Alumnus headlines SACPA event

The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA) will present a special evening session, Thursday, Apr. 29 at the Lethbridge Public Library featuring University of Lethbridge alumnus Virgil Grandfield (BA '92).

Outsourcing Disaster: Human Trafficking and Humanitarian Failure in Aceh's Tsunami Reconstruction? is the title of the talk, beginning at
7 p.m. in the library's theatre gallery.

In 2006-2009, one of the most wretched places to be a construction worker in Indonesia was on a "humanitarian" reconstruction project in the tsunami-devastated province of Aceh.

Instead of receiving benefits from the largest, most generously-funded humanitarian operation in history, research indicates that tens of thousands of Javanese construction workers were falsely recruited for exploitative use and/or involuntary labour, under conditions defined as "human trafficking" or "modern slavery."

The social disaster throughout Aceh and Java was borne mostly by Javanese laborers, some of whom died in Aceh because of abuse and neglect.

Speaker Virgil Grandfield will contend that disproportionate numbers of trafficked victims were from larger projects managed by Red Cross, United Nations, development banks and NGO's.

In every community visited by investigative teams, witnesses have testified that many or most of 200,000 Javanese tsunami workers were unpaid, hungry and had to escape to find other work or ways to travel 2000km home.

Grandfield grew up in Texas and achieved degrees in political science at the U of L and journalism at Concordia University in Montreal (1993).

In the mid 90s, he started the first Canadian educational consulting agency in Mexico and in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch in Central America, began a career in the humanitarian field of work.

Grandfield became a Canadian Red Cross delegate after working in the Blood Reserve flood response in 2002 and was deployed to Aceh, Indonesia in 2005 as part of the International Red Cross tsunami operation.

Returning to Aceh in 2007, Grandfield discovered human trafficking of workers in Canadian Red Cross operations and resigned as a delegate in 2008 to find these "modern slaves" and their families and help them seek justice from those relief agencies which used and abandoned them in Aceh.

Beverly Muendel-Atherstone will serve as moderator for this event.