For longtime residents of Kamloops, the name Jessie Foster is a familiar one.
Jessie was raised here, alongside her three sisters, by her mother and stepfather. They were a regular, happy family who spent a lot of years baking, cooking, colouring and playing slo-pitch ball together.
But this happy family was later to be shattered by a tragic turn of events that began to unfold in 2005, when Jessie was 20 years old.
Mom Glendene Grant, tells the story:
“Jessie was lured to the U.S. by someone offering her a ‘free trip’ to Florida. She was excited to go, though I was very skeptical about anything free. She went, came back and all was good until she was asked to go to New York. I was very worried, but she went again. This time, prostitution was brought up when the person who took her said he was broke and had no money to get them back to Canada, though Jessie did not want anything to do with it.
“Somehow, she was convinced to go to Las Vegas, even after what happened the night before, and on May 13, 2005, Jessie’s plane landed there. It was exactly two weeks until her 21st birthday and she wanted to stay to celebrate there. Time kept going by and the excuses kept coming: there was a car accident and now insurance stuff to do, she met Peter Todd and was falling for him, she moved in with Peter Todd, she got engaged to him.
During this time, she was beaten, her jaw was broken, she was hospitalized, she was forced to work at an escort agency and she was arrested for prostitution in Las Vegas.
Jessie came home at Christmastime, but was somehow forced to leave at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day to go back. We kept in touch for a few months, but then all contact with her stopped. She was planning on a visit from her sister, Crystal, and they were planning on coming back to Canada together to go to their stepsister’s wedding reception in Calgary in April 2006. They talked on March 28, but Jessie was never heard from again.”
Glendene has lived in Kamloops most of her life. She is a wife, mother and proud grandmother. She never stops searching for her missing daughter or advocating for awareness and change when it comes to human trafficking. She founded M.A.T.H. (Mothers Against Trafficking Humans) on April 18, 2010.
“Human trafficking comes in many forms, such as prostitution, labour, domestic servitude, debt bondage, organ harvesting, child labour, etc.,” Glendene said.
“It happens everywhere. It affects everyone. Different places do different things in regards to governing and managing. There have been a lot of changes to policing and non-profit organizations, plus there are many grassroots organizations. And they are all helping victims and survivors when possible — hoping one day it will be always. People have to stand up and fight against human trafficking. We have to hold our governments accountable for inadequate laws and slack punishment. It will change, but it is a slow process.”
March 29, 2020, marked the 14th year since Jessie’s disappearance. Glendene waits for her daughter’s return, holding onto hope and encouraging others to never give up on their loved ones.
“I suppose what I have used to express gratitude is that I was able to have Jessie in my life constantly for 21 years, and another 14 missing … and I would not have given up the 21 wonderful years in order to not endure the 14 painful ones,” she said.
“I encourage everyone to never give up on their loved ones. They may survive this horrific crime and, if so, will need all the love and support they can get when they return. And never let the police tell you something is not true if you know or strongly suspect it is. They do not know your loved ones like you do.”