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Campus staff and students walked in the inaugural Stop Child Trafficking Now event.
Brittany Gailey/the Gauntlet

Walking to stop child trafficking

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University of Calgary staff and students took to the streets this past weekend to combat the purchase and sale of human beings.

The inaugural event in a global initiative to Stop Child Trafficking Now raised funds and broadened awareness for the organization of the same name Sept. 26-27.

Ashley Karg, a fourth-year undergraduate student, was approached to be the Calgary community advisor after holding a benefit concert in February that raised $5,000 for human trafficking advocacy.

Having long had an interest in child and human trafficking, Karg was enthusiastic about having the opportunity to combat the practice.

One of the problems with child and human trafficking, said Karg, is that many people do not know what they can do to fight such a substantial problem.

"I hope that the walk is something that will perk interest. University is the place we learn about a lot of issues in the world. I hope this will be a starting point for a wider awareness," she said.

Karg is hopeful that the event can be expanded as more people are motivated to get involved, "I'd love to see it become an annual campus-wide event."

Calgary is one of three Canadian locations and one of 40 worldwide to hold the walk this weekend. Karg said the majority of funds raised came from private donations.

"A lot of people are responding from the community, it's really great," she said.

According to a recent National Post article, the RCMP estimates that 800 women and children in Canada are trafficked for prostitution each year. Advocacy groups suggest there could be as many as 15,000 each year. According to the SCTN website, child trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world.

Trafficking children in the sex industry follows the basic economic principle of supply and demand. Research conducted by SCTN reveals that funding efforts to support "the deterrence and eliminate the demand fueling this heinous crime is the most effective [method used to address child trafficking issues.]"

Donations are sent to SCTN and used to hire special operative teams to track and gather evidence against child predators for prosecution.

"Rescues are necessary but the demand is so high that once someone's rescued they'll find someone else," she said.

By convicting predators, the source of the problem is destroyed.

Only a limited number of convictions worldwide have occurred over the last decade. Earlier this month, the first human trafficking charges in Western Canada were laid since the crime's recognition in the Criminal Code of Canada in 2005.

Police rescued three women who were allegedly being forced to eat, sleep and perform sex acts for money at a spa in Edmonton. Two people have been charged with human trafficking.

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