Fresh off his latest production She Has A Name, local author and playwright Andrew Kooman is helping to bring a two-day event to Red Deer in hopes of educating the community about trafficking in Canada.
Raise Their Voice: The Trafficked + Exploited will take place April 15 and 16 at the Scott Block Theatre (4816 – 50 Ave.). The month of April is Human Trafficking Awareness month.
Organized by Red Deer’s Raise Their Voice Against Injustice Foundation, the event will feature workshops, networking, strategic thinking, creative expressions and keynote addresses by leading activists on trafficking in Canada.
“The event is a rare opportunity to meet and learn from Canadians who are working on the front lines to combat human trafficking through advocacy, law-making, and aftercare,” said Kooman. “People can expect to learn about what the trafficking is in Canada and beyond, to network with amazingly creative, passionate, and skilled individuals, and to take further steps in addressing human trafficking in the real world.”
Raise Their Voice, which Kooman helped found in 2008, has invited Glendene Grant, the mother of Jessie Foster, an international endangered missing woman and the victim of human trafficking, to speak at the conference.
Grant will speak on April 15 to tell the chilling story of her daughter and to highlight that human trafficking exists in Canada. Jessie Foster was lured to the U.S.
She went missing from Las Vegas 10 months later.
“She was beaten and hospitalized and forced to work for an escort agency and arrested for solicitation of prostitution,” says Grant. “She was planning on returning to Canada when she disappeared.”
Foster’s disappearance prompted Grant to not only search for her daughter and bring her home alive, but to prevent the same nightmare from happening to anyone else’s daughter.
Foster’s story emphasizes the need for Canada to take a significant step forward in the fight against human trafficking.
Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St. Paul, will deliver a keynote address on April 16 about her National Action Plan to combat human trafficking in Canada.
Smith introduced Bill C-268 which was passed into law last year to assure significant penalties are given to those who traffic children.
The event will also feature a keynote address by Mark Wollenberg, the Western Canadian representative of International Justice Mission (IJM), to highlight the realities of trafficking abroad. IJM is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
A diverse line up of workshops on Saturday morning will be presented by social workers, activists, and creative professionals. Some of the topics include what trafficking is, creatively addressing justice issues, profiles of trafficking victims in Canada and how to turn passion into action.
Members of the public are encouraged to register for the weekend because space is limited. Registration is $99 per person. To register visit www.raisetheirvoice.com.
New fine art, music, and choreography will be presented by various artists during the weekend as well. Raise Their Voice’s mandate is to creatively and effectively address issues of injustice.
“This issue should be important to Red Deerians because trafficking is a local reality,” said Kooman. “The story that Glendene Grant will share is proof. Red Deer needs to develop an action plan, along with other Canadian cities, to combat trafficking to ensure this type of victimization is not tolerated in our City.”