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Sherry Gott: Children’s Rights and the Manitoba Advocate

Every child and youth in Manitoba has inherent rights. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In Manitoba in 1985, Judge Kimelman released the Kimelman report based on the “Sixties Scoop”. In 1993 the Office of the Child Advocate opens in Manitoba.

In this Humans on Rights podcast, we talk with the Manitoba Advocate, Sherry Gott, about how important it is to have the role of an Advocate for children to track issues identified in the Advocacy Services Program.

The top 5 Children’s Rights that needed protection identified by the Advocate were the Right to express opinions and be heard; the Right to contact with family; the Right to quality services while in government care; the Right to food, clothing, and a safe home and the Right to physical and mental health care.

Episode Transcript:

Stuart Murray 0:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One Territory, their traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19

This is humans on rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.

Stuart Murray 0:30

Children's Rights. What an incredibly important topic in today's world. I am joined today by an expert who is going to talk to us about advocacy around children's rights. My guest today is Sherry Gott now she has some titles behind her name, which I'm gonna ask what they stand for itsMSW and RSW Sherry Gott. She is a member of SAPA to wake Cree Nation and speaks swampy Creek fluently. She has over 30 years of experience working in the areas of child welfare, education and mental health. Sherry graduated in 2019 with a Master of Social Work degree and has played a central role in missing and murdered indigenous women and girls initiatives. In 2011, she received an Aboriginal Social Work Society Award for her contributions to community. In her role as Manitoba advocate, Sherry looks forward to connecting with Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island and advocating for those that need us most. In her free time, which she doesn't have a lot of. But in her free time, she enjoys camping and getting together with her family. Sherry Gott - welcome to Humans on Rights.

Sherry Gott 1:50

Thank you. Thank you for the invite.

Stuart Murray 1:53

So Sherry - one of the things that it said and I asked just to have maybe just a quick explanation you have some initials behind your name, M S W and R S W - what do those stands for?

Sherry Gott 2:05

MSW stands for a masters in social work and RSW is registered social worker. I'm accountable to everybody at College of Social Workers in Manitoba.

Stuart Murray 2:16

Here we are today. You know, your your is your title. Are you the executive director of the Manitoba advocate for children and youth?

Sherry Gott 2:25

Actually, I'm the advocate.

Stuart Murray 2:27

Okay, the advocate,

Sherry Gott 2:28

it's actually the person in charge of the advocate office,

Stuart Murray 2:32

You speak Swampy Cree fluently? Have you maintained that ability? Sherry, even in 2023?

Sherry Gott 2:40

Yes, I have. I'd like to think I do. I'm not as good as my sister. My sister speaks the old Cree. And I'm kind of in between.

Stuart Murray 2:50

Sherry, tell me a little bit about you. So you grew up, as we said in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. Tell us a little bit about what it was like when you were a young person growing up there, what you experienced what ultimately drove you to become who you are today in terms of the advocate for Manitoba children and youth.

Sherry Gott 2:51

I grew up in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, which is a community north of Winnipeg, it's about a six to seven hour drive. It's surrounded by beautiful lakes. It's a very beautiful community. And I was raised by my grandparents who lived off the land, they have a trap line. And so I enjoyed being there, I felt very free being there. And there was no worry about anything like it was just being a child riding on the land. And I watched my grandmother, take care of people, when the children were born, she was the first one to bring the children into the world and kiss them on the forehead. I didn't understand at that time what that meant. But now I do in my later years what that means, you know, unfortunately, the impact of the residential school impacted me also and I was taken from my community when I was seven years old, and put into a residential school under the guise of neglect. I don't know how that happened. But I do know that, you know, I was taken from my grandparents and put it in a residential school and there I stayed for approximately 10 years. I love watching my grandmother tend to people that she also looked after the people when she was kind of like the local Undertaker. When people were dying, she would be the one to take care of the people that are deceased. So she was in that role of a caretaker most of her life. And I watched her and how she respectfully treated people. So you know, and to me, she was in the role of an advocate herself to ensure that people who are respected in one day came into this world and when they left this world, so that's how I think that influence I well, I know for sure that influenced my life, to be a person that also walked beside people, you know, advocating and carrying that voice for them when they couldn't do it. So I think that's why I am in the role I am in, you know, I never, never said to myself, when I was a young girl, I'm going to be the management by advocate for children and youth. I never said that. Here I am today. And it is a huge responsibility, especially when I'm the advocate for all the children in Manitoba, every child, that's a huge, huge responsibility to carry,

Stuart Murray 5:34

I want to be very careful how, you know, we talk a little bit about, you know, your, your earlier upbringing, Sherry, and I don't even want you to sort of go into detail. But I just think so often, when you hear about the 60's Scoop, or you hear about issues with children being taken away from their parents, or their grandparents or whoever was raising them, the line is I was taken away from my parents to residential school. That is, you know, I can't even imagine what it means when you sort of you find out that you're being taken away. And so I apologize, I don't really want to go in an area that is, might be sort of troubling for you. I've appreciate you sharing it, I just want you to, to know that I think that as those of us that are trying to sort of learn and understand and make sense of, you know, what is truth and reconciliation? And how can we play a role in reconciliation. Part of it is really understanding the emotional role that happens when someone is is taken away. I applaud what you're saying, because I do think if there was somebody who is going to be an advocate for all the children of Manitoba, you would understand the role that happened when you experienced as a child, Sherry, you know, let me just kind of move through your life's journey for a moment, if you will, what made you continue to be interested in education?

Sherry Gott 7:01

I know we rarely hear this with survivors of the residential school. One of the things that was instilled in me is the value of education. I guess, you know, I often talk about her. In my later years in the 70s, I met a nurse who is indigenous, she came to work at the residential schools that I was in. And she took me under her wing, and she made a quite an impact on me, you know, and she passed on a couple of years ago. And, you know, her name was Mrs. Leonard. One day, she came up to me, and she hugged me, and she kind of, you know, grabbed me and said, You know what, Sherry, I'm gonna tell you something, she said, You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up. And that made an impact on me when she said that to me, because I thought, Yeah, nobody can stop me by myself, right? So I've always been a learner, like, I've always wanted to know everything. In my younger years, you know, I would grab a book, and I would kind of just read it as quick as I can grab another book, read and read it again. You know, I've always been like that. And I knew that, you know, I had the ability to learn by whizzed through high school. Then I went to college for four years. I did upgrading, and then I did my pipe counseling. And the thing with my upline coach, I couldn't afford the books. So I just borrowed books, and you know, and then when I was doing my upgrading, I was competing with another guy in my classroom that just, he had the thirst for knowledge also, like I did, I would escape in these things, right. And I think that was kind of like my saving grace. For me, as tough as it was to be away from my family. I also knew that there were some things that were going on in my community that I needed to get away from. I also had an older brother that told me that he showed me the hard road and he said, You know, there's more to life than just here. You know, I've had different people in my life that kind of guided me and instilled things in me that made an impact on me, because he left also he had gone to residential school, and then he came back, he experienced life outside of the community. So he knew that there was more to life than just being in the community of my community. Right. So I just think that I need to recognize those people that made that impact on me.

Stuart Murray 9:33

Thank you for for sharing that. Sherry. Obviously, you were a good student in school by the sounds of it.

Sherry Gott 9:39

Yes, yes. I was I, I wanted to learn I had that thirst for knowledge. And I was always looking for something that interested me. Right. And one of the things that, you know, after when I said I would watch my grandmother take care of people and walk beside people, he says I saw all kinda knew that I would be in a helping profession, somewhere along the way.

Stuart Murray 10:03

And when you were learning, you know, of course at that point, you know, you wouldn't be the with the books you reading would they be in in English or swampy Cree? in

Sherry Gott 10:13

English? Yeah. in English. Of course. The only thing that I that I saw in three was my grandmother's Bible, which is been framed. It's been framed. It's been framed. Yeah, her Bible has been framed. Well, and where is it? It's with my mom. Oh, incredible. Yeah, I had it framed. I think I gave it to her for 80 Something birthday.

Stuart Murray 10:35

Did you ever go on a trap line when you were younger? Did you ever experience that? Or have to go on a trap line to have a sister help out? Yes.

Sherry Gott 10:43

I, I lived with them on their trap line when I was a young girl. And that's how I I learned how to live off the land through them. And watch them, you know, do there things on the Trump line like hunting, trapping, skinning, deer, skinning, rabbit, like all those things? So you know, I learned a lot of that when I was growing up, not

Stuart Murray 11:05

to put too fine of a point on it, Sherry, but when you say you learned you were involved, you physically were involved in, you know, learning how to skin an animal. But why that was important what you were doing with that, as you say, all under the guise of understanding the importance of respecting and living off the land? Yes,

Sherry Gott 11:23

definitely. My grandparents were, you know, they had a trap, a trap line not far from the community from where I grew up. So they were there throughout the summer and winter. And, you know, and then they would go back to the reserve once in a while. And so it was, I mean, it was a good life. It was very simple. But it was a good life. There's

Stuart Murray 11:44

a lot to be said about putting the word simple in front of life, if you can have a simple life immediate. There's a lot of bountiful joy that can come out of that. Yes. So Sherry, you're you know, you've had tremendous experience growing up in Sapa to wake Cree Nation, you've experienced a lot of love of learning. When you were going to university, did you kind of have a path about where you might want to go? What you might want to get involved in at that point? What you were gonna use your education as kind of a springboard for?

Sherry Gott 12:17

Yes, I did. Because I had been in college. So it was a step into the Social Work program. I was already working in child welfare. When I started doing my degree back in 1992. I was in a cohort with other indigenous people in the community that were in the off. And actually, you know, I was very fortunate to be accepted into that. Because, I mean, although I worked in child welfare, I hadn't really started to learn what skills you needed at that point, other than working with people, and I enjoyed it. Right. So I started doing that on a distance ed basis. Right.

Stuart Murray 12:57

So you were already getting some practical experience, as you were getting kind of the academic training?

Sherry Gott 13:03

Yes, yes. And fortunately, had very, I feel very fortunate I was working for CFS agency at that time that supported us to go to university one week after the month. And then it was your responsibility to ensure that you kept your readings up to date your homework done for the other three weeks. So that's what the distance learning was about. And it's difficult.

Stuart Murray 13:28

I bet. And so we use that CFS just always just to clarify, so Child and Family Service.

Sherry Gott 13:33

Yes. Services Agency,

Stuart Murray 13:36

you know, now we look at and I mean, there's a bit of history, which I found fascinating when I went on to the Macy or Manitoba advocacy for Child and Youth webs. And, you know, I guess some of this in Manitoba. Sherry came out of the I think it was the the Kimmelman report. Yes. That was in 1990 or 1985, I think. And so out of that was to do of course, with, as you mentioned, sort of the 60 Scoop. And then just the timeline, I just thought was fascinating that in 1991, Canada ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. And in 1993, the Office of the children's advocate opens here in Manitoba. You know, those when you think about those dates, it's very, fairly fresh. I mean, it's not like this was done in the early 1900s. We're talking about 1985 1993. At that time, when the office of the children's advocate when it opened, what What were you doing at that time? What was your What were you studying? Or what were you involved in before? Because I know you're involved now just for listeners, you're the advocate. But at that time, when it opened, were you involved in some area that you thought wow, this is a great idea for this for this office to be in

Sherry Gott 14:57

1993. I was already working in the child welfare office, I was, you know, part of an abuse investigation team. So the advocate office was under the Child Welfare legislation. It was overseen by the Department of Families at that time. So there was no independence, the advocacy office was still reporting to the Department of Families. So when it became independent of any government influence, this was when we could they could really do some advocacy work on behalf of their children without being penalized by anybody by an agency, we could call out agencies when they didn't provide any service to the children, they could call a government based on if there was a, say, a tragedy in one of the communities with the children, we could ask government to ensure that services are being provided to those children. Yeah, I think that the timing of all that is is very important. The the Kimmelman report was based on inquiry, when children were being scooped up from their communities and adopted out to the States or all over Canada. So he actually recommended an independent office. And that's how the matter of Africa for children and youth became into fruition.

Stuart Murray 16:16

Just to clarify, because I do think that it's interesting to know the evolution of some of these organizations, Sherry, so at one point, as you say, it was a part of government, it was a part of a department in government. And now it has, when I say now, I guess back in 91, was it that it became an independent body? Or was it was it after 91? That it became independent? I

Sherry Gott 16:41

think it was around and it wasn't too long ago, Ash? Oh, really? And I can't recall the date. But I know that in 2018, I think it was, it's been five years, the legislation became independent of government. You know, it's very recent, and it was an all party agreement that it'd be in, in an office. So

Stuart Murray 17:04

that allows you, as you say, Sherry, as the advocate, to look across the broad spectrum of government or non government, it doesn't matter. But it doesn't anyway, inhibit you for being what you are, which is the advocate there is there's no issue that somebody is going to kind of quietly say to you, maybe you shouldn't do this, because it might be embarrassing to this organization or to this government. So you have the ability to to be a true true advocate on behalf of children and youth. Yes,

Sherry Gott 17:36

it's very important, especially when it comes to child rights, that we are not influenced by any policy or government, it's important to have that independence. That way, you know, we can call out service providers, agencies, departments, on the lack of services, if they don't provide the services that children need. It's very important to have independence.

Stuart Murray 18:02

Just following that, that kind of that process of sharing if if you want to be as an advocate, call out an organization doesn't matter what it is, but you call out an organization, you make public, that the way that the children's rights are being violated. You have the ability to get a pulpit call that out which is appropriate. What ability do you have or what process is there? So once you find that there's something wrong that's being done to to a child, what ability do you have to ensure that that something is being corrected?

Sherry Gott 18:35

Well, we can influence policy changes, of course, when we make recommendations on a yearly basis, twice a year, actually, we kind of do a report card on government, on the different departments that we have influence on. We call them compliance reports. And so we release a report every six months, June and December. And we track those recommendations that we make based on our reports. Since this office has become independent, I think there's been like 13 reports or 14 reports released, and each report has a recommendation. So we track those recommendations and make sure that government is responding to them. And if they're not we put a grade on them and say okay, they've only been compliant like 50% Some recommendations have been closed down because they were 100% compliant. So there's on our website is our compliance policy our manual that how we follow and how we ensure that compliance is being followed by each department.

Stuart Murray 19:40

Okay. And your website is is what Sherry, Manitoba? Sherry just a general question when you talk about advocating for children and youth what it is certain age bracket, you know, the kind of you define at some point does the some age not quite qualify for you? As an advocate to act on their behalf, up

Sherry Gott 20:02

to 18 years of age, and then at 21, if they are extended in care of child welfare, we are hoping that our legislation is up for review this this year, because one of the things was that a recommendation that was made by government that our legislation be reviewed every five years. So we're up for review right now. And we're hoping that in our legislative review, that our mandate will be expanded to 25.

Stuart Murray 20:34

As long as they're under care, is that correct? Or he doesn't matter? No, as long as they're under care? Yeah. So excited, expanded to 25. Yes. And not to get too much in the weeds. But just out of curiosity of sherry, when you say the legislation is up for review, who reviews it?

Sherry Gott 20:50

The review was supposed to be started in March of this year. But because of just attending election, the government had reached out and said like, is it okay, if we set this aside until after elections? And I said, Well, it's up to you guys. So I'm fine with that. We can start our internal work here. And we have now that the new government is in we're waiting for a committee to be developed by the government to be able to review review our legislation. So we're hoping that that work will start probably within the next month.

Stuart Murray 21:20

In the meantime, you can still do your own prep work, you don't have to wait for the government to do that. Actually,

Sherry Gott 21:25

we're calling on our stakeholders to help us with that process. And we've been kind of promoting our legislative review to different departments letting them know that this is coming down the pipe.

Stuart Murray 21:36

Sherry, with your experience, why are you advocating or recommending that the age go from 21 to 25? With the understanding that, that they're still in care, what's What have you discovered, since you've been advocate are working in that area that you think it's important to extend that age?

Sherry Gott 21:54

Well, part of the reason is that because children as they age out of care, they're aging out into homelessness. And we're finding that, you know, they don't have a history, a rental history. And some kids are not like at 21 years old, that's quite young to be actually trying to go out and live on your own. So the brain development, you know, is a concern of ours, children are not ready to go out on their own, we can work with those kids to find appropriate resources between the ages of 21 to 25, make sure that they're appropriately taken care of their needs are met, their basic needs are fulfilled. So that is one of the reasons why we're trying to get that and also Child Welfare legislation is changing. So it could mirror that piece. How

Stuart Murray 22:43

young Have you seen children be, you know, being brought in or you've had to advocate for what ages? I've when you look at the young side of things, infants?

Sherry Gott 22:54

Yeah, because in Manitoba, we've seen an increase in infant deaths, you know, and there's a lack of response from government on providing the appropriate resources to make sure that their children are being, you know, Safe Sleep surfaces are provided, such as a crib, some people can't afford to buy cribs, so will in ensuring that children have the appropriate resources. So they are able to thrive. Yeah, babies.

Stuart Murray 23:23

And again, that's, that's throughout the entire province of Manitoba. Yes,

Sherry Gott 23:28

yes, it is.

Stuart Murray 23:29

How do you I mean, you know, the budgeting for your office must be a very challenging, while it's very challenging to find a number when you realize that you're talking about infants that don't have cribs, and so you've got to have the ability to supply that, to when you're talking about somebody who is getting to the age of, you know, now 21 year, hopefully it's gonna go to 25 as the as the age owed, the number of areas that you're responsible, Sherry, as an advocate, is enormous. It's not three or four items that you're looking at. I mean, it's it's really people's lives. Yeah.

Sherry Gott 24:10

For us operationally, like we are continuing to have to go to government and ask for more funds for our department. Although we're independent of government, we still have to go to them for funding. And we don't necessarily provide the resources that the children need. What we do is we advocate to ensure that they get that crib that they need, yeah, we advocate on their behalf we amplify their voices.

Stuart Murray 24:37

You know, that's, that is such an important role and for particularly for infants, you know, to give them a chance to be brought into the world and have a chance to succeed and be healthy and and as we all know what we what we would like for children. You know, Sherry, one of the things that I I went onto your website and on the website and talked about The top rights we work to protect children's rights, they were all there under the various articles for the right to express opinions and be heard was was number one on on that what you check, give us a little explanation about what does that mean when you when you're looking at the fact that that's one of the top rights you work to protect the right to express opinions and be heard. What does that entail?

Sherry Gott 25:25

You know, one of the things that we do here at our offices, we have a youth ambassador squad, which is yes, it's a made up of youth from ages up to a team. And what we do is we have them, when we release a report at our office, we have them review our report, and they have a right to their opinion on that report. And they have a right to be heard. If they provide an opinion. Based on that report, based on a recommendation, we actually ensure that their voices are in that report. So that is how we use that. Right. Every child has a right to be heard by an adult. From

Stuart Murray 26:07

your experience. Have you released a report that perhaps has been challenged on that basis from the Youth Ambassadors?

Sherry Gott 26:14

Yes, we've released several reports we have every two hours, which is a domestic violence report. We also have released Tina Fontaine report, which included the youth voice, we released several actually several are Aisha had some reports that may make GWA project report that was released just recently. So when we have the youth voice there,

Stuart Murray 26:40

you know, you mentioned every two hours, what what is the what is that report,

Sherry Gott 26:45

it's a report about the experience of children are experiencing domestic violence within their family. And they are impacted by that social issue. A child when they experienced domestic violence, it creates a lot of fear within their homes. And so children have a right to express that. Right. So our report, our youth ambassador squad was, like huge draw, they provided input into that report, and their voice was heard and how it didn't fit them.

Stuart Murray 27:20

In other words, I mean, you know, they're they're feeling that from their perspective, their voice is being heard.

Sherry Gott 27:26

Yes, definitely. Yes.

Stuart Murray 27:28

I won't go through all five of them, although I'm going to read all five. But I'm just going to ask you maybe to comment on a couple please, Cherie. So the first one, I mentioned article 12 of the top rates that you're working to protect article 12. right to express opinions and be heard. Article Nine is the rights to contact with family, article 25, right to quality services while in government care. And article 27, right to food, clothing and safe home. Article 24. Right to physical and mental health care. Let's talk a little bit about article 27. Right to Food, clothing and safe home.

Sherry Gott 28:01

Well, I mean, that's a basic need, right? Food, shelter and home. I think that, you know, children have a right to that to be provided a home that is safe for them and provides all meet all their basic needs. Children need that, to be able to thrive, to be able to succeed in life and go on to college university graduate from high school, right? So those foundations are needed for that child to thrive.

Stuart Murray 28:31

And so surely, if you're looking at you sort of those rights, the right to food, clothing and safe home, is there a difference in terms of your position as an advocate to for example, if you're advocating on behalf of a First Nations child, who may be living on the reserve versus a family who's moved into a city? Is there any difference in how you advocate for that child or the ability for you to advocate for that child?

Sherry Gott 28:59

No, there is no difference. I can see you know what the difference would be? The only thing is in First Nation communities. There's a shortage of housing, of course, but as long as a safer environment is provided that for that child, right, so we would still advocate no matter what, right? You know, every child is unique, of course, and every family is unique. We try not to paint every child or family with the same brush. children's needs are different community's needs are different. So we try to work in a way that's respectful.

Stuart Murray 29:34

You know, Sherry, just when I when I listened to you and look at your background and what you've done, and you know, I've gone through the the Macy, the Manitoba advocate for Child and Youth Services website. I just be curious to see I mean, we're recording this podcast relatively early in the day in the business day. And before we started recording, I said how are you doing? She said it's been a busy day. Yes. Tell me a little bit about, I don't think there's probably such a thing as a typical day for Sheree God, but just share with the listeners, what a day that you would like to share that something. So people get a sense of what a day in the life of the advocate is like in Manitoba? Well,

Sherry Gott 30:16

I mean, one of the things is that, you know, every day, we receive some kind of news that a child has been impacted by lack of services in Manitoba. And it's very sad when, you know, we hear children have died as a result of a child death as a result of lack of, you know, services in the communities, suicide, lack of mental health services, advocating for a child that's just walked through the streets, looking for a bus ticket or a safe, you know, a safe place to go. We ensure that, you know, my officers, they ensure that they reach out to the appropriate services for that child, I get emails constantly from different people. And it's, it's like that right from the wind, the minute I wake up, my phone starts buzzing. So it's very busy. And also ensuring that, you know, our reports are done in a timely fashion, respectful, meeting with community trying to develop relationships, you know, and we're not so stuck just in one of a, you know, we have Manitoba, the whole province, I've been reaching out to various First Nations to try and work with them. As you know, the I don't know if you know this, but the child welfare world is changing. Federal legislation is being incorporated into Manitoba of child welfare. And I'm hoping that we could work with most of our First Nation communities to ensure that those children continue to receive services. So it's, it's very busy. I must say that, you know, there's staff, I have a staff of 45 people, there's a change in government. So we've had to pivot in a way where we can ensure appropriate services are provided to children and families. So it's it. Yeah, there's a lot to do. Yeah, for sure. I've been in my role for one year now. It's a five year appointment, just celebrated my first year, there's a potential that I could be reappointed for another five years, and I can only serve to two terms. And that's it. So I'm going to try my best to do as much as I can, in the five years that I've been appointed,

Stuart Murray 32:28

the most you can do is is two terms, which is 10 years, to have to think Sherry with the responsibility and the emotional impact that you would be or the person the advocate would be dealing with. I would think 10 years is probably you know, enough to sort of let people it will take a toll on us guess is what I'm trying to say? Definitely. I

Sherry Gott 32:51

mean, I've been in the business for child welfare for like 30 plus years, 30 years now. Yes, it's taken a toll. It would take a toll, especially at the pace that we're at here at the advocate office. You know, it that that is a good thing that I would be rolled out at the office and somebody else come in with fresh ideas, perhaps more experienced, and I think that the work of amplifying the voices of children is very important work. And all children in Manitoba, not just, you know, a specific group of people, but every child in Manitoba. Sherry,

Stuart Murray 33:27

just I'm not sure you mentioned that the comment about there's some legislation being changed. So federal legislation, what is it currently? And what is it going to be changed to what does the federal legislation change to? And what impact if any, would have one on us the advocate right

Sherry Gott 33:43

now, First Nation communities can have their own legislation of child welfare legislation, under Bill C 92. C 24. The Act Respecting First Nation, Inuit, matey children, so that was enacted January 1 of 2022. So communities are working on getting their own legislation, and it's federal legislation. So they would no longer have to follow the provincial legislation that's in place right now. The impact on our office is because we're a provincial body, a provincial entity. We really don't have any say, in a in federal legislation, although I am talking about it now and trying to get that trying to get into some mo use with First Nations so we can continue to work and amplify the voices of children. We are still in the process of working out through working through those MOU is to ensure that, you know those services are provided to children under a federal legislation.

Stuart Murray 34:48

What was the impact of the federal legislation? Sherry, in your opinion, was it to strengthen the role that the advocate could could engage in I think

Sherry Gott 34:58

indigenous people have been trying to ensure that they look after their own children. We do support that you know that they have their own federal legislation for us as the advocate office because we're provincially legislated. We really don't have any authority over the services on reserve. Right now. That's why I've been busy trying to develop relationship, working collaboration with First Nation, ensure that there's a respectful dialogue and respectful process in place. It's taken a while, and I'm still working on that. So I don't know what you know, the result of our office would be in the end, like, I don't know, there's only two communities that have had their own legislation and acted already in Manitoba to communities amount of one in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan. Okay. I guess it would be up to First Nation whether or not they want to work with us. That's up to them. And

Stuart Murray 35:58

again, because it's federal legislation coming in, and you represent Manitoba, you're created by legislation that is provincial as opposed to federal? Yes,

Sherry Gott 36:07

I am, in my role as an advocate advocating for federal advocates. At this point, I've been talking about it quite a bit and letting people know, what about the children's voice? What's going to happen to that federally. Right. So nobody's talked about it? I don't know, you know, what the process will be with that. So nobody's really saying anything, other than asking us for our opinion on what kind of support that we can provide at this point.

Stuart Murray 36:35

Sherry, are you aware? Is there an advocate of the role that you currently have here in Manitoba? Is there the equivalent role in the other provinces across Canada and the territories?

Sherry Gott 36:47

Not that I'm aware of, at this point, you know, I belong to the Canadian Council of child and youth advocates, which is an advocate for each province, except Ontario. Each province has an advocate. So I'm part of that committee. And so we haven't really had a discussion on it. We are trying to we are expressing our concerns, with respect to not having a federal advocate,

Stuart Murray 37:12

you know, though, it'll be interesting to see how that shakes out. Presumably, there isn't anybody drafting legislation federally, or, you know, in any other province that is going to do anything other than to ensure there's more support for for children? Yes,

Sherry Gott 37:27

for sure. And, you know, it's the federal government is funding the agencies that are going to be in place, as far as I know, but with the province, I don't know what they're going to do there. They're still children care, under provincial care, I don't know what that funding is gonna look like. It's unstable right now, you know, with a system. So yeah, it's interesting, what's going on?

Stuart Murray 37:50

Ya know, for sure, and you're reading the thick of it, Sherry. So, you know, I think, you know, just with you look at your background, as you say, over 30 years in, in kind of this environment, and looking after children and, and understanding the role, perhaps, we're very fortunate to have you in the role now, just as an advocate, because you can see where this may or may not improve, hopefully, it's all about improving. But if something isn't quite working, hopefully, you can, you know, stick your arm up and sort of say, hey, wait a minute, this is not going to work. I can tell you it to sort of address this on behalf of children. And I would suspect that we get somebody's attention pretty quickly.

Sherry Gott 38:27

Yeah, it has a little bit has a bit there's, the needle has moved a little bit, as I continue to be in my role and express my concerns with respect to not having a federal advocate in place, I'm hoping that they will, you know, ensure that that person will be in place for the sake of the children.

Stuart Murray 38:46

Sherry, if there were people listening to this and saying, you know, I never even knew that Manitoba, had an advocate for children and youth, what would be the one thing as you are looking at your role, and, you know, I want to talk about legacy, because sometimes legacy has this notion that people are sort of saying, you know, I did this because I wanted to create a legacy. I mean, that's okay. And I'm not trying to be judgmental, I'm simply saying, it's like people that apply for awards, and they don't get to awards, and they're disappointed, versus those people that all of a sudden are working their tails off, somebody taps him on the shoulder and sort of says, hey, you know, you've been nominated for this award. And it's like, what the heck, I didn't even know anything about the award, never heard about it. But people are being acknowledged for work that they're doing because it's in their heart, it's in their spirit. It's what they want to do. What would you like to leave listeners to kind of think about in your role as an advocate for on behalf of Manitoba children and youth?

Sherry Gott 39:44

I think that under the UN CRC, the United Nations Convention rights of the child, the children have rights, right. And I think that their voices matter. You know, sometimes we tend to not to listen to children. But I think, for me, not having a voice as a young child and being put in residential school and stuff like that. I think that children need to be respected. Their knowledge is amazing. And their value and their insight, we value as an advocate office, we need to listen to that. And value what they have to say, is very important.

Stuart Murray 40:22

Yeah, yeah. Well said.

Sherry Gott 40:24

And the other thing is, I feel that I'm laying the foundation for future the future. You know, I've heard out there in the communities like I'm the first indigenous Cree woman to be appointed in this disposition in the 30 years that we've been around. So, you know, I've heard out there I want to go to college, I want to go to university from little kids that see me CBSE advocate, and I'm like, Oh, wow, that's so awesome. You know, maybe someday that's what I could do. Right? So inspiring some youth out there. So that's what I want to leave. You can you know, you can do it a cold University, go to college, graduate from high school, you can do it. Yeah. Actually, like, say, leave?

Stuart Murray 41:11

Yeah, well, and it's a great, it's a great legacy. It's I mean, it's almost full circle back to the person who basically took you aside and said, you know, sure, you can be anything you want to be. Yes, look at how you've used that to put yourself in a position to advocate on behalf of all the children and youth in Manitoba. Pretty impressive. Sherry, God must tell you, pretty impressive.

Sherry Gott 41:32

Thank you.

Stuart Murray 41:33

Thank you so much. You know, we'll keep in touch. And I appreciate you taking some time to speak to me on humans on rights, about children's rights. There's, there's a lot to be watched on this a lot to be unpacked. But clearly, I think in Manitoba, we can take a little bit of comfort, maybe more than a little bit, a lot of comfort Sherry, that somebody like you has taken on the role to advocate for all the children and youth in the province of Manitoba. Thank you for for what you do. And thank you for what you will continue to do. And again, finally, thank you for taking time to be on humans on REITs. I appreciate your time.

Sherry Gott 42:12

Thank you so much. And yeah, and thank you for inviting me again.

Tara Sands (Voiceover) 42:18

Thanks for listening to Humans on Rights A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans on rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray, social media marketing by Buffy Davey music by Doug Edmund. For more go to human rights

Produced and distributed by the sound off media company


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