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‘It’s happening here’: Human trafficking summit in Kentville to educate public on crime, warning signs

Russ Sanche has worked to fight human trafficking abroad, where he saw children without identities disappear from small villages. He saw the same thing happening in Calgary, and now sees potential for it to start happening in the Annapolis Valley.
Sharon Agius has organized a summit on human trafficking in the Annapolis Valley with the goal of educating people on the crime’s presence in the area, along with how to spot warning signs. Among the speakers will be Portal director Russ Sanche, who is pictured here. - Sara Ericsson

KENTVILLE, N.S. – A Kentville woman is hopeful that talking about the presence of human trafficking in the Annapolis Valley will teach people how to spot the warning signs and help stop it from happening.

Sharon Agius has worked for more than five years with female survivors of sexual abuse and violence, and says she was inspired to organize a summit on the issue after speaking with acquaintances about the tragic case of Maddison Fraser, the Yarmouth resident who was trafficked, and later severely beaten and tortured before dying in a car accident in Edmonton.

Her mother, Jennifer Holleman, will be among those speaking at Agius’ event called ‘Taken: A Conference on Human Trafficking in the Annapolis Valley.’ It will take place Feb. 16 at 9 a.m. in the New Hope Wesleyan Church in Kentville.

Kings County News has interviewed a young woman on her experience as a human trafficking survivor. She said she could not leave her trafficker because “I didn’t see any other choice. The pimps made us feel loved, but really we were trapped – there was no choice,” she said.
Kings County News has interviewed a young woman on her experience as a human trafficking survivor. She said she could not leave her trafficker because “I didn’t see any other choice. The pimps made us feel loved, but really we were trapped – there was no choice,” she said.

“It’s now time for this to really get out there – it’s happening here, and people need to know about it,” says Agius.

Agius began reaching out to other members of her church asking if they knew anyone who’d been impacted by human trafficking or was an expert on the subject. She soon found it was something many are eager to speak on.

“It’s amazing how much this has taken off – how people want to speak, and how many others want to know what we are talking about,” she says.

RCMP Const. Kelli Gaudet will also be among those speaking at the event.
RCMP Const. Kelli Gaudet will also be among those speaking at the event.

The event will also include presentations from RCMP Const. Kelli Gaudet, Portal director Russ Sanche, and a testimonial from a human trafficking survivor who will be present at the event.

Agius says the goal is for those attending – the event is open to all over the age of 12, with minors accompanied by an adult – to learn about how to spot warning signs that a person is either at risk, or currently being groomed by a trafficker.

Being educated and aware is the community’s best tool in stopping the crime “right in its tracks” and preventing more people from becoming targeted, says Agius.

There are currently more than 100 people registered to attend.

“We understand girls are terrified of speaking, so we need their parents and other people who they know to speak out for them, to support them,” says Agius.

“Too many young people are disappearing whose parents don’t know why. The more we learn, the more we see, the more we’re finding out this is happening in the Annapolis Valley.”

Registration is required to attend. To register, contact Sharon Agius at 902-670-1730.

No cameras or recorders will be allowed at the event due to the sensitivity of the information being shared.

Sara.Ericsson@Kingscountynews.ca

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