The protection of children should be a priority, says Daniela Siggia.
Siggia was one of more than two dozen people that took part in the March To End Child Sexual Exploitation Sunday in Welland.
“We’re here to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of children. What we want is for people to understand that we have to be hyper-vigilant,” she said in front of Welland Civic Square.
With signs plastered around the pond in front of city hall and marchers holding up their signs, passersby showed their support by honking their horns.
Two members of the Niagara chapter of Riders Protecting Children Canada revved the engines of their motorcycles as they pulled up to support the march.
Riders Protecting Children Canada supports children who are victims of physical, mental, sexual abuse or bullying.
Siggia said abuse happens every single day in homes across Canada.
“We want to raise awareness so people know what to look for … learn what the markers are and what to do when they suspect someone of being abused.”
She said the march came about through William O’Sullivan, who was abused by Roman Catholic priest Donald Grecco between the ages of nine and 12 at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church.
O’Sullivan has been protesting in front of the church, on Niagara Street in Welland, for the past 100 weeks.
Siggia said he wanted to take the focus off himself and focus on children.
“A group of us pitched in to help out,” she said.
Leanna Villella, one of Welland’s regional councillors, took part in the event.
“I felt this was extremely important,” she said.
Villella said child abuse is a difficult subject to talk about and takes a little prodding to get people to discuss.
“I wanted to help bring awareness to this issue which harms our children and eventually the adults they become.
“Raising awareness with parents and others may stop something in its tracks,” she said, before speaking in front of the crowd.
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Shortly after speeches by Siggia and Villella, the group was led by Riders Protecting Children Canada president Mike “Highlander” Grant and vice-president Donald “Bamm Bamm” Luis, up East Main Street and then down King Street to Merritt Park.
Siggia said Janet Handy, of Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre, would be at the park to talk about internet safety and Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch was expected to be on hand.
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