I met Fernie resident Ramona Gliege years ago when we both were volunteering in the classroom at IDES. She exuded warmth and friendliness and I admired her patience with the kids she was tutoring to read. Fifteen years later, as she sits across the table I experience the same friendliness but today her face radiates excitement about a project she is helping to organize for a great cause. Ramona, local Kim Hopkins, and several members from Saskatchewan, Ontario and BC are organizing a Freedom Climb.

Ramona Gliege on the right.

Ramona Gliege on the right.

Held under the auspices of Operation Mobilization Canada(OM) this event will raise funds and awareness for missions worldwide to assist in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.

“The Freedom Climb is so much more than physically climbing a mountain” says Ramona. “I am afraid, I don’t like climbing, and I’m terrified of the edges. But as one woman said once you get hooked, you become passionate about helping.” Ramona mentions US founder Cathey Anderson who saw a great need to help yet realizing she was doing very little. She experienced a vision to climb a mountain to raise awareness and raise funds for women and children. From that vision she came to the conclusion that her own fear of heights is also fear in others of the unknown and by overcoming her own fear she could help those vulnerable others. She saw a need for rescuing to be done from sex trafficking, also seeing it as a three- fold mission, of rescue, prevention and education.

Here in Canada, Joy Smith, a Member of Parliament also shared the same concerns. Smith became an MP in 2004 and is “known as the only member in Canadian history to have amended the Criminal Code twice in order to better protect victims from human Trafficking, Sustained by her faith she continues to work with victims, advocates and law enforcement through the Joy Smith Foundation.

The Freedom Climb happening in Fernie in 2016 has partnered with the Joy Smith Foundation, known for its work to “ensure that every Canadian man, woman and child is safe from manipulation, force, or abuse of power designed to lure and exploit them into the sex trade or forced labour. This is achieved through educating the public and providing funds and support to front line organizations that rescue and rehabilitate victims. Smith will be a speaker at the event. “For the first time in Canada, the Freedom Climb will take a stand and speak out against modern day slavery, exploitation, oppression and trafficking by making the symbolic climb to freedom. This six day climb will cover over 60 kilometers with one overnight camp on the mountain. There will be plenty of time for reflection and personal and group devotions and worship,” states the official brochure.” Ramona has already climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and 2014 she and four other Fernie women climbed in Colorado by piggybacking on the US climb in 2014, supported by nearly 100 donors from town that willingly donated.

15 A Day from Joy Smith Foundation on Vimeo.

“This climb is open to believers and non-believers they just have to fill out the form on OM Canada, if you don’t want to climb you can be part of the prayer team that will pray during the week, the highest sex traffic of kids is in Moldova, there is no industry there, the parents go out of country to look for work and the children are vulnerable, they disappear,” says Ramona”. Adding that “ fundraising is infused in the projects, it doesn’t go to the climbers, we pay our own way.” Download the OM form here: FreedomCircleFlyer_FORM

Weather permitting the climb will include Castle Mountain the first day, with a Three Sisters sleepover and Heiko’s Trail, a day of worship and prayer at Lizard Creek Lodge and then hiking the Lizard Range from Snake or Mammoth side going up Timber, Polar Peak and then the women will climb down together. Pat Gilmar and the Trails Alliance will help in strategy and planning and some members will lead, “they are helping in many ways,” Ramona comments.

The first of several fundraisers planned will be held on Wednesday October 28, a girl’s night out from 7pm till 9 with a mixed media creation craft planned that is going to be a lot of fun says Ramona. This is a tremendous project and I admire these women that will be participating as this is a topic that is truly haunting.

For the past couple of years I have been receiving correspondence from Cathy and Allan Peters who have worked diligently for years to raise awareness of the sex trade here in BC. Their work resulted in a resolution being passed at UBCM. Below is the latest note I received from them. This is a serious issue for many areas of the world that could include our own back yard. I have spoken with the local police Staff Sergeant who says that so far it is a non-issue in the Valley. However Mrs. Peters brings up some good points in her letter that are worth noting although as with some other serious issues sometimes it is easier to ignore them than to actually believe this could happen here.

Dear Mary,

Because of our son’s work in Ottawa working for Manitoba MP Mrs. Joy Smith (St. Paul/Kildonan) who is the expert in the country in this issue of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, we are in an unusual position of knowing a lot about the issue.

While the Federal Government currently has laws in place to stop legalization of prostitution happening, we have discovered that municipal leaders, local police detachments, and even local RCMP forces, do not know a lot about the problem. That is why we are trying, as parents and citizens to raise awareness. (For example I will be presenting again to Nanaimo City Council on Oct. 26.)

As Canadians we do not like these awful topics…my husband and I certainly don’t… But, if you watch the below program from W5 you will see there is a whole world out there that our generation is not aware of.

The good news is that as a civic leader, there is a lot you and your Council can do. Issuing business licenses to any business that could “traffic”, like nail spas, massage parlours, escort services, casinos, dance clubs, can be carefully looked at. Organized crime typically uses these covers. Also, being close to the border (which is very porous) makes Fernie a vulnerable place for traffickers to move their victims, or “set up shop” in brothel-type activities that Americans can access (their laws are much tougher there). We would love to see a conference put together addressing this whole topic…maybe UBCM could sponsor?

Cathy and Allan Peters

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