The Catholic Register
September 17, 2023
Human Trafficking

CWL advocacy prompts trafficking awareness

CWL advocacy prompts trafficking awareness

Donna Aldous of Saskatoon’s St. Anne’s Parish CWL hoists the flag declaring Human Trafficking Awareness Day Feb. 22.

(Photo courtesy Diocese of Saskatoon)

  • avatar
    Quinton Amundson
    The Catholic Register

Resolute advocacy beginning in September 2022 by the Catholic Women’s League council at St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon paid instantaneous dividends in spawning enhanced community awareness about human trafficking.

Members Anne Ashcroft and Donna Aldous said it was beyond their expectations that they would be able to mobilize Saskatoon City Council into declaring a Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Feb. 22. This date was proposed because Feb. 22, 2007, was the date the House of Commons unanimously voted to condemn all forms of human trafficking and slavery.

“One of our city councillors told us to get on the City of Saskatoon website and fill out a form to request a flag-raising ceremony,” said Ashcroft. “This was in early November. We thought, ‘okay, there is no way we could get this ready or even proclaimed for Feb. 22, 2023.’ Unbeknownst to Donna and me, the council must have expedited our request. We were not scheduled to speak about this until the end of November, but beforehand we received notification that our request was received and approved.”

Fifty people braved the freezing weather to attend the flag-raising ceremony at city hall. Ashcroft told attendees that “as a concerned mother and grandmother, I recognized that action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. Awareness is the first step.”

Aldous added that “knowing about this will create passion and the will to do something about it.”

A blue ribbon donned by attendees represented “the sadness of those trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell human beings,” said Ashcroft.

Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen affirmed that “these are difficult issues, and we must confront them.”

Aldous told The Catholic Register that she first became compelled to become an anti-trafficking activist in her city after hearing Joeline Magill present to the St. Anne’s CWL council. Magill serves as the executive director of Hope Restored Canada, a non-profit that offers an eight-bed safe house, counselling and life skills supports for survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“I thought right then and there that we needed to do something even if it was something small,” said Aldous. “It was a real awakening. To think this was going on and I had no idea. It blew my mind.”

According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons in Canada report released by Statistics Canada last December, Saskatchewan is one of three provinces — the others being Nova Scotia and Ontario — with an incidence rate of human trafficking per 100,000 people above the national average of 1.4 incidents. In 2021, Nova Scotia’s figure was 5.3, Ontario’s was 2.3 and Saskatchewan’s 1.8.

Aldous informed her parish CWL president Pat Ballantyne of her desire to get something done. Ballantyne informed her that Ashcroft oversaw resolutions, but she was away on holiday in Ireland. Upon Ashcroft’s return, the two ladies joined forces and ultimately achieved their first goal.

Their next effort is pushing for Feb. 22 to be human trafficking awareness day across all of Saskatchewan in time for 2024.

“Every time we talk about it we become more aware,” said Aldous. “Many years ago, the federal government declared Feb. 22 as the date so I am unsure why we are all so slow in getting the message. This needs to be provincial and it needs to be in towns and cities. We need to take it to heart.”

Ashcroft said “I feel confident” that the CWL’s Saskatchewan Provincial Council will act upon the resolution she and Aldous filed in time for the prairie province to be the third to adopt an anti-trafficking awareness day, joining Ontario and Alberta.

Complementing her push for increased civic engagement, Aldous also organized a steak night and silent auction fundraiser that generated over $3,000 for Hope Restored Canada.

Magill, also a founding vice chair of Hope Restored Canada, said the CWL in Saskatoon has “been a really positive connection” for Hope Restored Canada because they are “raising great awareness about the work that we do.”

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