“We often think of human trafficking or slavery in other parts of the world… And across our country from Vancouver, all the way out to the Maritimes and right here in Toronto … we have human trafficking that’s taking place in our backyards, “says Shea Invidiata, founder of [free-them], a volunteer-based anti-slavery advocacy group that organizes the walk.
In Canada the two most prevalent forms of human trafficking are forced labour and sexual exploitation, but as Invidiata points out, in other parts of the world, it also encompasses debt labour, child forced labour, organ trafficking and forced marriages.
[free-them] is a stakeholder to the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, implemented in June. Invidiata thinks the federal government has to do more to protect its citizens and people who are crossing its borders.
“If it was me, I would be praying that someone would be coming for my rescue.” — Shae Invidiata, founder of [free-them]
“We’re happy to actually see that we have a strategy, which means that we have some funding, but those funds are not being released in the way they need to [be]”, says Invidiata.
Invidiata’s own awareness of human trafficking began in 2003, when she moved from Oakville, Ontario to Honolulu, Hawaii, to pursue her university education. Her student residence was located on a street where prostitutes worked, known as “candy lane”. Talking to the women she saw regularly, some of them into their early teens, she realized that prostitution had very little to do with the word ‘choice’.
“The more accurate term we should be using is ‘prostituted’. When I learned that word, I was introduced to this word of human trafficking and [I found out] that there’s over 27 million people in slavery today,” she says.
Reach out to victims
Invidiata wants Canadians to reach out to victims of human trafficking.
“If it was me, if I was that 15 year-old, I would be praying that someone would be coming for my rescue. I would be praying that someone would be looking at me like a victim.”
The four-kilometer Freedom Walk is a ‘family affair’. Children and babies are welcome.
“The children are the ones that we are fighting for… And we need to see them,” says Invidiata.
Shae Invidiata, founder of [free-them], talks to Gilda Salomone about human trafficking in Canada and the 4th Annual Freedom Walk.