Nov. 26, 2021

Micaela Crighton & Leah Wilson: Institute for International Women's Rights Manitoba

Micaela Crighton & Leah Wilson: Institute for International Women's Rights Manitoba

Micaela Crighton (She/They) and Leah Wilson (They/Them) are the Co-Chairs of Advocacy for the Institute for International Women's Rights -Manitoba and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. They both discovered their passion for human rights at an early age and have played significant roles in organizations such as the World Federalist Movement, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Make Poverty History Manitoba plus others. On this episode they share their concerns about the Shadow Pandemic and why the IIWR-MB launched the Feminist Response to COVID -19.

NOTE: some important information was missed in the episode. Please go to "Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls ( and read the 231 individual Calls for Justice.


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

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.

Here's your host Stuart Murray.

My guests today on humans on rights are the two advocacy co-chairs for the 16 days of activism that takes place every year From November 25 to December 10.

Micaela Crighton was born and raised on Treaty One Territory, is grateful to the First Nations and Metis people and communities on whose land she resides.

She's been a member of the II WR since 2014 and she has been the co chair of advocacy and been instrumental in the institute's advocacy campaigns over the last five years.

She has an interesting background that she's graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2019 with a BA, double majoring in human rights and theater performance, or one half of the local improv duo that has performed across Western Canada in other parts of their life.

Micaela is a passionate aquatics instructor and competitive paddler who strongly believes in non traditional education and discovery through sports, theater and outdoor education.

The other side of the co-chair is Leah Wilson.

Leah Wilson is a student and a community activist.

She's studying her master's arts candidate in law and legal studies at Carleton University.

She has done research focused on human rights, transitional justice, settler, colonial relations and financial literacy, graduating from the University of Winnipeg in 2000 and 19 with a B A double majoring in Human rights and International Development studies and leah has worked as the communications coordinator for make poverty history in Manitoba and serves as the co chair of advocacy for the Institute of International Women's Rights, Manitoba leah and Michaela, welcome to Humans on rights.

Thank you for having us.

So Micaela, let me just start with you.

Tell me a little bit about you.

You're doing some amazing things.

But are you a Manitoba in where did you go to school?

And we'll get a sense of how did you get involved in this most important project?

Yeah, so I I was born and raised on Treaty One territory, grateful to the first nation of Meaty peoples and communities on the lands in which I reside.

And I grew up in north killed Onen until about grade five.

I feel like I've lived all over the city because my parents separated when I was quite young and they decided that living on opposite ends of the city at all times was a great solution to that.

So my mom moved to the South Angeles City to Fort Richmond and my dad had lived in Birds Hill.

I've lived in Windsor Park.

I've lived downtown somewhere in the west end, so kind of all over the city and I grew up kind of between those two households.

And when I was in high school I went to Vincent Massey Collegiate and then hung out with my dads who lived on Mcrae Avenue at the time on the weekends.

And then I went to the University of Winnipeg where I decided to study human rights and theater and film, A very disparate fields of study, I've been told and I have focused in performance and some costuming when I was in my theater degree and then I graduated in 2019 and have been working in my field ever since.

So just hang on for a second when you talk about your field, I think you've got a couple there.

What about theater?

Are you still active in theater?

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, that has been a bit of a rough time.

I actually am going to be seeing my improv partner for the first time since I think February of 2020 in person next month, like in early December.

So I'm really excited about that and we're hoping to get a bit of our improv back together and going again.

But it's been a slow move back into the theater just because I also have so many other things on my plate and requires a lot of dedication, which is why I really enjoyed improv as a field.

That's fantastic.

Thank you so much for sharing that Michaela leah Wilson, tell me a bit about your background, How are you also a Manitoba and Winnipeg or what interests have you got before we get into your profession.

I'm also born and raised in Winnipeg.

It's funny because I've been doing some schooling in Ontario now and I didn't think I realized how much of a dedicated Winnipeg and Manitoba I was until I moved here and I'm defending Manitoba Winnipeg, prairie provinces at like every step again.

I grew up in Central Winnipeg and I went to school at Kelvin, which is quite a significant high school in Manitoba and was involved in lots of extracurriculars and sports there and that's kind of where my interest in human rights started from actually was in grade nine when I did the after human rights and holocaust studies program and it has grown from there into a diversity of interests and fields within Winnipeg and Manitoba.

But then after my high school I went to also the University of Winnipeg, I did a double major in human rights and international development Studies because at the time the University of Winnipeg was one of three universities within Canada that had a human rights program and I knew I wanted to study that and it was a little bit just like to perfect that it was offered in my hometown, so I just decided to stay here and do that and then from there I had a wide range of opportunities within my education to do experiential learning and field courses, I did a work study program, I did two practicum in my undergrad, partially because Global college, the University of Winnipeg, human rights program, really values experiential learning and I love that about it.

I couldn't amend it enough for how well it does to put students into actual like lived experience placements and experiences.

And so I kind of got more passion for human rights from that and being able to do that within my education and I have become involved in a wide range of things within Manitoba now, but I'm, as you mentioned, the culture of advocacy for I.



As well as if you work with make poverty history Manitoba and amongst many other things, you've done a tremendous amount and leah, I'm gonna ask you the question and then I'm gonna pivot over to you, Michaela on the same one, but you both talked about getting interested in human rights at a quite what I would say, a very early stage and your schooling in what you did leah, what was it that got you interested in human rights because it can be perceived to be a very broad subject matter.

I mean there's lots of elements around human rights, but was there something that sort of was a trigger for you that was like, wow, this is something that really interests me and I want to pursue it.

That's a good question, I think I've always had an interest in human rights and social justice, but like I mentioned when I was in grade nine, I had the opportunity to take the asper human rights and holocaust studies program which was like an after school program that you attended once a week for 12 weeks and then it culminated in a trip to Washington D.


To visit the United States holocaust Memorial Museum as well as other Smithsonian's and institutes.

And I think that really exposed me to the fact that human rights was a field and something to actually get into because at the time when you're taking you know, basic courses like math, english social studies, it isn't really excess ified that there's like so much more to the field of human rights or social justice than any one subject can make it seem.

And so when I was able to take that course, I realized that it is such a broader area of interest and that there's so much more to it than just, you know, it being like a four week part of a social studies course.

And so from there I really was able to delve into those passions but it wasn't until university and being able to take like more extensive courses in it that I was actually able to really get into my passion for it and also within the community work that I did since then.

But I would say that one course that I did take in high school was able to like expand my interest and kind of brought in the horizons of what human rights can be.

Yeah, I'm going to the the holocaust museum in, in Washington, you know, it's an incredible experience and really it's kind of the pivot to why Israel Asper is diaspora, had this dream about building the Canadian museum for human rights to, you know, why do we send our students down to the United States?

What are we doing in our own backyard?

So it's interesting that you were part of that leah and I'm glad you know you shared that because I've been there also and it's quite a powerful place to visit so I appreciate you on that.

Let me pivot over to you, Michael Crichton, What got you interested in human rights in terms of where you started to say this is something I really want to get involved in.

You warned me that this would be a question and then my mind spiraled off into like what was the defining point?

I like that Leah, you had a defined area to pinpoint.

I don't know that I can, I can say that the thing that made me decide to study it in university was that in grade 12, I had already known that I I wanted to go to the University of lamb peg.

I lived 20 minutes at my mom's place from the University of Manitoba, a 20 minute walk and really decided that I wanted the hour long bus commute to the University of Winnipeg instead and I was actually planning on studying education with a focus in history and French and I talked a lot about how I wanted to go into law with the intention not to actually become a lawyer but to understand how to affect what I now know as policy and like make changes in that regard.

And I was in my problem mundo, It was my world issues class in Grade 12 and Senator Mary Lennox veteran came to speak to our class about the new program at the University of Winnipeg and I went home that day, talked about how what you can study and why she got into law and why she got into being a human rights lawyer.

And I went home that day and said, I know what I'm studying, it's going to be this because I always loves the idea of learning from history to better understand our presence and apply that to how like trying to learn from our past mistakes and and trying to work to eat better.

But I think that if I like reflect on it, I just had really positive influences of wanting to make change in your community.

I grew up in the united Church and my youth group did very volunteer events each month as well as fun events.

So I grew up working with Winnipeg harvest and doing cheer board and all of those things were kind of just part of my everyday life in that space.

And I think also just in school, I was part of a lot of the clubs that you can be involved in, I was in my elementary school part of, I can't remember what it's called, but the elementary version of Key Club, which I then was also a part of in high school, I volunteered with Canadian blood services and I think all of those things kind of meld together to create an interest and then it also just impacted parts of my life, like I was a closeted queer kid at the time and especially like I knew that I was not straight from a very young age, but I did not come out until much monies and I remember just watching like things around marriage equality and a lot of the discussions around how to access these different rights evolving as I was growing up and all of that just felt like it hit a lot harder and was something that I cared a lot about and similarly as someone who was growing up socialized as a woman in a woman's body, all that kind of stuff, it was something that I wanted to understand why I was having these different experiences from some of my peers, Michaela, thanks for sharing that.

And so you mentioned mary lou McFerron or Senator mary lou McFerron, as you said, of course, somebody who is just so so powerful and so passionate and does such great work around some of these issues and advocating for them and and I think that again, just somebody that I've had the honor frankly of being in her company.

So it's a it's wonderful that we can sort of share those things.

So let me come back now with the fact that you know, I know leah, you mentioned I I W R.

And so I just want to come back for those people listening.

That the II wr slash MB stands for the Institute for International Women's Rights Manitoba.

So Institute for International Women's Rights Manitoba, I gotta tell you just as a pause, all of these dog on acronyms.

I'm telling you sometimes they get a little confusing, but it's important because it, you know, it's important to understand what it is that you're doing.

And so as guests on my podcast today, Michaela Crichton and Leah Wilson, you are the co chairs of advocacy of the II wr dash MB.

But in particular, you're working on 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

So, Makayla, let me ask you this question.

What does that mean?

Why did you get involved in it?

And what sorts of actions Might we be looking forward to come out of those 16 days?

Yeah, So the 16 days of activism against gender based violence is an international campaign.

It started in the 1990s and evolved from there and it was selected to symbolically link November 25, which is the international day for the elimination of violence against women to december 10th, which is of course human rights Day To connect to this experience of violence against women, gender based violence to the idea of human rights and that Women's rights are human rights and that eliminating gender-based violence also serves to advance human rights for all people.

So it started by the women's Global Leadership Institute in 91 and it's coordinated by the center for women's global leadership and is now a United Nations campaign.

And so we do that in coordination with different organizations across the world.

You'll see just small to national, like local to national and international organizations starting on that day, kind of bringing a highlight to gender based violence.

And the color for the day is Orange.

And that's because the idea is to orange the world to kind of raise this awareness.

And that color was selected by the same group that was trying to merge these two ideas.

And so for I w are we have been part of this campaign since we started when we started in 2013.

I came on in 2017, so I can speak a lot more from that experience.

But I wanted to be a part of advocacy mostly it was actually kind of funny how I ended up being the co chair of advocacy.

I was at an A G.


And the current chair was stepping down and they had not yet nominated a replacement and asked if me and one of my friends would be willing to stand as a replacement.

And so I got a very 30 minute probably brief rundown of what the role was and said sure and have been learning ever since.

But I had been a member since 2014 because I wrs associated into the Global College.

There was at the time a similar institute within the Global College which hosts the human rights program at the University of Olympic.

And so all students were considered members of I WR So it made a really easy connection to make And within that that's how I started learning.

It was I took over just after the 16 days of activism that year.

So I've kind of seen how it had run that year.

And since then we have been doing some online campaigns surrounding bringing more of a local lens to it.

We recognize that there's not a lot of organizations within Manitoba that have the specific focus of gender and gender, human rights and human rights surrounding women's rights and so we want to try and really focus in on our own local experience, especially because Manitoba tends to be ignored.

I was recently traveling, I'm sorry to deviate in the story for a minute.

I was recently traveling, I was in B.


And I was talking to folks about how all of the news coverage is like the west is Saskatchewan Alberta Bc.

The east is Ontario Quebec the maritimes are separate as well.

And then there's the territories and then you just like Manitoba does not get to be east or West and you don't get central news coverage and you don't get to be a prairie.

Even the prairie provinces are Saskatchewan Alberta.

And so I think trying to bring the spotlight since we have a more international connection back to the local lens, especially for some of our national partners is also really good to kind of raise the profile of other communities.

Doing really important work within Manitoba.

That might not be seen by organizations like Y W.



Otherwise who we have partnered with in the past.

I should clarify here that I W.


Is the only organization in Manitoba with Economic and Social Council status within the U.


So it's called Pecos tax status.

That means that we can send folks to the United Nations for conferences for different events and it has to be approved by the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations to be able part of it.

And that has been very helpful for us to be able to kind of bring that spotlight and connect that local truly to the global and so within the upcoming 16 days, You can kind of expect that we will be having a few different events.

We have 3-4 events.

We're just waiting on a few confirmations for it.

We're hoping to have an event on 29 November, that one will be with the Canadian women for women in Afghanistan.

So we are partnering with them.

One of our board members is also a member of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.

We'll be having a discussion with them about the recent violence towards women and girls and especially lack of access to education within Afghanistan.

And some of our promotional material around at times you'll see articles and videos and images and a lot shared on our social media to lead up into the event and then we're working with the organization to put out calls to action for folks that you will be able to find those if you come to the event or afterwards.

And then the next kind of chunk is looking at reproductive justice.

So we are hoping to have a conversation with some service providers around access to reproductive justice with the Manitoba and bringing to light some of the challenges that service providers face, especially in context of The LGBTQ two Plus Community and Rural and Remote Communities.

And then finally we're hoping to do a highlighting of the 231 calls to justice and really focusing on where we are as an organization within that, recognizing that we have a role to play within Achieving the 231 calls to justice and making them be able to be implemented but also making sure that we're raising that profile because all of that connects back into the idea of how gender based violence is impacting our communities.

Michaela, thank you so much for that.

That overview and by the way, you have provided me both your individual social channels and of course I will ensure that this podcast is tagged so that anybody that's listening wants to find out more information can go to the i I w our website as well, just to sort of find some of the other amazing things that you're doing.

So, thank you for sharing Leah Wilson, the other co chair for advocacy from the II Wr give me a sense from your perspective.

People always talk about, you know, activists, activism, the importance of activism, and that's what you're involved in.

How would you share the word?

Education and activism when you're talking about 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

That's a great question.

I think both Michaela and myself, we recognize that the first step in creating change or movement making is education right?

You have to be able to be empowered and be aware and have the knowledge which in and of itself is a huge privilege just to be able to have the time and space to be educated or to receive education.

It's a huge privilege to be able to do that.

But we also recognize that that's something that is needed to be made accessible and it needs to be, you know, culturally sensitive and relevant and it has to be something that people feel empowered to do, it can't be something that people are, it's forced upon people, you know, we have to be able to provide education that's accessible and for all people to be able to start that kind of journey of understanding change making and wanting to feel empowered.

It does start with education.

And I think Michael and I recognize that within our advocacy, we kind of have a conversation even at the organizational level of like do we expand our efforts into more of an educational realm.

But I think we recognize also that advocacy is inherently intertwined with education because of the fact that people have to have that knowledge first and foremost, in order to feel empowered to make change.

And so for us, it's recognizing that we have to be able to allow people to come to our work and feel welcomed and feel that it's accessible and feel that they are welcomed into our space.

And we try and do that really intentionally.

We try and work with a diversity of partners in Manitoba, we try and support other networks and other groups in their work and put them at the forefront when they have, you know, the most pertinent response of pertinent information that we're working with, and we just try and support as best we can.

But at the same time, we also do recognize that systemic change comes about through a very intentional approach because at the higher level of like policy making, that's something that isn't going to change unless there's a push for change?

And so when we are working on our advocacy work, we try and make sure that we're accessible and we have that education component, but we also recognize that there's a level that has to be targeted towards systemic change because systems won't change unless they're pushed to.

And so that's kind of how we approach our work specifically when it comes to advocacy and activism.

And that's why we try and partner with organizations who we know have, you know, the most like lived experience with the work that we're trying to address.

Whether that be through gender based violence or that be through additional support for community work, a support for women's shelters, support for responses to domestic violence, any of those initiatives that we're trying to address.

We do try and work with service providers first and foremost, because we know that they have the lived experience knowledge, they have the awareness, we'll learn from them, and then that's how we put forward our approach to systemic change.

So, I think it's really a hand in hand type of approach that we take to both advocacy and education.

So leah, thanks for that.

I just want to leave if you don't mind picking up on something that Michaela had mentioned about the 231 calls to justice.

Can you explain?

What are those and what are you going to do around the issue of advocacy On those 231 calls to justice?


So the 231 calls to justice are kind of the report mechanism of the inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls And two spirit folks.

And we are recognizing that as an organization we have a responsibility to the 231 policy justice to look at them to see how we can implement them within our approach.

Because frankly, if we don't recognize and take an approach to address the 231 calls, we won't have the systemic change that's needed to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

And so we are trying to use the 231 calls to hold ourselves accountable to those calls for justice to see what progress we've made, but also where we're lacking progress and where we need to be implementing more work.

And so We are trying to go about doing that intentionally and creating space for ourselves to learn from the 231 calls.

And also just to remind our members and other folks that these calls to justice are out there and that for at least myself as a settler, I do have a responsibility to be aware of them and to respond to them in my life and in my work, my activism that's only going to see change once people recognize Their accountability to the 231 calls?

And I think that's a really important part for us as cultures of advocacy just to create that kind of awareness not only for our organization, but also for our membership as well.

Mikayla, Did you want to jump in on that?

Yeah, I think that I just wanted to also highlight like for folks who might not be as familiar with them.

I think it's really important that I know that people have probably heard this many many times that you become familiar with them.

And I understand that some people might start reading them and immediately see that there like a lot of them are for government or for institutions that they might not feel that they belong to.

But I encourage people especially to go and look at Section 15 which is called for all Canadians and it calls for people to denounce and speak out against violence against indigenous women and girls and to S.






Q I.

A people and de colonize themselves by how they're learning about history and doing that internal work and develop knowledge of the final report and read about it and understand why they have chosen to use the term genocide and read the supplementary report.

And the call 15.8 is a call to help hold governments accountable to act on the calls to justice.

And so I think that that's where you can especially see a connection to all those previous calls is if you're familiar with them, then how are you also trying to hold governments accountable to them and trying to make those connections to them.

And so we recognize as an organization as as individuals, but that's part of it.

And then that we need to make sure how we're actually doing that work.


So Mike Kelly, just that you mentioned sections 15 for those that are listening, where would they find that?

Just take them to that for a 2nd.


So they can head over to the it's mm I um W G dash S S A D A dot C A.

Um that's the place where you can find the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Um and it on the front page it says reclaiming power and place the final report of the National inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

And there's like a teal bar on the right hand side that says read the final report and calls to justice.

And it's within those calls to justice.

And you can like tab down to that section if you want to take a quick look over.

Um and then come back to be able to read the final report as well.

If you haven't taken the time to Yeah, perfect.

And again, just for those that are listening, if that went by pretty quickly, I'll make sure that that's part of the notes, you know, so they know where to go and see it because I think that's super important.

Um Leah Wilson, one of the things that that I guess if people would say, you know, 16 days of activism, how can I get involved?

What what would you recommend that I could do?

How could I get involved?

And what would you recommend me to do?

Yeah, that's a great question.

And I think Um really first and foremost, 16 days of activism is just about creating awareness around gender-based violence.

I mean, we saw a huge uptake in gender-based violence, domestic violence uh as a result of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And that raised a lot of red flags for people realizing that this hasn't been addressed enough and it's only increasing, it was termed um nationally and internationally as the shadow pandemic.

And so it just shows you how severe this concern is and how we do need to be taking steps to address it.

And so some ways to get involved within our own 16 days of activism is of course checking in with our social media, we are on facebook instagram and twitter depending on the day.

We'll do actions that you can actually get involved through our social media channels.

So sometimes those are, you know, sending letters to either government, representatives through organizations, letters of support through amnesty international, the other types of partners that we have.

Um and you can actually directly do an action online.

We also just have different events like we mentioned, we are having a series of events that are all going to be held online.

So that's an easy way to just, you know, learn a little bit more specifically about work that's being done within our own communities, because while this is a huge concern and an international campaign, there's also a wide variety of organizations that do this work at the local level and we do believe in supporting them fully.

And so there's easy enough ways to check out the, check out the events that we partnered with.

Um, so that you can either attend or you know, follow up with our recordings, we do post a recording some events online afterwards if we're able to and then also just, you know, check in with different organizations that do that work locally.

There's a wide variety of them in Winnipeg.

Um, the Manitoba Association of Women's shelters, they're hosting an event on december 10th on International Human rights Day.

And so even that type of work that is really local at the local level that people can follow along with Can support.

Um, and just, you know, I think first and foremost is also starting about conversations, you know, having those conversations with people in your lives because it is a really important important issue and it's something that we recognize is kind of ongoing.

And so that's just a really simple way to to start out your 16 days journey, I would say awesome leah, thank you so much.

Michaela want to jump in on this one.

Yeah, I also just want to highlight that in past years and we're going to talk about it again this year, but we always talk about making 16 days, 365.

Um, and I leah brought up all the really great things that uh you can do throughout the 16 days and there's going to be much more than just us um, participating.

Uh, but I also want to encourage folks that it's kind of also learning about gender based violence and how it manifests in your life so that you can take action on it in even the smallest ways, right?

We often talk about how um advocacy can feel really intimidating.

I mean, I think leah touched on that previously and how you often have to feel um educated and that you need to have an understanding of the issue before entering into that space, or or it can be really overwhelming for folks.

Um, and I think that it's really important to also remember that advocacy isn't just um how organizations do it, where it's it's letter writing and that kind of thing.

It's having those conversations with folks at the dinner table.

It is pulling someone aside and and saying, I disagree with how, how you're framing that or have you thought about how that's impacting someone else or it's making sure that you understand what the signs of abuse are, right when it's happening.

Uh, learn about the signal for help.

Um, there was a news article recently about how it quite literally saved someone's life for those who don't know, it was created by the Canadian Women Foundation.

Um it's a hand signal where you hold up your whole hand.

I'm trying to do this over audio, which is very fun.

Uh so you hold your whole hand flat, you fold your thumb into your palm and then you bring your hand down around it.

It was made during the pandemic to signal to other folks on zoom calls or uh, for one out about that, you're in a dangerous situation and need help.

Um, so, learning about those types of things are, and learning how you can properly intervene.

There's so many great organizations, um, Canadian Women's shelter is one of them that um that does all of this work to be able to educate folks about how they can intervene in every day, work in lives.

And so, learning about how to make changes in your workplace, in your day to day life within your friend group, Making sure that's also not always the person who is impacted by it, who has to say something as someone who has often been that person at a party who has to be like, well, that's not funny, That's really insulting.

Um and everyone makes you feel like you're the bad one.

I know everyone else feels as exhausted when they have to do it, but it's also really exhausting when you always have to be the one standing up for yourself.

And it's always so nice when you have folks around you.

Humans on rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray social media marketing by the creative team at full current in Winnipeg.

Thanks also to Trixie May bite you in.

Music by Doug Edmund for more, go to human rights hub dot C A produced and distributed by the sound off media company.

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