Inaugural Ottawa Freedom walk marches to Hill

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They stopped vehicles in the nation’s capital Saturday in a bid to end human trafficking.

“We believe that we should stand against it,” said Claudie Finlay of Gatineau.

“Be the voice of the victims, their families, and not let a Canadian woman or daughter, or even her son be (part) of something as horrible as this.”

Finlay and sister, Danielle Procek, were two of more than 200 participants in Ottawa’s inaugural [free-them] Freedom Walk.

Finlay seemed keen on spreading the word.

“We’re from a very privileged environment,” said Finlay.

Procek was visiting from London, Ont. and said her sister opened her eyes about human slavery.

“I was really touched by the presentations, the speakers,” said Procek.

By the end, she realized “it’s everywhere. It’s in our own neighbourhood, in our backyard.”

The event, coinciding with the 5th annual Freedom Walk in Toronto, began at the Ottawa Convention Centre with speeches, followed by the 4K walk, wrapping on Parliament Hill.

Notables included survivor Simone Bell and Ottawa Police Det. Carolyn Botting.

“It’s a very dark subject, and something that’s in the dark can never be in the light, and in order to combat this type of crime, we need to bring awareness to it,” said [free-them] executive member Randy Phipps.

“Human trafficking is not just a Third-World issue.”

Ashley Elliott of Kanata coordinated the event.

“I think it went beyond our wildest dreams,” said Elliott.

The key message, she said, will hopefully resonate with attendees.

“We need to be a country that doesn’t just turn and look the other way and pretend it’s not happening, but actually engages the issue, talks to our young boys about the issue. I hope that dialogue just starts,” said Elliott.

The cause became personal, she said, following a 2008-09 trip to Thailand where she worked in the red-light district.

“Once you see young girls being sold to Western men for sex, it’s very difficult to look in the other direction,” said Elliott.

Upon returning, Elliott said she began researching and discovered human are being trafficked in Ottawa-Gatineau, too.

“It was really just an eye-opener. I grew up in Ottawa, local girl, and thinking, ‘if I don’t know about this, then other people don’t know about this, obviously.”

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Twitter: @kellyroche6

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