As both an advocate and a survivor, Kelly Franklin says seeing Canadian politicians declare a national day for human trafficking awareness is a big step to validating the experiences of victims.
“I actually cried because of what this means to validate a victim-survivor experience, what families have gone through, to say Canada cares was the most important message I took away.”
Franklin is the chief executive director and founder of Courage for Freedom, a registered charity focused on delivering front-line support for sexually assaulted minors and raising awareness about sex trafficking.
Monday, Feb. 22 marks the first National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada. On Feb. 15, federal members of Parliament (MP) unanimously agreed on the motion to adopt the day, coinciding with the 2007 declaration to condemn all forms of human trafficking and slavery.
“Canada is saying, hey, this is happening here, and Parliament is acknowledging it, we are standing with victims and survivors, and that’s a big win because when we listen to survivors, the work starts to happen,” said Franklin.
For Franklin, the day will go a long way to helping them raises awareness about the issue and is a way to help hold the government accountable every year for what they are doing to combat the issue.
According to a 2018 Statistics Canada report on trafficking in Canada, 28 per cent of all trafficking victims in the country are under 18, with 75 per cent of all victims under 25.
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At least 60 per cent of all trafficking victims in the country come from Ontario and over 97 per cent of all victims are female.
The government of Ontario reported that the average age for victims targeted is just 13 years old.
For Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, having Feb. 22 declared a national day of awareness was a non-partisan issue.
“I think with one of these topics it’s not party-related, this is something all parliamentarians agree on, and that’s because we see it happening in our own community,” Vecchio said.
“This is an incredible thing where you see everyone has one goal and you don’t see that a lot.”
Vecchio was one of several politicians who helped advocate for the day before formally adopting it. Politicians made a point to take it to debate and talk about the impacts of the day before adopting it.
Feb. 22 is already a day recognized in both Ontario and Alberta and Vecchio said bringing it across Canada is a great way to build on the work the two provinces have already been doing.
For those trying to figure out how to mark the day, Courage for Freedom has a social media campaign to acknowledge it.
Two years ago, Courage for Freedom, along with several victims, launched Project ONroute, a provincial human trafficking awareness campaign in Ontario.
The campaign took over the screens at 20 ONroutes in Ontario for 30 days to spread awareness about human trafficking.
This year, because of the pandemic, the campaign has developed as a virtual social media campaign called the Eradicate Challenge, asking everyone to print off the #Eradicate Challenge signs and share a video or photo holding the sign to spread awareness about the buying and selling of children in Canada.
Full details on the campaign and how to participate are available on the Courage for Freedom website.