Hello Chestermere! It has been a fun-filled week of rain, wind and pretty awful weather, but that is Alberta for you and we are amazingly resilient (resistant? resigned?) when it comes to the charms of Alberta weather patterns and still manage to enjoy the wonderful things our province has to offer. It is heartwarming to see kids playing outside no matter what the weather. We have to let them know its ok to get messy, wet and dirty, in fact I believe it is imperative. I know that my adult children have way too much screen time, and even now as a family we try to organize time that we are off our computers and phones. It is so easy for the day to pass by and to have spent way too much time in front of our computers because the world is happening so fast all around us. I am the biggest hypocrite when it comes to this as I work all the time, and in fact I am on “vacation” right now as I write this article. Our bodies are not designed to sit inside in front of a computer screen or stare at a phone for hours. This has negative effects on our physical and mental health. Being active if you are able, and even just being able to spend some precious hours outside breathing in the air and getting our eyeballs off of our screens is so important. As we become a more and more urbanized and “tech dependent” society playing in the dirt, the garden, a sandbox, a beach or indeed any way we can get outside to enjoy nature is way better for you than checking out social media. For kids, they learn to interact and organize with one another when they play outside. One of the things I love to see is when kids navigate boulders and old tree stumps, judging and assessing the risk in their play. This is super spontaneous and just so much fun. I am one of those adults who regularly plays with kids in their environment, and for me that level of unstructured play (like building a fort) is my favourite thing to do. My adult children are avid fort builders with their young cousins, and I take full credit for that.
I want to chat with you about something very important and difficult. Human trafficking is modern day slavery and it is happening “right here right” now in our own province. Canadian girls are being sold, in some cases by their own family members for drug debts, and are then the property of pimps or so called “boyfriends” who beat them, torture them and force them to have sex multiple times a day with all the money going to their “owners” to whom they are paying off some made up debt. This is happening to all ages, including children. Many young girls are promised dreams of such things like movie contracts, and just plain and simple love, and are soon pulled into the dark underbelly of human trafficking. This is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. In Ontario, girls are being branded with the names of their owners and are bought and sold like cattle. These girls (it is mostly girls) are Canadian, are forcefully confined, and are transported against their will, locked up, and exploited. The victims of these horrendous violations stay because the predators have threatened their families, or threatened to burn or beat them. These girls have been groomed and are manipulated in the most evil ways by pimps who earn upwards of $200,000 per “worker”. I repeat, this is happening right here, right now in our own province. We are working with groups like RESET, ACT, The YWCA Edmonton, to rescue these victims and help them understand their rights. We must remove them from these manipulative and dangerous situations. These victims were looking for relationships and truly believed that their pimps love them. They are so broken that they don’t believe that there is anything for them after this life that they have been living. We will be starting a task force in the next year to take a look at these horrific crimes and look at how to provide more help to survivors. “The girl next door” legislation acknowledges that this crime could be happening right next door and we may not even know it. We will help empower survivors and help them get their lives back. As always we love to hear from you at 403-207-9889 or Chestermere.Strathmore@assembly.ab.ca.