Roughly 50 people gathered at Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre in Winnipeg's Point Douglas neighbourhood on Sunday to hear the area's political hopefuls talk child welfare.
"We are very alarmed that in our neighbourhood, one in six children are in the care of CFS [Child and Family Services]." said Michael Redhead Champagne of Fearless R2W, the group that organized the event.
"We feel like this is an over-apprehension of children and we want to ask all the people running in this provincial byelection to be solution-oriented and work with families first before taking children away."
Champagne said the forum was a chance to engage with candidates who could be running in the upcoming byelection and pick their brain on what needs to be done in order to better protect children.
Fearless R2W has a number of ideas Champagne says are part of the solution.
"Traditional family parent training options, as well as social workers. We also feel like it's important to increase parents in the R2W access to safe housing," Champagne said. "We also feel like an increase in addiction supports that's absolutely mandatory and parents shouldn't be ashamed to ask for help."
Poverty, lack of jobs identified as issues
John Cacayuran, Manitoba's Liberal Party candidate in the Point Douglas riding, was on hand to meet residents and answer some questions.
The forum was one of Cacayuran's first after making his political debut in early February. The Point Douglas-born candidate said the biggest issue facing the area is poverty.
"Were looking at reducing transit fares, were going to look at housing issues, security," he said. "Ways to improve Point Douglas."
Cacayuran said it needs to be easier for families in the neighbourhood to get their hands on healthier food.
"There's a lot of corner stores that offer only chips and drinks. You walk in there and you can't even find an apple," he said. "We want to increase health and that will curb the issue of poverty"
The event was also attended by Deanna Ratt of the Manitoba Party, James Beddome of the Green Party and Darrel Rankin of the Communist Party.
Byelection to be called by July
Bernadette Smith, who was nominated as the Point Douglas NDP candidate at the end of January, was unable to attend the forum. St. John's MLA Nahanni Fontaine attended in her stead.
Fontaine believes poverty, intergenerational issues and a lack of jobs are issues currently challenging the community. Fontaine said Smith is best fit for the job because she has a strong ability to connect with people.
"I think it's important to recognize it's one thing to say, 'Yes, I'll work with you and I'll engage with you.' It's a complete other when you have a candidate who's done that, and is a really good testament to the strength of doing that work in the community."
Premier Brian Pallister has until July to call the byelection and has not yet indicated when it will be held.