Manitoba child advocate urges ‘immediate action’ after recent child deaths

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) is speaking out after recent child deaths in the province.

Since December 2023, one baby has died of malnutrition and two others were murder victims — including one from Carman, who was laid to rest Wednesday with her siblings, cousin and mother. All three were under the age of one.

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Manitoba’s advocate, Sherry Gott, said this is part of a disturbing trend.

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“We are, unfortunately, seeing an increase in almost all manners of child deaths in Manitoba. Last fiscal year, our office reported 265 formal child death notifications. Forty-eight per cent of those were children two and under,” she said.

Most of those deaths were related to unsafe sleeping practices, disease and genetics, rather than homicides, Gott said. MACY’s annual report and service plan for 2022-23 said two per cent of child deaths were homicides.

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The advocate said this points to a need for urgent systemic solutions.

“My hope is that the government learns from these tragedies and takes immediate action to prevent more children from losing their lives.

“My office has already made several recommendations related to mental health and addiction supports, as well as intimate partner violence. There are also recommendations that came from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry. Government should commit to implementing these recommendations as they are still relevant today,” Gott said.

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Domestic violence concerns continue in Manitoba

In 2022, she said she issued seven recommendations to the province on tackling domestic violence where children are present.

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According to 2023 compliancy reports, four of those have been partially met.

“Children are falling through the cracks. I hope that all levels of government step up and provide support to those children and youth that are, you know, witnessing violence in the home. Children are being murdered as a result of intimate partner violence,” Gott said, adding around 82 per cent of children exposed to violence are Indigenous.

In an emailed statement, Justice Minister Matt Wiebe said addressing intimate partner violence is a priority for the government of Manitoba.

“We recognize the importance of a multi-faceted approach to address this issue that centres on survivors’ experiences in shaping solutions, appropriate interventions and support,” he said, adding that the NDP will continue to work with MACY and community partners to come up with a solution.

Gott said it in order to protect children in Manitoba, the province should also focus resources on poverty reduction.

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