Kay Buck, CEO of CAST LA
Kay Buck has over 20 years experience in the human rights field. Joining the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) as Executive Director in 2003, Ms. Buck leads the first organization in the US exclusively designed to work on the issue of human trafficking. Under Ms. Buck’s leadership, CAST is known for a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for survivors of trafficking who are now using their voices to impact federal and state policy.
Prior to joining CAST, Ms. Buck was Director of the Rape Prevention Resource Center of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). She has been instrumental on several policy initiatives related to slavery and violence against women, including the DC- based Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking and the Freedom Network. Ms. Buck spent over five years in Asia working with a network of NGOs on anti-trafficking issues and labor rights projects, and participated in the planning of several international conferences, including the World Conference on Women.
Ms. Buck is a member of the California Attorney General’s transition team on victim rights. In 2005, she was given the “Change Maker Dream Maker” recognition alongside Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton by the Women’s Foundation of California. As a leader in the human rights movement, Ms. Buck has a personal and professional commitment to developing NGOs and positioning them as key stakeholders for advancing social change.
Ms. Buck holds a BA in Women’s Studies, and resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter Synneva.
Q. Where in Canada are you from and what brought you to the US?
A. I was lucky to grow up near Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan, where my family and I still spend our summers boating and drinking the occasional Rye Press under the stars, and then later on in Calgary. I moved to Asia for 5 years doing international development work that started my career, and came to Los Angeles to work on violence against women initiatives during the Clinton administration in the mid 90's. I guess you could say I was drawn here to continue my passion for justice in a global city that is a reflection of my life’s work.
Q. What is your typical day like?
A. Anti-human trafficking work is as rewarding as it is demanding. Given that Los Angeles has the most cases of trafficking per year in the US, I spend most of my days leading a team of very committed experts (and amazing human beings) in developing innovative models to protect victims and hold traffickers accountable. I get to work with a very diverse group of people in the community ranging from LA’s business and political leaders to the FBI to philanthropists to survivors of trafficking who are using their voices for social change. You can learn a lot from survivors if you listen. I absolutely love it; there is NEVER a dull moment and it feels great knowing that I’m doing my part to improve the human condition for future generations.
Q. What are you most proud about in relation to what you do?
A. I am proud and inspired by CAST’s Survivor Network, the first program I developed at CAST, and a community of women and men who have overcome challenges to become powerful leaders creating sustainable change. The resilience and grace that survivors of human trafficking model for us all is breathtakingly beautiful and yet full of grit. It compels me to believe that a brighter future is always possible.
Q. Why is it good to be a Canadian in LA?
A. I have lots of company! Los Angeles has one of the highest populations of Canadians in the US…plus I must be doing something right if my fellow Canadians Ryan Gosling, Nia Vardalos, and Drake are here as well! Nia is introducing me at our upcoming 20th anniversary gala on May 10, 2018 and that is really meaningful for me.
"For more information on CAST LA and to purchase tickets for their 20th year celebration on May 10th, 2018, please visit: https://aesbid.co/ELP/CLA18"
Q. What do you miss most about Canada?
A. As much as I love LA, Canada has unmatched natural beauty- and space. When work gets particularly intense I think about all the expansive places in Canada where I could go to unplug…it’s the best place in the world to clear your head and connect with your thoughts before you dive back into the fast-pace of LA. That said, I’ve found LA to be a series of towns with similar values to the one where I grew up in Canada- Angelenos are some of the best people this world has to offer.
Q. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Canada?
A. That Canada is this quiet little country relaxing just North of the US…in fact Canada is the 10th largest economy in the world! C’mon America.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. A culture that is turning away from empathy. I love the United States, but the success of our work at CAST proves that compassion is the solution. We all must cultivate a culture of respect for communities regardless of their circumstance and especially for those communities of people who are marginalized and often invisible to the public like trafficking victims. We become a kinder, happier, and more productive nation when we care for the most vulnerable. My fellow Canadians (and their American friends and colleagues) can help our cause by donating their time or resources to CAST or other like-minded organizations. Check us out at castla.org and follow us on social media.
Q. You are stuck on the 405 in traffic. What song are you singing along to and what are you thinking about?
A. I love Latin music and sing along to my favorite salsa songs. I also dance a bit to pass the time in that 405 traffic. I usually spend my morning commute going over the day in my head and calling a few people over Bluetooth…never text and drive!
Q. Any advice for our Canadian members who want to work in the non-profit sector?
A. First, you are doing the right thing. The world needs you right now more than ever. Take an inventory of your skills and think about how you could best apply your strengths to help a cause. Find something that you are deeply passionate about—non-profit work is demanding and it requires perseverance and an entrepreneurial spirit so you should spend time up front ensuring that you are fully committed to a mission. There are so many fantastic organizations here—join our CAST! #itendswithus #survivorstrong
James Villeneuve, Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles
James Villeneuve was appointed Consul General of Canada, Los Angeles in February 2014. He is Canada's senior representative in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Villeneuve worked for Anheuser Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company and the parent company of Labatt Breweries, for more than 27 years. He started with Labatt in Toronto in sales and marketing and was later transferred to Vancouver, where he was regional director of government affairs for Western Canada.
In 1995, Mr. Villeneuve returned to Toronto to manage Labatt’s rebranding initiative and to run the company’s corporate and sports properties. He later became director of corporate affairs and then vice-president of corporate affairs for Canada. From 2007 to 2009, Mr. Villeneuve worked in Brussels to lead InBev’s global corporate affairs practice. After InBev purchased Anheuser Busch in 2009, Mr. Villeneuve moved to St. Louis to lead the company’s North American corporate affairs department.
Mr. Villeneuve has served on many boards during his career, including the Toronto Economic Development Commission, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid, the Granville Island Trust, the Association of Canadian Advertisers, Carleton University, the Canadian Club, Teach for America, the United Way and the Regional Chamber and Growth Association in St. Louis. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University in 1985.
Mr. Villeneuve is married to Kim Walker-Villeneuve and they have two children, Grace and Andrew.
Here is our interview with the Consul General:
Q. What’s the day in the life of the Consul General like?
A. It’s a lot of outside events – meetings with businesses or political leaders. And lots of evening work. We’ve hosted about 300 events at the Official Residence in 4 years, plus I’m out at others. That’s a good sign about the strength of our network here. On top of that, Canadians are constantly reaching out for help with passports, Americans and others are seeking visas, and so I stay on top of what our busy staff is up to, to make sure we can continue giving the Canadian taxpayers the best service.
Q. What has been your greatest accomplishment of being Consul General?
A. We’ve had great success on the trade and investment files. The customer satisfaction of companies working with our Trade Commissioner Service officers is the highest [of the 12 consulates] in the US. We’ve moved jobs, up to 400 at a time, up to Vancouver. The ability to attract that kind of investment to Canada is great for us as an office and a country.
Q. How has your view of LA changed over the years since you first began your post?
A. I was pleasantly surprised by what an international and global city LA is. Until you live here, you don’t appreciate the mosaic – people from all over the world.
Q. Why is it good to be a Canadian in LA?
A. There are lots of us here. So the ability to connect with other Canadians is great. Canada is a country of openness, tolerance and civility – and LA is like that, maybe the closest to Canadian values of anywhere in the US. Mayor Garcetti told me that people come to LA to live their dreams, which means everyone is welcome – and that Canadians should feel welcome, too.
Q. Any advice for new Canadian transplants in California?
A. Join Canadians Abroad! Go to events. See if your university alumni are meeting in LA, which many of them do. And register with the Consulate.
Q. You are stuck in traffic on the 405. What song are you usually signing along to and what are you thinking about?
A. Anything from Rush. Or The Tragically Hip.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. The safety of our citizens. I think about the Las Vegas shooting, where 16 of our citizens were shot. Something like that doesn’t come up daily, but it stays with you. I went out to visit some of the Canadians in the hospital, and it was pretty horrific. For most Canadians, I think, the US doesn’t really feel like a foreign country, but that was one of those instances where people felt in need of help from their government and where it’s most crucial that we can respond well – which I think we really did.
Q. Have you ever been star struck while in your position?
A. To a certain degree. It’s hard not to be star-struck when you meet people like Leonard Cohen at the Canadian Residence. What an icon.
Q. What do you find most challenging about being the Consul General?
A. Connecting Canada’s largest diaspora in the world. The city is so spread out, there’s a challenge in getting around and bringing people together. And also staying on top of all the Canadians who are here and coming all the time and doing interesting, valuable work.
Q. Your friends or family are in town. What would you typically do with them on a Saturday afternoon and evening here in LA?
A. Hiking, for sure. And baseball at Dodger Stadium.
Q. You have a week vacation with an unlimited budget. Where in Canada would you go and why?
A. Newfoundland. I’ve been there a bunch of times, and the people are great. Or maybe the Northwest Territories. Amazing natural beauty. The northern lights are beyond description.
Read more about the Consul General by clicking here.