Several Kitimat residents participated in a rally Wednesday (Sept. 9) to raise awareness about child trafficking in Kitimat and around the world.
#SaveOurChildren became a trending hashtag, as groups protested to raise awareness about child trafficking and pedophilia and to call for harsher punishments for traffickers and pedophiles.
Raelyn MacCulloch was one of the organizers of the Kitimat #SaveOurChildren rally and said she decided to hold the event because she knows people who have had to deal with issues of pedophilia and child molesting in the past.
“A lot of my friends, they have had issues regarding pedophilia and stuff like that” MacCulloch said. “I actually know two young girls, I was hanging out with them five minutes prior to them getting picked up, abducted to a rock pit in Prince George, molested, and brought back to where we were sledding. And I was literally there, like, five minutes prior.”
MacCulloch also has children of her own, which is a large part of the reason why she got involved in the movement.
“And I have young kids as well. So, I’ve got three kids, and I definitely would go to jail if someone did something to them,” MacCulloch said. “I feel I found one of my callings [with this rally] and my kids, well one of my kids, are enjoying it and being out here.”
MacCulloch’s daughter, Harlyn, made a bunch of the colourful signs, and she was happy to get her children involved with the rally so they can see things they should be fighting for, as well as know what isn’t okay when it comes to their relationship with adults.
“I feel like it’s something definitely to get my kids involved in, so they know. And it’s so normalized now, per say, that I need to teach them it’s not.”
Mary Amaral is a resident of Kitimat, who decided to get involved with the rally after becoming more aware of and informed about child trafficking and pedophilia.
“The children, they have to be protected. All this evil has to come out. From the dark and to the light,” Amaral said. “And we have to be their voice, because a lot of the time, things are muffled and put back and nothing is ever resolved.”
Amaral said her children are all grown up and she has no grandchildren, but she still feels a duty to help protect children in Kitimat and across the country stay safe from traffickers and pedophiles.
“We have to, I think as a country, as a city, whatever, we have to make sure the children are protected. And the evil has to stop. And those who are responsible for these horrible deeds and stuff, they have to be punished,” Amaral said. “Things have to come out, it can’t just stay the way it is.”
Ellis Ross, Skeena MLA, also made an appearance at the rally, though he wasn’t aware it was happening until he saw it. However, he said he was proud of the participants, as the issue is something he holds close to his heart.
“Number one, because I know it’s a problem that plagues us as society, including First Nations, all across Canada. And number two, I’m a father of two girls,” Ross said. “It was always a cause of mine to make sure those closest to me never got affected by it. And so when I became a politician, I tried to make my views known, that I do not condone that type of behaviour.”
Ross coached a girls’ basketball team for a while, and said he always tried to help shape the minds of the girls on the team, trying to help teach them how to protect themselves and how to be more self-aware in terms of dangers that are out there.
He said he doesn’t know how exactly to translate the issue into anti-trafficking or other forms of legislation and policy, but that awareness across the public is a good place to start.
“[Raelyn] and her cohorts there, that’s pretty courageous to do that. To go public and say, you know, we’ve got to condemn this type of behaviour,” Ross said.
#SaveOurChildren rallies have been happening across Canada and North America throughout August and the beginning of September. From Denver, to Regina, New York City and Calgary, protests, marches, and rallies have been popping up across the continent as people work to bring awareness to child trafficking and related issues.
However, even with good intentions for the most part, such as the rally in Kitimat, response to the rallies has been mixed because of the recent connection between a similar hashtag, #SavetheChildren, and the conspiracy theory group, QAnon, which makes exaggerated claims that the world is run by a secret group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against U.S. President Donald Trump, while also operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.
Many of the QAnon followers also believe that, along with molesting children, members of this Satan-worshipping group kill and eat their child victims, to extract a ‘life-extending chemical’ from their blood.
#SavetheChildren started as a hashtag used for fundraising by a legitimate anti-child-trafficking organization, but was hijacked by QAnon to be used as a recruiting tactic. Essentially, QAnon used the hashtag on posts with false and exaggerated claims about child trafficking, in the hopes of attracting the attention of a new audience — worried parents being their key target.
MacCulloch confirmed that their rally was in no way connected with the QAnon movement, and she was glad people understood it to be a legitimate rally against child trafficking. She also said she felt the turnout at the rally was okay, but could’ve been better.
“I feel like more people should’ve and could’ve came,” MacCulloch said. “I just wish Kitimat did a better job at coming and supporting our kids.”
The event took place during the afternoon, which a few people said meant they couldn’t make it because they had to work.
“The rally was a good idea, but it was during most people’s work day,” Kerri Sorenson commented on a Kitimat Northern Sentinel Facebook post about the event.
However, many also commented that, though they couldn’t join, they made sure to honk and wave to show their support as they drove by.
MacCulloch said she enjoyed the rally, and was glad people showed support, even if they couldn’t attend. Going forward, she wants to continue raising awareness about the issue and finding support and help for those who have been victims.
“I do want pedophiles in Kitimat and everywhere else to know that they are not welcome,” MacCulloch said. “I want people to know that me, myself, that I can speak for, I’m not going to stop when it comes to getting pedophilia basically gone. Harsher sentences, you know. They shouldn’t be protected, we should be able to know, because you can’t find them on the court registry, it’s hidden. I want that to change.”