Mira Gillis appeared in a public service announcement video by World Vision Canada that spoke about products connected to child labour practices. Photo courtesy of World Vision Canada

Catholic teen speaks out against child exploitation

By  Vincent Pham, Youth Speak News
  • February 7, 2019

Mira Gillis wants to be a voice for the voiceless and she’s not going to stop until she is heard.

The 16-year-old recently took up the role as one of 10 national youth ambassadors for World Vision Canada. As one of her first projects, she joins her fellow ambassadors in an awareness campaign that condemns child exploitation. 

“When we think of child exploitation, we don’t necessarily see it as a current problem. We see it as a problem that’s happening in another country,” said Gillis, a Grade 11 student at F.J. Brennan Catholic High School in Windsor, Ont. “Sadly, the products that we get in Canada are created through forced labour and child exploitation.”

Gillis and her fellow ambassadors are collecting signatures for an online petition that calls on the Canadian government to pass a law requiring companies to inform the public if child exploitation and forced labour was involved in the manufacturing of their products. The petition has gathered more than 52,000 signatories but the youth ambassadors are not stopping there. 

These efforts are part of World Vision’s “No Child for Sale” campaign which is pushing for the introduction of  Supply Chain Transparency legislation which will allow public greater awareness of the product manufacturer origins. The government is expected in mid-February to respond to a Commons report from the International Human Rights subcommittee that calls for legislation to end child labour in supply chains.

“Mira has really taken it to the next level in engaging her school, reaching out to the media and even having meetings with three other MPs in her region,” said Justin Park, public engagement coordinator. 

Besides her role with World Vision, Gillis is a member of F.J. Brennan’s student council and an active parishioner at Most Precious Blood Parish in Windsor. She is one of the youth leaders of the parish youth group. Gillis has talked to many of her peers about the importance of supporting the petition. 

“I think we live in a time where there is a lot of change occurring around us and I want to be a part of that change,” she said. “I wanted to prove to other people that there’s a positive outlook on life and that we can be part of the positive change to turn the world around.” 

Gillis found out about the national youth ambassador program while she was looking around the World Vision Canada website. 

“My school and my family sponsor children through World Vision, so I was familiar with the organization,” she said. “Then I saw that the ambassador position was open so I decided to apply. With all my community involvement, they accepted me for the role.” 

World Vision is a humanitarian organization focusing on humanitarian response, community development and advocacy work — all for the wellbeing of children. 

The first year of the two-year program is focused on training the youth in advocacy work. In the second year, youth ambassadors will choose a particular World Vision issue to support.

“Really what they (national youth ambassadors) are trying to do is to raise awareness about the need for Canadians to help children beyond our borders, children that are considered to be the most vulnerable,” said Park.

The issue of child labour has resonated with young people, said Park, because many products which Canadians use every day have a “high potential” in being connected to child labour practices.

Along with the petition, the ambassadors also created a public service announcement video which spoke to the realities of child labour and what Canadians can do. 

Gillis said her Catholic upbringing has been a huge influence in her life. Growing up in the Church inspired her to bring positive change to the world around her, she said.

“Age does not define what we can do,” she said. “If you are passionate for a cause, use your voice because you’re your own person and everyone is entitled to pursue whatever they love.”

More information about the No Child For Sale campaign and the petition is online at www.worldvision.ca/no-child-for-sale.

(Pham, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Chaminade College School in Toronto.)

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