While touring Over 18 this past fall, I got to meet a lovely new friend in Saskatchewan named Jodi Kozan. This vibrant, generous, joy-filled woman is a founding director of Hope Restored Canada, a new organization with a vision to end sexual exploitation and trafficking. I’m so excited for you to meet her!
Why does the issue of human trafficking resonate with you, and what was the tipping point that made you want to take action?
The word restoration connects to me personally because I’ve experienced it myself. After sharing my own story and leading in various capacities with women’s issues, marriage events and local seminars – all addressing issues of the heart – I learned about the global epidemic of human trafficking through incredible films like She has a Name, Red Light Green Light and Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.
But what really opened my eyes has been hearing personal stories of families affected by trafficking here in Canada was the tipping point for me. When I heard Ed and Linda Smith’s story of how their only daughter – prostituted and pregnant – went missing and was murdered on the streets of Vancouver, I was was absolutely heartbroken. Although I met them years later, it dawned on me that their tragedy coincidentally happened the year I married Tim and was settling into our nice and cozy condo here in Saskatoon. This made me realize how oblivious we can all be in our lives to what really goes on in your own backyard.
I was inspired to learn that Ed Smith continues to share their story at local John Schools in an attempt to help rehabilitate the johns so they don’t re-offend. He does this in hope to turn evil experiences into hopeful opportunities, which is simply phenomenal.
The more research I did on human trafficking, the more loopholes I saw, which led me to a place where I longed for Canada to take action in a greater way. Little did I know that when I resigned from an organization I was leading for over 16 years in 2015, I was being prepared for this current assignment. I was asked to step into leadership in some capacity by two different groups addressing this issue, and that challenge scared the heck out of me, but hey – I think we are called to “do it afraid.”
What have you learned about this issue in the last couple years that was surprising to you?
How naive we are as North Americans. We live in our little bubbles when it comes to social justice issues, especially in our own backyard.
The truth is, 93% of trafficked victims in Canada are Canadian. I weep with our Aboriginal people because there’s an overrepresentation of Indigenous women and girls in our country who are trafficked and exploited. It angers me that the average annual profit for each trafficked victim in Canada is $280,000. Child molestation, sexual abuse and various vulnerabilities can predispose our citizens to traffic others or wind up being trafficked or exploited themselves.
I’ve educated myself about the controversy between pro-prostitution advocates and abolitionists who truly want to radically change our culture. From my vantage point? It is not the “oldest profession”, it is the “oldest oppression.” Evil claims and chains every victim in it’s path – the pimp, the buyer (or john), the prostituted and exploited person and also the sideliner who judges harshly or whose heart has grown cold. I’ve been surprised by the fact that I’ve grown more in empathy and love for all people to be restored into healthy relationships.
What role do healthy relationships play in the process of restoring trafficking survivors?
As Gene McConnell of Authentic Relationships International says, “shame is the greatest sabotage of healing. We cannot heal what we hide.” Authenticity is the key to healthy relationships, but sadly shame holds people in bondage. That applies to all people, regardless of what oppression they’ve been under. So to mentor, coach or offer professional counselling to someone who has normalized unhealthy relationships and equates shame with relationship requires unwinding the bad tapes in their brains. This takes time.
Sexual exploitation is the trafficking of vulnerabilities, so if one has experienced distorted relationships for a prolonged season, it takes great patience and time to restore and renew. I believe it’s possible for any person who has experienced hell on earth to catch a glimpse of heaven through a journey of restoration in one’s own soul, heart and mind.
What do you see as the biggest need in the fight against trafficking in Canada?
(Outside of continued government and legal reform alongside stiffening laws and penalties for pimps and johns?) Awakening my fellow courageous Canadians to not only be educated on the issue but to be focused and deliberately collaborative in the cause. We can say we value equality and partnerships, but unless we live it out with a greater sense of teamwork and a fiery passion and belief that each life is worth fighting for, we are doomed for failure. No one agency, nonprofit, leader, transition home, or outreach initiative is going to solve the massive problem of trafficking.
Restoring honour and fostering a spirit of collaboration is the greatest need in our country, as we are easily swayed to be overtly independent. All aspects of abolition work is important: advocacy, education, prevention, outreach, holistic restoration, social service agencies, faith-based groups, government efforts (local, provincial, federal), policing, and legal reform.
What would you say to people who feel overwhelmed by the topic but want to get involved in some way?
It’s an overwhelming topic, but we can’t just wish it will go away. You don’t have to start a nonprofit, become a social worker or go on a missions trip (although they are all awesome callings too) to make a difference in this area! We can simply be more mindful of making a difference right where we are. There are tons of places to volunteer, give financially to organizations in dire need who are making a difference, or if engaging your faith in prayer if that is your forte and focus – go for it!
I don’t want to be trite and give a list of how to’s or simple steps to go about doing that, as it is such a personal journey.
But here’s a question for all of us: how often do we degrade another human being?
We can all take inventory of our thoughts, words and actions and treat others with respect and honour. We can hone in on the golden rule of “loving our neighbour as ourselves,” and hold each other accountable when we see degradation happen at home, in the locker room, office or anywhere in our communities.
Our hearts are called to be awakened to the injustice of sex trafficking and exploitation so we must guard our hearts first, then engage our families and core communities in this dialogue in order to truly make a difference in the world. Solo vigilantism goes only so far. We all need to band together to join hands, hearts and feet to transform a culture that’s over-sexualized and normalizes domination and manipulation.
We were created for so much more! Listen to the longings in your heart for what that “more” is. Dig deep, pray, journal. Seek out counsel, coaching, or pastoral support. Don’t just stew about feeling helpless, step out and challenge your own status quo and reach out to others who share your passion for action. There are great resources to understand compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and triggers so we don’t get sick or overcome by the burdens we feel we’re meant to carry. It’s learning what to do with that burden that’s truly life-giving.
What are three things most people wouldn’t know about you?
Tim and I have four grown daughters in college and career mode. We love our acreage pooches – Teddy (golden retriever) and Laiah (chocolate lab) – who sit outside on our porch and wag their tails with such unconditional love. It took me awhile to understand pet lovers, but my girls wooed me in. I’m a dual citizen of the US and Canada, as my Canadian beau swept me off my feet in 1990, so I am proud to say that I am “more Canadian” since I have lived here longer!
Before entering the world of nonprofit formations, I have a colourful history of singing in musicals, being an 80’s rock chick and avid volleyball player. Pageants and modelling sought to lure me in to define my identity, but I too had to go through my own soul searching to realize the world’s perception of beauty and significance has nadda to do with what truly matters from the core of our purpose for living.
Tim and I will be married 27 years this summer, and I’ll always remember the symbolism on our guest book at the wedding where we had miniature flags on the table with our saying “Love knows no boundaries.” We can really take that slogan everywhere. It which supersedes all forms of political and religious arguments that seek to divide, because without love, we’re all just clanging cymbals.
How can people connect with you and get involved with what you’re doing?
People can connect with Hope Restored Canada by visiting the website, or via facebook and instagram. Now is a great time to engage with us as we’re in the midst of launching membership for both individuals and organizations. It is our hope to form an alliance of like-minded people who are desiring to do their part to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in our nation. Here is the online link to become a member.
We’ll be offering events and online webinar training so people can engage in regardless of where they live. We’re launching in Saskatchewan this year but it is our desire and hope to expand. Although I’m the launch leader at this moment, numerous men and women will be sharing their time and talents at this venture. These people have been involved in our 18 month steering team phase alongside our board of directors. By growing our membership, we look forward to engaging more voices and ideas.