'To build the city we all want, children & youth must be at the heart of its design.' - Robert-Falcon Ouellette
During the 2014 mayoral campaign, our first announcement was to make Winnipeg a ‘child-friendly city’. Based on an existing world-wide initiative supported by UNICEF (1) and already adopted by other Canadian cities (2), a ‘child-friendly city’ is a city in which the voices, needs, priorities and rights of children and youth are an integral part of public policies, programs and decisions.
As in 2014, I stand firm on our commitment to build a ‘child-friendly city’ because every decision the city makes, every policy or by-law, ultimately impacts children and youth.
As Mayor we will place the well-being of children and youth at the center of the city’s decision-making process. This would include how best to support the parents, grandparents, caregivers, and elders who nurture and raise our children.
To build the city we all want, children must be at the heart of its design.
Three principles would guide the city’s decision-making process to create a Child-Friendly Winnipeg;
1. Physical Environment - A community that, through natural and built spaces, promotes safety and social connectedness, where children and youth feel safe, have freedom of movement, and opportunities for play and imagination.
2. City Services - A community where all children and youth can access enriching and engaging programs and services that promote their healthy development regardless of their family’s income or background.
3. Engagement - A community where children and youth are valued members and can actively contribute their time and ideas to civic life.
Building on Existing Programs & Services
As Mayor, we will work with council to enhance existing city programs and services that directly benefit children, youth and their families:
Customizing Library Hours - Public Libraries are a network of family, child and youth-friendly spaces offering year-round programming essential to development.
The city should build on this important service by expanding and customizing library hours for when children and families can use it, specifically evenings and weekends.
Growing Block Parents - Block Parents is an organisation of national volunteers who provide safe spaces for children in emergencies or when they feel in unsafe. The simple presence of a Block Parent house on a street helps make a neighbourhood safer. (3)
This effective community-based program is invaluable in helping to keep our children safe and the city should work with them to support and expand their coverage in Winnipeg.
Free Transit for Children & Youth - Starting in 2021, children aged 11 and under can ride transit for free. This program was put in place to make transit more affordable for families and encourage the next generation to choose transit. (4)
While a good start, we need to take this a step further and allow children and youth 17 and under to ride transit for free. This would provide a financial break to families and invests in the next generation of transit riders.
Helping to Create New Memories
As part of a ‘Child Friendly Winnipeg,’ we are proposing three concrete actions that go beyond what is currently offered by the city:
Two New Aquatic Centres - Winnipeg weather provides a very short season for the city’s outdoor pools and splash pads. During the winter, families search for things to do with their children indoor, with those who can afford it renting rooms at city hotels or at destinations in Grand Forks with indoor waterparks.
It is time all families had affordable year-round access to state-of-the-art aquatic centres. Centres that include swimming, fitness facilities and a waterpark, like we see in Steinbach and Portage La Prairie.
As mayor, we will work to build two aquatic centres for the families of Winnipeg and ensure that they are accessible and affordable.
More Affordable Dance – For children & youth, participating in dance has shown to be an excellent source of physical activity, a way to explore creativity and to build confidence. However, the high cost of dance programs can make it unaffordable for some.
The city should work with community centres, private dance companies and instructors to use existing facilities to create greater access for dance classes. Private dance companies and instructors would be given preferential facility rates with the expectations that their savings would be passed on to program participants through lower registration fees.
The goal is to give the greatest access across the city to as many children and youth as possible, regardless of their ability to pay.
Community Centre Charity Status - Community centres rely heavily on direct funding from the city, with some taking on fundraising initiatives themselves to help with special projects or programs. While there are a few community centres registered as a charity and able to issue tax receipts, almost all are not. (5)
We will create a city-administered charitable registration program, with the city taking a lead in registering interested community centres as charities. Once registered, the city would accept donations and issue receipts on behalf of the community centre, greatly enhancing their ability to fundraise and to provide programming.
I would like to acknowledge the murder victims killed by two 15-year-olds in Point Douglas.
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and while we make no excuses for those who committed this terrible crime, as a city we must ask ourselves…“where would we be if we started this eight years ago for our children and where will we be in eight years if we don’t start now?”.
Together let’s build a Child Friendly Winnipeg.
Thank you, Merci, Tapwe akwa khitwam.