A Truro woman is marching against what she calls one of Nova Scotia's dirtiest and darkest secrets — human sex trade trafficking.
Lia Renaud said sex slavery starts in the Maritimes more than people think, so she and several supporters are planning to walk from Halifax to Moncton to raise awareness of the issue, taking the route where vulnerable victims are often picked up.
"Women and children and a disproportionate amount of aboriginal women are being trafficked and it's here," she said.
Renaud said victims are targeted just about anywhere, from Highway 104 to the downtown streets of Halifax.
Her group will start the journey Monday morning in Bedford. One of the first stops will be at Millbrook First Nation, where Jessica McDonald is from.
She said she knows all too well how human trafficking works.
"I have people in my family who are involved with prostitution and somebody who literally lived two houses from me who was murdered a couple of years ago," she said.
Human trafficking was added to the criminal code in 2005.
Statistics Canada said human trafficking is a global concern, but "data are limited in scope, incomparable and insufficient to ascertain the true extent of the problem in Canada."
Police wouldn't reveal the number of files in Nova Scotia, but said they are actively working on human trafficking cases.
Predators manipulate victims
They said the hardest part is convincing victims to come forward.
RCMP Const. Sebastian Decaens said in most cases a predator will manipulate their victim to either fall in love with them or make them feel like they need to pay off a debt.
"They would bring them to another city or another province to start dancing. Once again it's to create a habit, a need, and from that they would go to dancing to unfortunately the sex trade market," he said.
Renaud said that's exactly what happened to her friend Stacy.
"She ended up meeting a gentleman. He was a well-respected businessman, also a high-ranking Hells Angel," she said.
After Renaud finishes this awareness campaign, she's heading to Ontario in August where she plans to meet up with Stacy and continue to spread her message.