Assiniboine Park is truly a jewel in our city, and I am so proud to have represented it both during my time as City Councillor and now as a Member of Parliament.
For over a century it has provided a place of recreation for families, for quiet contemplation, for respite from one’s daily chores and for learning about nature. In more recent years the Zoo has undergone extensive improvements including the Journey to Churchill polar bear exhibit, and Aunt Sally’s farm.
The Park is now developing the new world class diversity garden which when completed will showcase the flora of the prairies including a special representation of indigenous gardens. The incredible duck pond has been improved and expanded as well as so many other things.
The Park has served to enhance quality of life of all Manitobans. We should all be very proud of the important contributions it has made and continues to make in our daily lives.
But now the Park will serve us again in a new and vitally important way.
From the time I was very young, going on family drives through the park I remembered seeing a brown brick building on the very west end of the park. It never seemed to quite fit in and nobody seemed to know what it was for. It’s in a secluded serene area where there are no other park exhibits, surrounded by nothing but prairie grasses and forest.
The address of this mysterious building is 700 Assiniboine Park Drive. Not a lot is known by the public about the building’s history. It was built in the 1960s and was the Convent of the Sacred Heart School for only a few years before declining enrolment in the mid-1970s forced closure; it was run as a convent and full grade school for girls by the sisters of the Sacred Heart, who had for decades been in a smaller school in what is now Westgate School in Armstrong’s Point.
The building also served as a staff training centre for the City of Winnipeg.
It is in this beautiful setting that the Toba Centre for Children and Youth, Manitoba’s only child advocacy centre, is seeking to expand its mandate beyond its core function of interviewing victims of child abuse and child witnesses to violence. The Toba Centre will expand to this under-utilized city-owned facility in Assiniboine Park.
They have just embarked on their “We Will” campaign that will fund the renovations required to develop the space for the very specific needs of a high- functioning, multi-disciplinary child advocacy centre in a calm and serene setting. Construction is already underway for this $15 million facility that will help victims of child abuse recover for decades to come.
The Province under Premier Heather Stefanson has committed two million dollars to this project and additional money is being raised in the community. As the member of Parliament in which this facility is located I will continue to do all I can to advocate for its success.
For anyone interested in more information about this important endeavour please feel free to contact my office. All Manitobans should be proud of this innovative and necessary project that will help heal so many children who have suffered abuse in our society.
The force behind this vital project is Christy Dzikowicz, Executive Director of the Toba Centre for Children and Youth. I recently had the opportunity to tour this incredible project with Christy which is scheduled open early in 2023.
Christy says, “We need to expand our definition of justice. It is of course important that we identify, arrest, and convict child abusers, but as a society we must also look at the needs of victims of child abuse and their families. And not just the immediate needs of victims and their families, but also their long-term needs. There can be no justice without healing.”
No truer words were ever spoken.
Marty Morantz is MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.
More about the Toba Centre, click here.