Article Written by Aspen Gainer for the Edmonton Examiner Wednesday, July 4, 2012
It's not very often you meet a woman who has changed the face of a country.
Carrie Kohan-a 48-year-old Métis mother of two, a national child advocate, federal government witness and public spokesperson, is one of those rare gems.
In addition to changing Canadian law, Kohan founded Project Guardian and Mad Mothers Against Pedophiles (MMAP) in 1998.
"What MADD did for drinking and driving, I wanted to do for pedophilia and the protection of children," says Kohan. "I wanted to educate the public, change laws and create a better environment for our children."
It is easy to see why Kohan has received so many awards, the most recent of which is the IAAW's Dorothy Daniels Justice Award for Advocacy.
The award was presented June 8, 2012 at the Edmonton Expo Centre at the 17th Annual ESQUAO Awards. The ceremony is held by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women each year to honour the 'Angels Among Us', and the amazing contributions of women in the aboriginal community.
When Kohan first began her journey as a child advocate, pedophilia was a taboo subject. No one wanted to talk about it or acknowledge it. Kohan's work as a lobbyist and advocate was instrumental in changing fourteen laws in Canada that now protect children from harm.
Her legacies include Amber Alert; the Provincial and National Sex Offender Registries; the Child Protection Act [Online Sexual Exploitation]; an increase in the age of consent from 14 to 16; Lisa's Law; and amendments to the divorce act and immigration laws. Kohan is even the namesake of the "Carrie's Guardian Angel Law" which asks for a 20-year minimum sentence for serial predators and pedophiles.
Listening to Kohan's resume of advocacy gives you goosebumps. She is not a lawyer and in fact has a learning disability that makes it very difficult for her to read at all, although you would never know it. She has flown to Ottawa multiple times to lobby against some of the top lawyers in Canada - and won.
"There's a lot of pressure and I'm usually the only non-lawyer that speaks there," says Kohan. "I'm a stay-at-home mom who became so versed in stats about pedophilia that no one could beat me in debates."
Kohan began her journey towards advocacy in her early thirties. "It's amazing what can come out of you when you're pushed to your limits," says Kohan, "and that's what happened."
At 34, Kohan was a stay-at-home mother of a young daughter. She and her husband (they are now divorced) owned a home-building company, and he took care of every detail of their life that happened outside of the home, while Carrie took care of what happened inside the home. But Carrie's life was changed dramatically by a terrible encounter.
Unknown to her at the time, Kohan's neighbour was a three-time convicted pedophile. One day he entered Kohan's home and attempted to take their daughter, who was two at the time and sleeping in her crib.
Kohan intervened and saved her daughter before he was able to harm her, but that was the beginning of Kohan's new path in life. From 1998, she spent two years trying to find others who were already advocating against pedophilia, but found no one.
After the incident with the neighbour, Kohan moved to Calgary. One day she heard a news report about two young children being molested in their homes and knew it was time to take action.
Carrie phoned the Premier's office (at that time the Premier was Ralph Klein) and told them that she wanted to start an awareness campaign for child protection.
Kohan received an outpouring of support from Premier Klein and his staff, and that was the beginning of her 14-year and counting career as a child advocate.
CANADA'S ERIN BROCKOVICH
Kohan's life of dedicated philanthropic service really is the stuff of movies, and she deserves her nickname, ‘Canada's Erin Brockovich’.
Kohan was surprised and obviously pleased about winning the Dorothy Daniels' Justice award. My daughter actually nominated me for it, so not only was it wonderful to be nominated within our aboriginal culture, but to also have my daughter nominate me was heart-warming," says Kohan.
Her two daughters are already showing the same ambition and spirit of perseverance as their mother. In addition to excelling in school despite their learning disabilities, they share with their mother; the youngest also sings and performs in film and commercials; while the oldest is a singer and actress, and has toured across Canada as Miss Teenage Canada, speaking about the issue of clean drinking water.
The message that Kohan most wants to emphasize to youth is that you really can do anything you want to with perseverance, dedication, hope and faith.
"I never thought as a stay-at-home mom with a learning disability, that I would amend fourteen laws in Canada and debate against some of the best lawyers in our country." But Kohan says she felt her journey was "Spirit Driven and Given".
She believed in her cause, had faith to face her fears and she has changed our country for the better.
If you would like to know more about Carrie Kohan and her contributions to the welfare of our children, you can Google her name or read the Gov't Hansard Reports such as this link.
Carrie Kohan has been the recipient of the:
- The 2015 International Rotary Integrity Award
- The 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal
- The 2001 Inaugural United Nation's Volunteer of the Year Medal
- The 2001 Gov't of Canada's Volunteer of the Year Medal
- The 2010 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for Justice
- The 2012 Alberta Mother of the Year Award
- The 2012 IAAW's Esquao Award
- The 2014 Fierce Award for Inspiration
- And the 2014 Fierce Woman of the Year Award
Carrie Kohan's International Best Selling Book called, "The Five Lessons of Life" is available on Amazon Worldwide and is translated into 3 different languages so far.