At an amazing meeting last April, our then Charitable Fund Chair, Mary Jane Waszynski and her committee, arranged for representatives from 19 community organizations and scholarship recipients our club has supported over the years, to speak to us about how much our donations from our fundraising were appreciated. It was a heartwarming night, and I learned a lot about what our charitable donations accomplish. I learned much more this past week when I accompanied Mary Jane to hand deliver our 2018-2019 donations to those organizations. We both felt that by delivering our donations in person, we increased our CFUW community profile and they now have faces to put to our club name.
In the process, we learned that a major issue which many are struggling to help with is that of Human Trafficking in the Niagara Region. I knew that Joy Smith, a former MP, spoke about her work on the issue at the CFUW National 100th AGM in Winnipeg, and that the Ontario Council had prepared background information (Ontario Council Human Trafficking Information) for any club interested in learning about human trafficking.
Initially, on hearing that term, I pictured poor people being smuggled across borders by criminals in third world countries. In actual fact, it is slave labour involving the illegal movement and utilization of people for labour or sex, without their consent. Like sexual harassment and sexual violence cases, this is largely unreported. Girls as young as 13 are being turned into sex-slaves right here in St. Catharines!
The problem is increasing and apparently, Niagara is a major hub for trafficking. In February 2018, Niagara This Week ran an article titled “Protocol targets grim practice of human trafficking in Niagara”. “Young girls and women forced into sexual slavery a harsh reality”. It reported that 15 agencies signed a new “Niagara Region Emergency Response Protocol for Human Trafficking”. The list included several of the agencies we contributed to such as the YWCA, Niagara Regional Sexual Assault Centre (CARSA), Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre and RAFT. The Protocol also includes police, fire departments and agencies representing Indigenous women and is designed to coordinate services needed to deal with human trafficking at a much higher level than in the past. The protocol offers “wrap around services” with a human rights approach so individual victims can decide what services are best for them.
This is an expensive program, and government funding doesn’t cover all the needs. Because of its sordid nature, it is hard to raise public awareness and to attract donors. It often takes victims years of counseling before they can trust enough and are comfortable enough to talk about their experiences. I have now read several such accounts and they are very difficult to think about.
An event called Take Back the Night, organized by CARSA, was held on September 19th to raise public awareness of trafficking. CFUW St. Catharines members attended with our Stand-Up Banner to show our support for the agencies and the victims.
On a more positive note, we learned about three very popular and effective programs for elementary schools offered by CARSA. The Child Assault Prevention Program or CAPP gives children in Grades 1-6 skills and strategies they can use in potentially dangerous or abusive situations including bullying. The information is delivered through role play and discussion. Over 3000 children each year are reached through CAPP. Members of the community are welcome to observe these hour and a half workshops! Just call CARSA for a schedule of presentations.
The Youth Issues Prevention Program focuses on personal safety issues for students in Grades 7-8. Topics covered include bullying/peer harassment, sexual assault/harassment, and strangers. Through discussion and a video they learn to recognize potentially dangerous situations both on and offline.
For Grade 8’s Only is designed to prepare students for situations they may encounter as they transition into high school. These include date rape, acquaintance sexual assault and what are healthy and abusive relationships. Such programs are aimed to make our children less likely to be victims and less susceptible to human trafficking.
If you are interested in forming an interest group about this issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org We certainly have organizations to partner with.