The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) finally opened its long-awaited office in Thompson’s City Centre Mall April 16 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring appearances from city councillors, health officials and educators.
“My team and I are so pleased to finally be here today,” said head Manitoba advocate Daphne Penrose. “This project has been a dream of our office for a number of years and we are thrilled that it’s finally happening.”
Penrose’s office is responsible for representing the rights and interests of children or youth up to age 21 in the areas of mental health, addiction, victim support, child welfare and education.
“I especially recognize the importance of dedicating the resources afforded to me to improve the lives of Indigenous children, youth and young adults, and their families, who continue to be over-represented in public systems,” said Penrose.
Originally known as the Office of the Children’s Advocate of Manitoba, this organization got a new name and an expanded mandate following the passing of the Advocate for Children and Youth Act on March 15, 2018.
“My office is also responsible for conducting formal investigations after the deaths of children if those children have had contact with child welfare in the year prior to their death,” Penrose said Tuesday. “In the coming months, that scope is going to be expanded. Reviews and investigations my team conduct are aimed examining the gaps that are currently happening in public services.”
The office will also serve as an extension of acting Manitoba ombudsman Marc Cormier, who is responsible for fostering openness and transparency between the government and its citizens.
“What we do is we take complaints from people that have concerns about how they were treated by the government and … we conduct investigations,” he said. “So if you have a concern about government, local or provincial, or if you’re having trouble navigating government processes, come see us.”
Cormier said his office also serves as an invaluable resource for anybody interested in getting access to government information.
Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook said this is the most exciting day she’s experienced since getting elected six months ago.
When it comes to MACY, Smook said their physical presence in the north is a big boon to not just young Thompsonites, but for youth who hail from surrounding communities as well.
“When the kids come from a community of 300 or 400 [people] that’s a big change in their life,” she said. “So it’s up to all of us as the citizens of Thompson, as the grannies of Thompson, the mothers of Thompson, to make sure that everyone is looked after.”
In terms of the ombudsman, Smook welcomes this new opportunity for her administration to make good on their promise of maintaining open transparency with the public.
“Somebody said to me last night, ‘You guys are in trouble now.’ And I said, ‘No, we’re here to be open and democratic,’” said Smook. “So to me this is just one more tool in the citizen of Thompson’s toolbox, one more tool for us as a council to work with.”
The shared MACY/ombudsman office is currently staffed by two full-time employees and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
To find out more information about their services, please contact the office directly at 204-677-7270.