#minorsextrafficking | Horrors of human trafficking explained to students

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WARNING: This story contains graphic language and descriptions of human trafficking. The presenter is a survivor of human trafficking and she explains in detail that some might find disturbing or offensive. Reader discretion is advised.

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Human trafficking can be found anywhere, even in small Northern Ontario towns.

That was the message delivered by Leona Skye Grandmond – a human trafficking victim, Robin Kerr – executive director of Victims Services of Algoma and OPP Constable Bev Gauthier.

Skye was invited to relate her story of being a human traffic survivor to people in the area by the East Algoma OPP and Victims Services of Algoma – which covers the region from west of Sault Ste. Marie to Spanish.

They spent three days in October in this area speaking to elementary and high school students, as well as parents in Elliot Lake, Blind River and Thessalon about human trafficking and how prevalent it is even in small towns.

On a Wednesday afternoon, they were in the auditorium at Ecole secondaire catholique Jeunesse Nord speaking to students from that school and WC Eaket Secondary School.

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Kerr said many believe human trafficking is an issue in large cities, not so. Kerr added that they are noticing a big increase in human trafficking.

“(Human trafficking) is sexual exploitation of individuals being purchased and sold, strictly for sex,” Kerr said.

She explained that between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, “We assisted 51 first-time reporting individuals. We have some in Sault Ste. Marie, we have people from Bruce Mines, Blind River, Iron Bridge, Spragge and Elliot Lake. It is happening in our communities, and because of that we’ve decided we need to have people come and talk to you to prepare you and help you realize that it is happening and to help you keep safe.

“And it’s not just a girl problem, it happens to boys, it happens to men, it happens to women, it happens to transgender. Your sexual preference you are in danger of being victimized by this.”

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Skye told the students, “I’m here to shake up your world.”

Leona Skye story

Skye is an Indigenous woman from the Pic River First Nation near Marathon, Ontario, and now lives in Niagara Falls. She began being human trafficked by her father when she was four years old.

“My father sold me in his home to his friends for a bottle of booze, a six pack of beer, a pack of smokes, whatever. My dad was a real son of a bitch. In my home I was raped about 60 times before the age of 11.”

At age 11, she returned home from school one day and her seven-year-old sister, who has cerebral palsy, said their father was touching the scars between her legs.

Sky locked her sister in her room and barricaded the door, Sky then ran away from home. A few days later Family Services picked her up, but she ran away again.

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“They actually took me and put me in the London psychiatric hospital to find out what I had done to provoke a full-grown man into committing such heinous crimes against me.”

She had cigarette burns on her legs.

“That was the type of torture I endured at home before I was 11. My dad was a monster.”

Her father had been charged and was in jail.

However, they took Skye to the jail to insisting she apologize to her father.

“They had me so doped up, they pinched me really hard, they hurt me and they told me, ‘You apologize, look what you are doing to your dad’.”

At her first opportunity she ran away from there but without a coat or shoes.

“I ended up in downtown Toronto. Here I was at 11 years old sitting in front of the Eaton’s Centre with no shoes and no coat.”

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She met a young man named Jesus who took pity on her. He got her shoes and a jacket.

“He said ‘little girl you’re not good here.’ So, he took me to Allan Gardens and there were other street kids out there.

“I lived there, and it was cold. We would take park benches and we’d put them together and put newspapers on them. We would huddle together on the park benches to stay warm like a litter of puppies. I was alone and I was scared, but I felt safer on the street than I ever felt at home with my dad.”

She says her father had an alcohol problem.

“He obviously had a head problem to because what kind of a monster does that to someone they love.”

Skye said one day while living on the street a man approach and offered to take her and seven boys for Chinese food.

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“We said ‘Ya, sure a hot meal.’ How cool was that; for months I was eating out of garbage cans.”

As they approached, he told there was a room upstairs where she could shower and clean up. Being 11 years old she felt that would be great.

“The minute I stepped through the door I was grabbed by two full-grown men. I was blindfolded, gagged and tied to a bed.

“I don’t know how long I was tied to the bed. But I was sodomized, I was beaten, I was spit on and I was urinated on. They raped me over and over and over again.”

“When they were done with me, they through me out on the sidewalk after selling me to another pimp.”

The pimp took her to a “doctor” who injected her with heroin and they put her on the corner of Church and Isabella. That was her corner until she was 17 years old.

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“I was addicted to heroin, trying to survive every day. I was sold to the streets.”

She says between the ages of 11 and 16 she estimates she was raped more than 11,700 times.

“There’s got to be a hell of a big issue up here if they got me up here to talk to you.”

She asked the students if they had notices such a problem in this area, and a few raised their hands.

“It’s happening in the homes, it’s happening by uncles, it’s happening by cousins, it’s happening by strangers. All the towns around here are on the highway. Someone could stop, ask you for directions, toss you in the trunk of the car and you’ll never been seen again.”

She added there are hubs in the north, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and North Bay, and then you disappear.

She has a support group for human traffic survivors and some said they witnessed people being brought onto ships on Lake Superior and tossed overboard because they wouldn’t do what they were told.

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“They’ve got human hunting farther up north where they’ll take somebody, strip them naked and spray paint a big orange cross on them and say ‘run’ when there are eight guys behind you with shotguns ready to shoot you. You aren’t getting away.

“Nobody in this room is safe!” she exclaimed.


Question and answer

One person asked how long it took her to trust anyone again?

“I still don’t trust 100%. It took me 51 years to trust another human being with my life. I got married … he’s the most wonderful character and human being I ever met.”

Over the years, she gave birth to three children and adopted another. Her oldest, now 37, she had when she was 17. Her other children are 33 years, 30 years and her adopted child is 29 years. She also has three grandchildren.

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When she was five months pregnant, fearing her unborn child might be affected by drugs, she went to the Addiction Research Foundation “and I asked them to save my baby’s life.”

She kicked her heroin addiction when she was 18. Four months later she gave birth to a nine-pound 1.5-ounce baby. She lost him and it took her more than 20 years to find him. She found him using the Internet.

When she was 26 she gave up alcohol, adding that she was very lucky her children did not have any ill effects because of her drug or alcohol use.

She was asked if she saw her sister, and said she sees her weekly. Her sister lives in a nursing home and also suffers from schizophrenia and is confined to a wheelchair.

She was also asked where her mother was when these things were going on at home?

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Skye said once after being raped she found her mother curled in a ball under a bed crying.

“I don’t know where she was the rest of the times.”

She brought her mother back into her life two years ago. She is now 74.

“She carry’s the name ‘Mother’ in name only.”

And her mother in her senior years was being victimized. A man was even trying to con her mother out of what money she had.

“It happens at every age.”

Sky was also asked what happened to her father.

She said he was sentenced to two and a half years but served 10 months. She said the laws have changed and now focus on the victims.

Skye says she didn’t know what he did was wrong until she was older, which was when she got angry.

“I was 27 when this snapped into place. I knew how to —- – —- before I could tie my shoes because that is what (I was taught) in the house.”

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However, she says she is not her father’s judge.

“(What he did) is between him and the Creator.”

In his later years he was in a home and she saw him every month, “on condition that I could hold his hand while he died. When my dad died (in 2017) he made sure I was there holding his hand and I felt death go over his body.”

However, he never really apologized for what he did to her.

Skye says she first spoke of her years of being trafficked at a First Nations conference on human trafficking in Thunder Bay many years ago. There were 51 other trafficked survivors there. She has spoken to many over the years describing what she went through.

“I do not plan in shutting up.”

Skye says to help stop human trafficking people need to keep an eye on each out for each other. It can happen to anyone, it could on a local street or on the internet. Some are just waiting to exploit girls and boys and will use any con to get it.

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She says people want to have sex with children.

“The average age right now in southern Ontario that they are seeking out to have sex with is nine years old.”

She asked how do you protect a nine-year-old from that?

One person shouted, “educate them.”

“Right,” said Skye. “I am here talking to you as my peer group, not as a professional. I sure as hell don’t want any of you ever have to see what I went through.”

She says she has given about 200 such talks in seven years.

She explains that these talks help others and they also help with her healing, which will take a lifetime.

“It’s going to be forever. It’s life long and it’s something I’m very very passionate about.”

Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREYLeona Skye Grandmond was a victim of human trafficking. She now speaks to groups about the horrors of human trafficking. With their backs turned to the camera, she asked the students of Jeunesse Nord and WC Eaket schools to express their feelings on human trafficking.
Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREYLeona Skye Grandmond was a victim of human trafficking. She now speaks to groups about the horrors of human trafficking. With their backs turned to the camera, she asked the students of Jeunesse Nord and WC Eaket schools to express their feelings on human trafficking.


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