BY LIA RENAUD
EDITOR’S NOTE: First of a series exploring social justice issues from a Canadian perspective.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
I have been interested in social justice issues for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Woodstock, Ont., a small city of 36,000, community participation was encouraged. There were many different ways for me to get involved and endless opportunities to explore my interests. Throughout the years, I have been involved with community welfare, youth work, adult education/programming, advocacy and fundraising.
When I went back to university in my mid-20s, I even changed my program choice from business to social justice and peace studies. I did this in order to further explore my interest in social justice and community understanding and support my core beliefs of optimism in human nature.
During my studies I was exposed to a variety of issues and encouraged to reflect on injustices, locally and globally.
I participated in experiential learning trips (locally and internationally), attended academic conferences/lectures and even had several opportunities to hear some of the most renowned and influential voices in peace leadership. Hearing American author Dr. Maya Angelou recite poetry or having lunch with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa are unforgettable experiences I cherish dearly.
In addition to the academic understanding of oppression and injustice, I have had the opportunity to hear first hand about human rights abuses. Learning from torture survivors, human trafficking survivors, ex-guerrilla fighters and other marginalized groups/individuals inspired me to learn more about the various lifestyles and challenges of others.
All these various experiences have pushed me to take action. This month I will be walking from Halifax to Moncton to raise awareness about human trafficking trends in the region.
It may surprise many people to learn that Atlantic Canada has been identified as a starting point for trafficking, especially sex trafficking, which primarily affects females and disproportionally affects Aboriginal communities.
In August, I will be travelling across Ontario to raise awareness for post care for human trafficking survivors with a friend who was enslaved for eight years.
Through advocacy and education campaigns, I hope to help create a better understanding of human trafficking, an awareness of the increasing need for safe communities, and the reality of widespread human rights violations within our communities.
For the next six weeks in the Truro Daily News, I will be exploring social justice issues from a Canadian perspective. The purpose of this column is to dispel misconceptions and encourage understanding about diversity in this community.
The stories are not to promote certain identifiable groups but rather to create opportunities for community members to share their experiences and for readers to confront their own prejudice.
My goal is to incorporate the lived experiences of our own community members who have faced prejudice in various forms: age discrimination, disability, employment, family status, gender identity, housing, mental health, racism, religion and sexual orientation.
Opening your mind and heart to others gives an opportunity to grow (spiritually, mentally and emotionally). We may not always understand “differences” totally, but it is essential to promote inclusive communities, human dignity and freedom from fear where we live.
I hope this series will encourage you to make a difference, become informed about the many voices of Colchester County, and participate in the process to promote positive change.
I am inspired by active community members who are conscientious, informed and compassionate.
Finally, I am thankful that the staff at Truro Daily News encourages this opportunity to embrace people and situations more openly.
Lia Renaud is a recent graduate of Western University in London, Ont., and is happy to be now living in Colchester County.