Tara Teng, Miss Canada 2011, is taking the fight for justice on the road this summer in a cross-country tour that kicks off August 15 in Vancouver.Ignite the Road to Justice will make its way east to 10 major cities across Canada, with a final stop in Toronto from September 1 to 4.
The fourth-year education student will be joined by fellow abolitionist, and former Madam, Tania Fiolleau; recording artist, Kevin Boese; and several human-trafficking informants. The team will partner with key organizations in each community to hold events that provide opportunities to educate and stimulate participation to fight human trafficking. Its goal: “to ignite a powerful, unified, grassroots movement that speaks up for the oppressed.”
In addition to a whirlwind summer travelling through California, Thailand, and Cambodia to speak about social justice and to meet some of the women affected by human trafficking, the 22-year-old also spoke locally on behalf of the Dalit Freedom Network Canada, to highlight how vulnerable groups, such as the Dalits, are at high risk of being exploited.
“I find when you hear about social justice problems you immediately think, ‘That’s awful,’ but the more you learn about it,” she says, “the more you have to start asking yourself hard questions like, ‘How have I directly or indirectly contributed to this injustice?’”
When Teng and her father, Terry, went to Cambodia in partnership with the advocacy group Traffic Jam, they stayed in some of the cities’ red-light districts. “I went to listen and to get a sense of what’s going on in order to come back and share their stories,” she says.
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In June, she spoke at the MTV Freedom Concert in Thailand, in support of the music station’s EXIT to end exploitation and trafficking campaign. The concert brought together Teng’s largest audience yet, a crowd of nearly 40,000 people. The following month, she passed along her Miss BC title; her Miss Canada reign will continue until January 2012. “At the end of that term, I feel like that chapter in my life will come to a close, and I’ll be able to focus more of my attention on the things I’m really passionate about,” she says.
This fall, as a student at TWU’s Laurentian Leadership Centre in Ottawa, Teng will intern with Member of Parliament Joy Smith. Smith has gained support for a new bill that aims to abolish the sex trade by targeting its market.
“I believe in big things,” says Teng. “Last semester, I poured myself into the planning of Freedom Week and spoke at numerous awareness engagements.”
Since then, Teng has been able to look back at the ripple effects caused by her work. She has seen churches declare themselves justice churches, working on their own social justice projects and events; students at a Walnut Grove school write and present letters to MP Mark Warawa; and the beginning of a regular dialogue for Langley stakeholders to address how to take practical steps to traffick-proof the community.
To support Tara Teng and friends on the national Ignite the Road to Justice Tour, visit ignitetheroadtojustice.com.
The Ignite the Road to Justice kickoff event will be held at 7 p.m. on August 15, 2011 at Coastal Church, 1160 West Georgia St., Vancouver, BC.