KAMLOOPS - When Jessie Foster went missing her mother Glendene Grant didn’t plan on becoming an anti-human trafficking activist. She wanted her daughter back.
“It started out with me wanting everyone to see Jessie’s picture and look for her,” Grant says. “It went so much bigger than Jessie and me and our family.”
As the tenth anniversary of Foster’s disappearance approaches, Grant is still searching for her daughter, but has done much more, from helping families deal with missing daughters to speaking across the country about her daughter’s disappearance. She even spoke before the federal justice committee on Bill C36 about prostitution in Canada.
“It hasn’t been 10 horrible years. It’s been one horrible thing that’s gone on for 10 years," Grant says.
“I don’t remember what it’s like to not have a missing daughter,” she says “I try, but I can’t. It’s been too long.”
While Grant wishes Foster was safe with her family, she takes pride in the work she’s done in her daughter’s name, work that wouldn’t have happened if Foster hadn’t disappeared. Her husband and three other daughters are proud of her as well and she looks forward to sharing that work with her missing daughter.
“She’ll see how much is being done when she comes back and know how many lives have been saved because of her,” Grant says. “Jessie’s story has been heard and valued by so many people.”
Grant continues to tell the story, through the organization Mothers Against Trafficking Humans, which she founded, and social media. She’s hosted internet talk shows, shared her daughter’s story with experts in human trafficking and helps families facing what she faced nearly a decade ago.
“We have a community that we all belong to when we have a missing child,” she says. “You can’t get that kind of support from some one who went to school to learn about it.”
She’s worked with Diana Trepkov, a forensic sketch artist from Ontario, to create updated images of Foster. While most are sketches of Foster as a healthy young woman, one portrayed her as hurt and malnourished.
“When people say ‘I can’t even imagine that,’ I say don’t try,” Grant says. “It’s not something I would wish on anyone, not even the person who did this to Jessie.”
She balances the emotional pain with the knowledge that Foster’s disappearance has led her to help stop thousands of people from going through a similar experience.
“My way of coping is to help others, talk about the crime and raise awareness,” she says.
Grant knows she’s having an effect by the conversations she’s had with mothers in a similar position she was in years ago, and advising on how to deal with the situation. She’s also included in panels and discussions with experts and leaders in the field.
She’s still searching for her daughter, though; when there’s news of human trafficking rings being broken up or womens’ bodies found, she gets on the phone to try to find out if there’s news about Foster.
“There’s lots of negatives,” she says. “There’s times we sit and wait for two weeks because a woman’s remains are found outside of Las Vegas.”
Foster disappeared March 29, 2006 in Las Vegas. She had been living there with a man she had met in Calgary, a man her family thought was her boyfriend and eventually fiancé. Now they think he was her original pimp.
She was the victim of "love bombing" Grant says, a concerted effort by a pimp to win her affection and use that to turn her to prostitution.
“They bombed her with love. They made her fall in love,” Grant says. “Wined and dined her, wooed her and lied to her.”
Grant says Foster disappeared when she was sold into the sex trade by her pimp, and could be anywhere in the US.
In an effort to reach out to her daughter or anyone with information about her, Grant worked with police and turned to the internet to help reach a broader group of people. She found support locally, but because Foster disappeared south of the border, information is more likely to come from the US.
“Everything I do is for Jessie,” she says. “I still believe she is alive.”
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