Earlier this year in Nelson, I had the pleasure of meeting members of a grassroots enterprise called Justice at the Junction to discuss world slavery and other justice issues. One member of this group, Dean Siminoff, is the head instructor of the Kootenay Christian Martial Arts schools in our area and founder of Martial Arts For Justice.
Thanks to Dean and others, their Breaking Boards, Breaking Chains campaign raised $16,000 in 2014, bringing awareness and support to the victims of slavery and oppression in third world countries. This year they are hoping to exceed those numbers.
The demonstration of board breaking and traditional weapons at the Nelson Civic Theatre on April 18, and the showing of the movie Karate Kid afterward, were a great step in that direction, as was the Pete Seeger Memorial fundraiser on Jan. 31.
Although the issue is not highly reported in Canadian media, some statistics brought to my attention leave little doubt that this is indeed a cause worth supporting. In Canada, according to the RCMP, between 800 and 1,200 people are trafficked through the country annually, many for the purposes of prostitution and forced labour.
Meanwhile, on the global stage, the number of people held in slavery has been put as high as 36 million. The penalties for human trafficking are seldom enforced. For example in India, slave owners are more likely to be hit by lightning than to go to jail.
Events like Breaking Boards, Breaking Chains can make a big difference in the lives of many people both here at home and in the developing world. Martial Arts for Justice has partnered with the International Justice Mission, an NGO whose mandate includes protecting poor people from violence, ensuring crimes are prosecuted, and working to rehabilitate and support the survivors of slavery, abuse, and marginalization. I recently read a chilling account of the world of human trafficking written by the founder of International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen.
A tremendous amount of effort is needed to end this despicable practice in the world. All funds raised from admission to demonstrations like the one on April 18 as well as donations received go directly to the International Justice Mission.
Martial Arts for Justice and their affiliated group, Justice at the Junction, continue a great tradition of West Kootenay residents supporting important causes and making a difference. I am proud of the work that these great citizens are doing and I would encourage everyone to keep an eye out for future events in the area.
As a student of karate for the last 40 years, I am happy that the martial arts potential to help humanity is being realized in this way and I offer the members of Martial Arts for Justice my full support and encouragement in their great endeavour.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.