CEASE Marks 25 Years
Looking Back, Growing Forward: 25 Years of Community Engagement.
The organization known as the CEASE (an acronym for Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation) celebrated its 25th anniversary on June 15th. It grew from community residents mobilizing to address the harmful impacts of street prostitution and drug trade activity in central Edmonton neigbourhoods. This activity increased dramatically in the late ‘80s – early ‘90s with men cruising residential areas preying upon vulnerable children and adults and harassing residents. A key element of the community response was to keep the circle open, listen, and engage diverse voices and stakeholders. The multi-stakeholder committee included formerly exploited women, street outreach and safe house staff, parents whose daughters were on the street, community residents, business associations, police, crown prosecutors, and health professionals.
This community committee focused on short-term solutions and long-term strategies. A key question in the search for a short-term solution was to ask: what activity causes the most harm to the most people and what can we do about it? The answer was the activity of men cruising affected everyone in diverse ways. The action was increased enforcement and the creation of an Adult Alternatives Measures Program, now called the Sex Trade Offender Program. The Ministry of Justice decided that eligible offenders would pay a fee for the program that was equivalent to the fine. These funds were returned to the community because it was the community that had raised awareness of the multiple impacts of harm.
The core priorities were identified as poverty relief, counselling, bursaries, and public awareness. These priorities are still reflected in the CEASE strategies: Heal the Harm, Build for the Future, and Inspire Positive Change.
Community partners helped create CEASE and reflect the adage “it takes a village.” CEASE is grateful to e4c, Boyle McCauley Health Centre – Kindred House, Catholic Social Services, DECSA, REACH Edmonton, and many community partners who collaborate to provide wrap around supports to individuals for various stages of their life journeys.
Thanks to philanthropy and community donors, CEASE has been able to create and sustain these strategies. The Edmonton Community Foundation, the United Way of Alberta Capital Region, the Stollery Foundation, Taillefer Family Foundation, and many others invested in creating hopeful responses. Poverty-relief became the HOPE Fund – Help Others Prosper Equally. The HOPE fund helps with food security, bus tickets and bridging support. Thanks to an anonymous donor, CEASE was able to add one-on-one coaching and a comprehensive approach called HOPE Coordination.
“Build for the Future” became three streams. One is EMPOWER U: Building Confident Futures through financial literacy and matched savings. The second is Building Blocks for Families one-one-one support and system navigation. The third stream is the expansion of the bursary funds to include the CEASE Bursary at MacEwan, the Rachel’s Hope Fund at NorQuest, AWINITA Fund for Indigenous women, and the Blue Sky Bursary and funds from the ECF Eldon and Anne Foote Fund that can be used at any publicly-governed educational institution. “Heal the Harm” includes the Project STAR Victim Advocate program for those who have been victims of the crimes of sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes of violence.
Woven through all these years are the voices of those who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. These include staff and board members. People with lived experience provided input into creating a range of supportive programs that would truly assist people wherever they were on their journey.
The high cost of sexual exploitation is marked each year through the Annual August Memorial to remember all those who have died, whether through murder, suicide, overdose, or illness associated with discrimination, trauma, and poverty.
As CEASE marks 25 years of community engagement, the board, staff, and community members are reflecting on how CEASE can continue to contribute to realistic and positive change.
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of CEASE. She lives in McCauley.