Human trafficking is alive and well on Vancouver Island despite best efforts from dedicated social workers and police officers to eradicate it.
Victoria filmmaker and counsellor, Mia Golden, is trying to put a dent in the continuously climbing statistics regarding youths being sex trafficked or falling into a criminal lifestyle by joining a gang.
Inspiration for Tied to a Lie/Tug of War
“My mandate is working with youth who are at-risk of or involved with either being sexually exploited, sex trafficked or recruited for gangs,” Golden told Victoria Buzz.
“I decided to sort of meld both of my focusses.”
Golden is taking on these issues by shooting a short film to use as a tool to educate teens and youths who may be at-risk and a long-form documentary that delves a bit deeper into the subject matter.
The short-form documentary will be called Tied to a Lie and the long-form version of this project will be called Tug of War.
“My driving force is to get the word out,” said Golden. “To get parents and caregivers more educated and to get young people aware of what to look for.”
“Bad guys don’t present themselves as bad guys, they present themselves as friends or potential suitors and they hook these young people in that way.”
Mia Golden’s Background
Golden is employed day-to-day by the Pacific Centre Family Services in the Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion (CRED) program. In this role, Golden is the sole CRED employee. She rides along with a police officer via the Mobile Youth Services Team (MYST) and together their scope of work is vast.
“The two of us work together,” said Golden. “One minute we are actively looking for a missing youth, another we’re walking the beach for outreach, another minute we’re parked surveilling if we think there might be some sex traffickers working and other times we’re doing presentations in schools.”
“Anything that falls under that umbrella, that’s what we’re doing. So it’s very busy,” stated Golden.
The main reason Golden felt she needed to produce these films is to educate the public on the ongoing gang and trafficking that occurs on Vancouver island.
“When people think of Victoria, they think it’s a beautiful town surrounded by ocean, with tourism and it’s lovely and quaint with retirees,” Golden told Victoria Buzz. “But when I go to a dinner party and people ask me what I do, it always brings on a lot of questions.”
“The questions are always, ‘What? There’s exploitation, there’s trafficking, there’s gangs in Victoria?’ and then by the end of the dinner party people’s jaws are on the ground.”
Golden told Victoria Buzz she realized that she knows how extensive these issues are, but the general population of Vancouver Island have no clue.
“It made me realize that it’d be good to get everyone educated.”
Golden managed to get some funding from a small grant to make the film and decided to collaborate with Empress Avenue Media, a Vancouver Island production company she has worked with before.
She then put the word out through her connections working with people who have fallen victim to sex trafficking and asked if anyone would be keen on doing interviews and being in these film projects.
“For some it was quite cathartic,” said Golden. “We hid a lot of the people’s appearance for their own privacy so you can’t see their faces but you can still hear their stories.”
Her partner from the MYST program, Cst. Gord Magee also joined her as an interviewee, as did a number of victims and their families, an officer of the Vancouver Police, a former gang member and others.
In 2020, actress Danica McKellar–best known for her work in the Wonder Years and West Wing–was in Victoria shooting a Hallmark movie and got wind of Golden’s film project. McKellar is an activist and a philanthropist, especially when it comes to matters of exploitation and trafficking.
She approached Golden on social media and asked if she may lend her voice and recognizable name to the project.
“She too was amazed at how prevalent the issue is,” Golden told Victoria Buzz. “So anytime she comes to a city to shoot she does some research into what resources are available in that city.”
She was interviewed for the documentary by Golden, who now hopes the notoriety of McKellar’s name will help her film be seen by more people and the film will resonate with them the way the topic resonated with the famous actress.
“We received the funding just before COVID, then we had to shut things down for a while,” Golden told Victoria Buzz. “We resumed filming last year when things opened up and now finally we’re coming to a close.
“So it’s much longer than anticipated, but I think we’ll have a good final product.”
The long-form documentary, Tug of War, requires a bit more funding to get through the editing and post-production process, but Golden hopes that will be completed by summer, 2023.
Tied to a Lie will be finished post-production near the end of December and will be ready in January for distribution to schools and non-profits that deal with youths who may benefit from the film.
Keep an eye out for Tied to a Lie and Tug of War at the Vic Theatre and in Film Festivals across Canada in 2023!