March 25, 2021

Michelle Falk: The Manitoba Association for Rights & Liberties

Michelle Falk: The Manitoba Association for Rights & Liberties

Michelle Falk has deep roots in Manitoba. But they are roots with two very different cultures. Raised on Treaty One territory in a Mennonite and Franco Manitoban family, Michelle's journey of discovery took her from Lorrette, Manitoba through Winnipeg, to Hamilton and eventually to Toronto where she learned that her passion was the education of human rights which brought her back home to Winnipeg. Michelle has used her education and leadership to grow the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties  (MARL) from a small non for profit to being recognized nationally for the High School Ethics Bowl. She talks about how the education of human rights is learning to be uncomfortable, not just checking a box. 


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 guest today on humans on rights is a settler of Mennonite and franco Manitoba heritage living on treaty one territory.

She's a community leader, experienced not for profit management professional specializing in human rights education initiatives, and she is currently the executive director of the Manitoba associations for rights and liberties.

My guest is Michelle Falk.

Michelle, welcome to humans on rights.

Thanks thanks for having me.

So Michelle, your very first line of your bio states that you're a settler of Mennonite and franco Manitoba heritage living on Treaty one territory.

Let's unpack that.

Why is that important to you?

Yeah, I think it's really important when doing land Acknowledgments and to to position yourself on the land.

Um and so talking about my, my heritage and where I've come from and how I came to be on on this territory.

I think it's really important to um and to identify my position when it comes to settler indigenous relations and um and kind of my my unique perspective in that sense in terms of um my ancestors and um and where I've come from.

So just explore that a little bit.

So the fact that you are um identify yourself as a Mennonite um that obviously is is as you said, it's who you are, which is great but it's important for you to identify that that's just I'd love to get a sense of the importance to you of that.

Mm hmm.


So um so I grew up in a small town just outside the city I grew up in in lloret.

And uh so my my dad's side of the family is Mennonite and my mom's side is um franco Manitoba in.

So it was very different experiences going to the different family gatherings and I thought it was at the time when I was growing up I didn't really um find that there was a lot of tension there but as as I got older and I realized that um there was actually um some tension between my my dad's side of the family thinking that my mom wasn't Mennonite enough and then my mom said the family.

So yeah, so it's just I kind of feel like it's a bit of a unique Manitoba in perspective to have those two um the fusion of those two cultures in in my upbringing and then to bring that into um where where I've gone with my life, I've gone on to university, I was the first one in my family who um was able to attend post secondary and get a degree and so I think that that's a really important part of um why I do what I do as well and Yeah.

So so it's important to um I positioned myself in that way, because it's so everyone's history is so important to where they are now and where they're going.

Um and and that's why I like to mention it in my bio and I think it's great and I appreciate the explanation because I do think again, as you know, growing up in a small community, uh you're you you know, basically you you have family gatherings and family gatherings are always senses of, not always, but most likely senses of celebration.

And to notice that there's a difference, you know, between, you know, um sort of one side of the family and the other side of the family, not not extraordinary, but to notice that, did that have an impact on you early enough that you looked at that and said, you know, do you find one or the other area more um important or you know, do you the fact that you can identify both the importance of those elements?

Is there something there that sort of spoke to you of why the difference was there and how you could celebrate the difference?

Yeah, there's there's been different times in my life where I've identified with one side more than the other, but um but it's always kind of flipped back and forth.

So um for example, the Mennonite side is um Mennonite people are very are known for being very hard working.

Um and um sometimes frugal and so those are those are little elements of my upbringing that sometimes as an adult I come back to and like, oh that's that's why I'm, you know, Will go out of my way to save $20 or something like that.

But then also the Franco Manitoba inside is um going to events like festivals and speaking French now is really important for me and continuing with that.

Um, so there's there's those two kind of the clash of the cultures I guess I'll say, but it's it's not as significant as, you know, people who identify as biracial um or people who are newcomers to Canada who are wrestling ideas of they're old culture and their new culture, but um but yeah, but it's it's still part of my identity and and who I am and so um it's interesting, but it is very interesting Michelle because there is, I mean there's a difference as you just experience and explained in culture difference, the way that you know from the Mennonite culture, the frank and Manitoba in culture, it's not a matter of, you know, this is one of the things that we're going to get into, we talk about education, part of it is really understanding and appreciating the differences and celebrating the differences and I think that in so many ways we focus on the differences that sometimes, you know separate as opposed to bring together and you know, your through your experience in your life, that's what I want to explain and or explore, I should say today is your upbringing in those different kinds of cultures that have driven you to education, to understand human rights and of course now as the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Rights and liberties, how early in your life did you sort of get passionate or understand that human rights was something that really interested you?

Mm hmm.


So it wasn't really something that I was raised around.

But I do remember a distinct moment in high school where we were shown a documentary about um I think it was Naomi klein's no logo.

Um and she's exploring ideas of corporate cultures and the way that people will pay for a brand rather than a product or a service.

And for me it was a really um it was a moment that really kind of defined this new horizon that I had never really explored before, that you could, that you can kind of think past what's being presented to you and think critically about the world around you.

So from from that moment on I just really had a thirst for knowledge and um learning about um you know, wanting to unpack more of the world around me and what I've been seeing.

And so um and so when it was time to apply for university, I was um my first year, I kind of just took every course that I thought looked interesting because I didn't really know where I wanted to go, I didn't have a lot of guidance at that time in my life and um and I decided to pursue politics as a major because the professor that I had in that class was just so engaging and um I thought that she just had so many important things to say and I knew that I really wanted to challenge myself to, to pursue that as a major, and so as I went on in in university, um I was able to find a really great group of mentors who encouraged me to continue on with with my studies and yeah, and I just realized that it's it's really important to me to um for my work to be meaningful and and to give back to the community and to help people who need help the most, because when I was in university and I had those mentors, they were so instrumental in um breaking down some barriers that I hadn't even at the time recognized as someone who was the first one in my family to go to university.

Um it wasn't until years later where I realized that that was actually um how much of an accomplishment that was.

Um So yeah, so so now in my work, I like to focus on education and mentorship um in my work at moral because I really want to give back and provide those kinds of opportunities to people who were in the same position that I was in at that time.

So you're really becoming a mentor to others, the way that somebody was so generous to mentor you, uh you did your political science here at the University of Winnipeg.



And any chance at any time, Michelle, did it ever occur to you that you might be interested in politics?

Ah No, it's just not.

I like to um I'm an introvert and I like to do my work from outside of the spotlight.

So politics is is not really ever been something that's that's appealed to me, but but I love to support the people in my network who are running for politics um and and sort of give my expertise to them from behind the scenes and and lift them up along the way.

So Yeah, yeah, no fair comment.

I you know, I mean just because people take political science, I mean, you know, it's such a broad and such a great course in so many ways, it's just sometimes that uh you know, again, it's the irony of the word political and science together from time to time.

You wonder, you know, where did that come from?

Michelle talk a little bit about some of the mentors that you had specifically, maybe give us an example of some of the things that they did that really impacted you, that that started to get your your path, your journey of learning particularly around around the education element or specifically around human rights.

Yeah, well I think one of the biggest things and maybe but also one of the smallest things that my mentor did was to just tell me that they believed in me and that they thought that I I could do it and that I had the capacity to succeed.

Um That was just something that I wasn't used to at that time and I was filled with so much self doubt because um because I was the first one in my family to go to university and I couldn't my family didn't identify with with that part of of my growth and ambition and it's through no fault of their own, but it just wasn't their experience.

Um And so just to to have someone tell me that they thought that I had the capacity and the potential to succeed um was so transformative for me and being able to um imagine where my life could go and um and that might my that I had something positive to contribute um to to society and to the community.

Um So yeah, so and then again um with moral I think that it's just those little things when you know what we work with practicum students um from the U.


All the time.

And sometimes in our first meeting they come to me and say, well I don't have any office experience, so I don't really know what I can do to help you and and we kind of just sit down and talk about, you know, these are the things that you're good at, this is your perspective that's really valuable.

Um I'll help you to refine those skills and and all the little details of like how to send an email or things that can be taught, but passion and um and personal experience are things that are inherent and so those are the things that are very important.

Yeah, and I you know, just want to sort of just keep on a journey for second Michelle and you did a Masters and Gender Studies and feminist research from McMaster University.

Was there some again through a mentoring program?

Did somebody, you know, suggest that to you, because at that point you're you're still doing your policy at the University of Winnipeg.


Yeah and and that was so there was another course in particular that I took at the U.

Of W.

Um it was called gender and global politics and that course was also another moment where my worldview was completely blown open and um I'm so this isn't a side, but I'm so impressed with um some high school students that we work with with through the high school ethics bowl because they understand concepts like feminism and um and patriarchy and and things like that and and I didn't discover that until university, and it was like such an eye opener for me, so I'm so impressed when when kids who are in high school are already grappling with those ideas and it's, it's not earth shattering for them.

Um, but anyway, so I took this course and I thought it was just so amazing to be able to again, to think about the world in a different way and and look underneath the surface.

Um, and so then I became really interested in uh feminist political theory and that's what I specialized in um for grad school.

Um and at McMaster at the time, we were only the, the second cohort of this, uh, the, the faculty of Graduate studies and feminist or not graduate studies, gender studies and feminist research.

Um and so we were kind of the pilot group that they to that helped develop the program and healthy administrators figure out what exactly they wanted the program to be.

So I thought that that was um, a really great experience and I was able to to kind of temporarily move away from Winnipeg and live in Hambleton um which is a really wonderful city that has a lot of parallels to Winnipeg.

So I really enjoyed living there as well and, and kind of getting to know.

Um and then, sorry, and then re thinking that position al Itty that I talked about at the beginning in a totally different context and environment was also um, something that was I opening because it's, you can't take for granted where you've come from.

Um when you're somewhere else that we're, that perspective is totally unique in a place where No one else has that same history that you do, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm.

Let me just ask you quickly.

So you mentioned the sort of some similarities between Hambleton and Winnipeg, what just what in your, just give me an example of, what did you say, what would you say is would be a similarity.

Yeah, it's just a lot of like the working class city and um and there were a lot of similarities in terms of, they have a downtown mall called Jackson Square, which is exactly like Portage Place.

Um and then, and what they've been able to do with that space was so eye opening.

And I was like, why don't they just do that with Portage Place?

But that's that's that's your political science coming out.

But yeah, and it but it was really cool to how um it was only a bus ride away from Toronto.

And so it was really easy to just hop on a bus and go to the biggest city in Canada.

And um the way that the public infrastructure worked there was, it was really cool and, and also the artist community in Hambleton was, was so amazing because it was, you know, it was a steel town and then the steel factory shut down.

So then there was a lot of um poverty and people who are out of work.

Um but then the city kind of rallied around the artist community and they built a strip of art galleries and once a month they would have uh an art crawl where every the galleries would open their doors and you could go and visit and see all these arts and and then they would have musicians play in the street.

And it was just this really wonderful um community gathering that happened on a regular basis.

That was was really exciting.

And it was it was it was all free and open to the community.

So um I thought it was, yeah, it was a great city.



And and and and and I love the description, I love the way you bring it together and and and and then for you, Michelle to come from lloret, you know, not sure about, you know, post secondary education at all.

Um Take that at the University of Winnipeg and then find yourself in Hambleton.

Um That's quite a journey, you know, for somebody who wasn't sure that what was going to happen to them after grade 12 follow the journey from McMaster in Hamilton's.

That brings you back to Winnipeg.

What when you graduated from McMaster in, I'm just looking at your Master's in gender studies and feminist research at McMaster.

What what was next for you?


So um so after I finished Grad school I um ended up moving to Toronto, there was house in Toronto that was um it was like a Winnipeg house and they, someone was moving out and they needed someone to move in, so I just decided to move to Toronto because I was applying for jobs and all the jobs were in Toronto anyway.

Um and I ended up working at a market research firm in Toronto um and just that experience just really hit home how important it is for me personally, with my personal values to work somewhere um that matches those values and and to do work that has meaning in the community.

Um and it was, it was just really difficult to to wrap my head around um doing work that I didn't think was important in terms of helping people and giving people opportunities and um uh yeah, and so I ended up um coming back to Winnipeg after working there for a few years um because um just a temporary opportunity at the United Way came up and um and I was like, I really need to come back to my roots and take everything that I learned in grad school and the work experience that I've been able to build in Toronto and really give back to the community here in Winnipeg, so I was able to um work with the United Way on their fundraising campaign for a few months and um and just was really invigorated by the way that the whole community comes together to raise millions of dollars for the United Ways so that they can distribute that money to um agencies and um yeah, so so that was really eye opening for me and it really kind of hit home that I made the right decision and that I was I was where I needed to be at that time.

Did you always see yourself coming back to Winnipeg?

I mean this is this opportunity, the United Way obviously surfaced, but were you kind of one kind of having a look kind of east or west, I should say apologize West two Winnipeg.

We're always kind of looking to see when I might be able to jump back into that community.

Yeah, it wasn't really at that time, I don't think I really had a long term plan to be honest.

I was just kind of like a knowing what I was good at and what I wanted to do and just and you know, being at the time of my life where I had the flexibility of just being able to pursue opportunities as they came up um which and and then going for it when when these opportunities did come up, so that's kind of um how I how I approach that, that moment, but uh and then you know, and then I also um I met my my current husband around that time and so I was thinking about those kinds of relationships at at that moment as well and so and that was in Winnipeg and so it gave you an opportunity to think about roots maybe here.

Yeah, yeah, so, you know, Michelle what I think is incredible about, about what you have done personally and what you've been able to achieve and accomplish, and sort of some of the experiences you've had when you think about the marketing first and foremost, I wanted to say just, you gotta keep the dots going from lloret to Winnipeg to Hamilton to Toronto.

So now, you know, you've really, you've really sort of gone from a small community, I'm very familiar with Lorette up into the biggest city in the in Canada.

Um so that's pretty amazing, um that's really amazing, but you know, just to come back for a minute that you find yourself in a position where you're working at a marketing company and, you know, every company has its level of interest and excitement when you first start, but as you start to settle in and realize, you know, like I always think of things that sometimes when somebody says, you know, what do you want to do, and sometimes people say, well, I'm not sure what I want to do, but it's equally as important to understand what you don't want to do, and in this case you were in a situation where you realize that it wasn't something that was going to be a career path you wanted to follow on, but I just want to pause because I know you're so passionate about human rights, and you think about people who don't have the option they have to have, I mean they have to have food, they need money for food, they need money for rent or whatever it may be.

And they're not necessarily in a position where they can pivot to something.

You know, I think you bring those elements into your current position as executive director at the Manitoba Association of Rights and liberties or moral as it's called.

So I think, you know, you you would be your experience there, your personal lived experience would be such a great experience to share with all of those people that are around.

And I I want to get a little bit of sense about why why you think the Manitoba Association of Rights and liberties and I won't say that word again.

I'll refer tomorrow as everybody knows about it.

But what, what drew you tomorrow?

Mm hmm.


Well, I mean, and it's interesting you mentioned that because when I say that I ended up um working somewhere where there was a values misalignment.

It was because of um, you know, I was living in Toronto, which is a really expensive city and I, I I had just finished school and um, I needed a job.

I needed to be able to pay the rent and there was a period of a couple of months that was a really dark time where I wasn't eating as much as I should have because I was, I decided that paying rent was more important and I didn't have enough money for both food and rent.

And so so when I'm, when I'm talking about like, oh I'm just grabbing these opportunities wherever I can, it's because I was in a situation where I I was I didn't have the flexibility and the privilege of um being able to choose at that time.

Um So when you mentioned that, it it just reminded me of um you know, kind of the deeper reasons behind making those kinds of decisions, but um but working at moral, I thought was the one of the first opportunities that I had to be able to um accept a job with with intention.

Um so it was it was the first job and all of these that that um I applied to because I was interested in the mission and I thought that it was a great fit for um you know, the things that I studied, because I was interested in exploring those deeper ideas and um and moral also represented being able to um help and provide services to those people who were struggling and found themselves in um economically disadvantaged situations.

And um and and even thinking back to to myself when I was in those dark times, I would have really benefited from having that kind of resource of, you know, this is where you can turn to these are your rights, um these are the resources that are available to you and so yeah, so wanting to build um resources in the community that can help people that that are um and that were in situations similar to the one that I had found myself in, but yeah, so so that was and and moral at that time was um a much smaller organization that it is now and that was six years ago.

Um so when I first started, I was the only, I was the only staff person there and I was kind of sitting in this office by myself wondering what do I do, but yeah, so, so one of the first things that I did was just really assess what is moral doing and what is what is moral the best at doing and where can we fill a gap in the community.

So a lot of that was just um really focusing in on the parts of our work that um maybe that I felt personally were the most significant and that addressed um those crucial issues that I didn't see anyone else in the community addressing at that time, and that was the education element of it um and and so by really focusing in on that mission and redefining the um the vision of the organization, I was able to um secure funding to hire on more people and build a team in support of those schools.

Um so so that's where we are today, So let's talk just a little bit about when you talk about the education, um I mean your words Michelle, but are you the education of human rights?

Is that what you were sort of looking at is I don't think this has to be anywhere where it's not my words, but that's kind of what you were looking at.



Um Yeah, so just let's explain a little bit about what the importance of education of human rights means to you.


Um so I really firmly believe that human rights education is the key to addressing inequalities that are long term and systemic.

Um it's these misunderstandings and prejudices that that kind of are at the root of discrimination and racism and oppression.

Um and so we approach our work in a couple different ways.

So so one is to um talk to kids in schools and in the community about um you know, what is privilege, What is racism, like how do you how can you really understand where you've come from and and how your experience informs your perspective and how it's different from the perspective of other people in your community that don't have um that same background and and for younger kids.

Um you know, sometimes you do that in more abstract ways by talking about like, you know, some animals swim and some animals fly and you can't ask a, you know, a snake to fly.

And I don't know, but I'm not the one who develops the programs, but I understand you're, you're, what you're, what you're getting at.


Um, so there's, there's that element of it, but then there's also the element of people in the community who are, are vulnerable to human rights discrimination and giving them information that they need to be able to advocate for themselves and, um, and self empowerment.

Um, so, uh, so just recently were, um, going to a newcomer organization to talk to them about what rights they have when they're dealing with the police, um, what to do if, if they're in, um, in a situation where they feel like, um, uh, like they're being discriminated against by someone in that position.

So, um, so there's different types of workshops that we offer to the community and in different levels of understanding human rights and providing those elements of education.


So one of the great things and I want to talk a bit about, uh, the kind of the comment about the difference between diversity training, how it's shaped how it's changed, how it's grown.

Um, but I, I come back to your comment Michelle about, you know, with newcomers and, and spending time with them to understand what their, what their rights are and I know that I went to a citizenship ceremony and, you know, I I think, you know, all Canadians whether they were born in the soil or not should attend or be a part of one because you start to realize how how incredibly overcome people that have had, you know, come from countries of suppression and all sorts of, you know, horrific things that we don't think about.

I mean we've got our challenges in Canada, but but the point is is when they get a sense that that you know, when you ask them questions about why did you come to Canada?

I mean it it pulls on your heartstrings.

They're passionate about what they see in this country and the hope and the opportunity.

And yet there's also an understanding of from your perspective of ensuring that they understand what their rights are.

Do you find that over the your time as overseeing moral has that shifted and changed and if so how has it, what's been the biggest impact?

Um yeah, well, so moral is really focused on local human rights issues.

Um, something that we see a lot with um with high school students, especially those who have grown up in more privileged neighborhoods is they are usually thinking about human rights in terms of um poverty overseas.

Um, and and so we really want these kids in particular to start thinking about um people in their own community who are experiencing poverty and um, and really localize human rights in terms of um, you know, it's, you can have a much bigger impact in helping someone who's who lives right across the street from you.

Um, and and so that's kind of our our focus.

Um, I'm sorry I lost track of the Yeah, yeah.

We were just talking about the, I think you were just saying that that you've got your human rights in the workplace program that you've been looking at working at, and so you start to develop that, and it's really sort of the difference, it's how was that different than, say, diversity training?

And we're we're really pivoting now to talk a bit more about, you know, the workplace versus sort of new Canadians.

But this is all part of the education that moral does and all part of your leadership and how you have pushed that as a as a part of the focus and the vision for moral and that's really what I'd love you to sort of dive into a bit and explain that.

Um, yeah, so in the last uh, in the last year, so we've really, um not necessarily a pivot, but, but an expansion of our programming um in that we've we're focusing more on um workplace anti racism and anti depressant anti oppression training.

Um and the reason why we're doing that is because there's been a lot more attention lately on the way that these sort of ingrained um assumptions and misunderstandings that um, you know, when I talk about going into schools to address those at a young age.

It's just it's it's people who didn't have those opportunities and have gone their whole lives um with internalizing um, discrimination and are now in the workplace and are experiencing these things at um on their in their day to day lives, because workplaces are often just, you know, it's a microcosm of society and so you have people who are in positions of power and then you have the people who are um working for organizations.

And a lot of the time there's there's a lot of concerns that are going on and people don't feel empowered to speak up and and share their experiences.

So um so we want to be able to provide that kind of third party perspective to come in and really advocate for um people in the workplace who are experiencing discrimination and the central focus of our anti racism and anti oppression training in workplaces that I think is different than um kind of regular remedial diversity training is that we really want to give justice to those people who had experienced um discrimination and how we do that is by really asking tough questions um and realizing that growth comes from a place of discomfort and being and embracing that and not shying away from it, and then also working closely with leadership um and and people who are in those decision making positions to to think about their own experiences and their own position al Itty when it comes to um discrimination.

Um and and you know, because change has to come from within and having a group come in and do a one hour workshop, and then leave isn't going to change anything.

So that's that's where we come from.

And we want we wanted to be the start of an ongoing deeper conversation and rethinking power structures and and rethinking um, management strategies that and allowing um, empowering people to to speak up and to to share their thoughts and um, and to feel safe doing so as well.

Yeah, and I think it's um, it's all the things you've just touched on are are extremely important.

And, you know, there's always a sense that organizations when faced with, you know, an internal crisis or an issue, whether it's on discrimination or sexual harassment or whatever it may be, that there's a sense that, well, we better reach out and do something, as you said.

So, you know, maybe in in other times and maybe today still, but not what moral does you do something different?

But the notion that you could do a one or a two hour session and then everybody packs up their books and leaves the room and somebody in senior management potentially could sort of say, well, okay, now we've done that, and I think what you're saying is moral is response is that is that is one rung of a very long ladder that we need to keep moving ahead and keep climbing.


And I think it's it's very attractive for the people in positions of leadership to sometimes invite uh groups to do, um, diversity equity and inclusion training just as a way to rectify some, some bad pr that they've had.

Um, and so we don't want to to be kind of a box to check on as far as public persona goes, and we really want to encourage deeper long term change, um, within organizations.

And so one of the biggest differences between workplace anti racism training and, um, and the training and education programs that we have in schools and in the communities is that there's, um, definitely different motivations that that people have so in, in schools and in the communities, people are so eager to learn and they absorb the new information, um, like sponges and they're so keen and they want to be inspired.

And then workplaces oftentimes there's just a lot more pushback.

Um, and so it's a whole other conversation too break down those barriers and to encourage people to be okay with with discomfort.



Which is a challenge.

And I want to come back to something when you talk about sort of the, you know, younger kids, your, your experience in terms of being sponges.

I know that's something that tomorrow is very, very proud of and is getting national recognition is the high school Ethics Bowl talk a little bit about what does that mean to you?

Yeah, I love the high school ethics school, it's such an amazing program to be a part of, um, because it's so just to give a little bit of context, the high school ethics pool is similar to a debate, but different in a in a few key ways, so we're encouraging um collaborative dialogue, whereas the debate is, you know, one team is one side and the other one is the opposing side and they argue, but the high school Ethics Bowl is about Um one team presents information that they found on a particular topic.

Um So it could be something like um you know, should governments spend money on space exploration when there are people struggling with poverty, you know, something like that, that it could be a multifaceted question?

Um and so the team will will present their arguments and say we think that they should because um space exploration is important for innovation or something like that, and then the the opposing team instead of saying you're wrong and this is why they're encouraged to to think more along the lines of that's a really interesting point.

Have you considered some of these um this other research that we found and and here are some ways that you can build on your argument and then the other team will respond and say, oh, that's so great, thank you for that.

This is this is our response to the questions that you just asked and and they're sort of scored on um on their encouragement basically of the other team and and whether or not they were able to engage in collaborative dialogue.

Um, so yeah, so it's really great And teachers are always so, um enthusiastic and encouraging in in coaching their teams to do this because it's not only the event itself, it's building up the research and the thinking that goes into preparing for the event is um, is a really great way to help kids to learn those skills.

And then we often get feedback from the people who participated in the program that they were really shy and they didn't think that what they had to say was important, but they were able to participate in this event.

And and now they're, they're confident that, um, that what they had to say was important and they didn't know that they could um, ask these kinds of critical questions in that way.

And so it develops leadership skills and um, and critical thinking skills.

And very often we have, we have kids who come back after they've graduated high school and they want to volunteer for the event because it's something that's stuck out in their minds.

And um, our current communications coordinator at moral, um, actually was a former high school ethics pool participant as well.

And, and so, um, and so she has personal experience with that.

And so yeah, so I just think it's an incredible um, program that has such a huge impact on, on kids and like really creating a new generation of leaders um, in in Winnipeg and now nationally.

Mm hmm.

Well, what I I admire about it, Michelle is that today it's so difficult to to get ideas as part of a conversation because people, rather than debating an idea, they tend to attack the individual, you know, And and so what you're doing is moving it away from that so that it becomes much more of a debate around an idea.

And and how can we look at these ideas?

And I, and I think it's fantastic.

And again, you know, kudos to you for uh and moral forgetting some national recognition.

You know, I know it's not why you created it.

It's just that good ideas tend to draw attention and so you're you're doing that and I think it's fantastic.

And I just as your I'm listening to you and I wonder how many other people that are involved in this are kind of the Lorette to Winnipeg to Hamilton to Toronto experience that you've had.

So, um, hey, listen, I I've really enjoyed this.

I would love to just get a sense from you, Michelle.

I know you're an avid reader and one of the things I like to do is to see if there's a chance to um have you share some books and I know that you could go on for quite a while because I know that how much you love reading.

But I just wondered if there were a couple of books that you might recommend to anybody who's listening and will will post it up on our website that might be reference books or people or books that you would sort of say these books really touched me.

And I would highly recommend them.

Mm hmm.


So um so the first one that I enjoyed reading lately that I think um Had was really eye opening for me is seven fallen feathers.

Written by Tanya tell olga.

Um so it's a story about people, indigenous people in Thunder Bay who had experienced violence racialized violence.

Um and it's really eye opening and I think particularly there's so many parallels between indigenous peoples in Winnipeg and and in Thunder Bay.

Um and so that's one that I would really recommend people people check out.

Um And um sort of another book that that I've been reading lately is um called feminists Among Us.

Um And that's a compilation um with an editor.

But the different chapters are just about um feminist leadership and how that's different than traditional leadership in terms of um leading collaboratively and emphasizing democratic decision making and um when we talk about the human rights in the workplace series, um I really feel that it's breaking down those assumptions of of leadership um is so important to um to breaking down those barriers in terms of people who might be experiencing discrimination in the workplace and and having a more collaborative and transparent work environment is so important.

Um Two ah Giving justice back to those people.


And I, you know the way you described both these books.

They're right in your wheelhouse of who you are, how you've come around to be the kind of person that you are.

And I just uh I want to say Michelle um it's been we've chatted offline a few times, This conversation has been fantastic.

It's been enlightening.

It's a great opportunity for um anybody that's listening to understand how fortunate this community is to have somebody with your passion and your leadership, running an organization like moral making a difference at a local level at all levels of our of our community, whether it's new Canadians or students or all of the elements.

I know that I'm involved in anti racism week um as are you and moral and you're going to be leading a number of facilitating a number of discussions and again, just showing how you're involved in the community.

Um I I can't thank you enough for the time and and I I thank you very much for the great work that you are leading and the difference that you're making and I would just say that we are Winnipeg is is and will continue to be a stronger community because we have people in in in leadership roles dealing with human rights like you.

So, Michelle folk, thank you very very much.

Thank you.

It's an honor to be invited.

Thanks so much.

We'll talk again, I know 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.

Maybe music by Doug Edmund.

For more.

Go to human rights hub dot C A a production of the Sound off media company.

Hi, I'm matt Kendell, host of the Sound off podcast, The podcast about broadcast every week since 2016, we've been bringing on broadcast leaders to talk about their experiences and radio, what they've seen and where they believe it is all going.

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