With continued efforts to bolster awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking, Magdalene House is hosting the Annual Day of Awareness Feb. 22nd.
The dessert reception, which is also a fundraiser to help with local operations, will be held at the Baymont Inn & Suites starting at 7 p.m.
The evening’s guest speaker is Det. Paul Rubner who will bring folks up-to-date on the continuing battle against human trafficking right here in Alberta and beyond.
There is no charge, but those interested in attending are asked to register at Eventbrite.
Donations will also be accepted at the door.
“It’s a two-fold thing – we use it as a fundraiser; we have a silent auction with donated items. And it also gives people an idea of who we are, and what we do and why we do it,” explained Tammy Rogers, executive director of the Magdalene House Society.
Rogers said that Rubner, who is now retired, was part of the Calgary team whose job it was to investigate human traffic cases.
“He is going to speak about his experiences in working with survivors of trafficking, and he’s able to speak and answer questions as to why prosecutions are so low,” she said.
“He can also give some context of (the situation) in Alberta, and he’s also still in contact with some of the victims that he has helped escape that life.”
Although society in general has a better grasp about both the reality and prevalence of human trafficking, there is still plenty of room for growth in terms of awareness, she said, adding that the average ages of recruitment are 13 and 14-years-old.
“People still have the misconception that it happens ‘over there’,” she said. “But 98 per cent of Canadian human trafficking victims are born in Canada.
“So it’s not just ‘over there’. It’s happening in our own backyard.”
It does also tend to be more common on the coasts of Canada, or at major sporting events for example, she added.
“It happens through a number of avenues, and it can happen to any socio-economic group. It can also happen to any age group and either sex,” she said. A spiral of abuse, threats and manipulation typically follows what can at first seem like a promising employment opportunity, for example.
“They show them that love and support, and then they threaten to take it away,” she explained, adding that the resulting trauma runs very deeply. “It can also become a cycle.”
Looking ahead, Magdalene House is starting a new program focused on prevention.
“We are going to be piloting that in a couple of schools here,” she said. “We’re calling it ‘SOS – or ‘Safe on the Streets’ and it is designed for mainly girls at this point between the ages of 11 and 15.
“It will teach them how to recognize the tricks and traps that are used by traffickers,” she said. It will also teach how to recognize if their friends are being lured into trafficking.
“We are framing it in a manner that is not just about keeping yourself safe, but how I recognize if someone I know is becoming a victim, or is being ‘groomed’ by a trafficker. Also, we will be having conversations about consent – what is consent? Or about talking to an adult when you feel like something (bad) is happening,” she added.
Talks on what other local resources are available will also be explored.
“We’re really excited about this – we’ve been working for a couple of years on this to get is up and running, so we are excited that we’ve gotten a bit of funding to help us with that, plus interest from a couple of the schools,” she said.
The program will run through March and April.
For more information about the Annual Day of Awareness or any aspects of Magdalene House programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 587-273-4324. Find them on Facebook at ‘Magdalene House Society’.