When PACT-Ottawa wanted to raise awareness about sex trafficking they put on a play, but now they are talking to Toronto-based Tapestry New Opera about producing an opera.
In the play, The Walk, the story of a trafficked woman is mixed with the struggles of a writer, a nun and a film director who are trying to write a play about sex trafficking.
Human trafficking is an estimated $30-billion industry, which forces 2.5 million people into labour worldwide, according to the United Nations. In October 2011, Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St Paul proposed a bill that would make it possible for traffickers to prosecuted after they leave Canada.
“Education is our greatest weapon,” said Smith, who supports efforts like The Walk to get the story of human trafficking into the public eye.
While the play is loosely based on real life, Cunningham-Huston said she was unsure of how to approach it at first. To research the character, Cunningham-Huston said she interviewed a Nigerian woman who was trafficked as a sex slave.
“He threatened her family in Nigeria and they’ve gone into hiding. Here she is on the other side of the world now and still terrified of this man,” Cunningham-Huston said.
Cunningham-Huston said the woman’s fear made it difficult to interview her.
“It was very tricky, because she was very depressed. She would sit there and she would zone out and her eyes would fill with tears,” Cunningham-Huston said.
Cunningham-Huston said would never have found this woman were it not for PACT-Ottawa, who welcomed the chance to teach more people about trafficking through the play.
For Duncan Baird, director of external relations for PACT-Ottawa, the arts community helps highlight important issues in society.
“Leveraging the arts community is one of the vehicles for getting our message across,” he said.