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Barb Gosse’s crusade to end human trafficking Leaside People: Meet Your Neighbours

BarbBarb Gosse’s route to becoming CEO of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking was certainly not a straight one.

The Airdrie Rd. resident was originally an urban planner who moved to Leaside with her husband more than a quarter century ago. When husband Wayne and Barb were house-hunting in 1991, they weren’t even aware of Leaside as a community. They were living in a tiny house on the Danforth and looking at neighbourhoods like the Beach and Playter Estates. Then, their agent showed them a property on Airdrie, where they would be the second owners of a well-loved house. This one felt right, and has been the home where they raised three sons, all of whom attended local schools and are now adults.

What Barb finds really special about Airdrie are the connections with the women on this street – community-minded and caring. A lot of the women have lived here for a long time, but newcomers are welcomed too. It is a real community, where connections are valued.

A sense of community has become a key to Barb’s interests. While working as a planner, she was also volunteering as part of a team from St. Cuthbert’s Church at the Out of the Cold program at St. Simon’s Church in the 1990s. Her husband remarked that she seemed so energized when she came home from these hard work shifts – why not switch careers to do something in the social justice field?

She certainly had role models in her own life. Her Irish grandmother was awarded the Order of the British Empire at age 90 for her extensive volunteer service, and her mother is part of a group assisting to settle Syrian refugees in a small community east of Toronto.

And so it was that by 2012, Barb had become the senior director of research policy and innovation at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which funded a national task force on trafficking of women and girls in Canada. She described her experience with the task force as “eye-opening. I had never heard of the subject before,” she told me. The task force spoke to 250 representatives across the country working in the field and 150 survivors during the 18 months it took to complete their in-depth study across Canada.

And now, there is the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, a fledgling not-for-profit, with a charitable number, a highly motivated and skilled board of directors and funding to allow them to grow. A significant development is the work they’ve started on a national hotline, modelled on the American and Mexican versions, which they hope to have up and running by the fall of 2018. “In order to have the kind of society we want to live in in 20 years, we have to start creating priorities now,” she said.

Human trafficking occurs in many sectors. We may initially think of escort services, pornography and illicit activities, but it happens with domestic workers, commercial cleaning services, peddling and begging (think of those kids at your door, whom you don’t recognize from the neighbourhood, asking for your money for some cause), and many more.

Young people are being targeted – in high schools, local malls, online – so awareness of the issue is paramount for young people themselves, their parents and neighbours. All of us. If your child starts dressing in-age inappropriate clothing, suddenly owns expensive clothing, or becomes secretive about friends they are meeting outside your home, these could be signs of trafficking.

Barb, along with a law enforcement representative and a survivor of human trafficking, will be giving a presentation at St. Cuthbert’s Church at 1399 Bayview Avenue, on Wed., October 18, starting at 7:30 p.m., with refreshments beforehand. Come, and invite your neighbours too. Let’s help Barb raise awareness of this important issue.

For more information, visit The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking www.CCTEHT.ca.