.org/walk.

Klingenberg said they’re selling black merchandise that reads ‘abolish slavery with every step’ in orange. She said the colour black represents unity.

As of Tuesday morning, about 50 people had registered for the walk in Prince Albert. Klingenberg said she’s expecting between 100 and 125 people.

Participants will be handing out flyers that contain some eye-opening Canadian statistics, such as the fact that each human trafficking victim is worth $280,000 CAD per year.

When asked why human trafficking is something she’s passionate about, Klingenberg said “that victim could have been me.”

“It’s personal because I could have been coerced or trapped into human trafficking because when I was 18, I didn’t have anything when I moved here. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t know anybody.”

According to A21, some of the ways people can be trafficked are through false job advertisements, false immigration, abduction and trafficked by a friend or sold by a family member.

The organization says out of the millions enslaved around the world, only one per cent are rescued.