Children have the right to play, rest and enjoy their lives.
That’s the message of Manitoba’s youth ambassador advisory squad, whether it’s written down, spoken out loud or painted on a giant mural on Sherbrook Street.
Sophia Stang and the rest of the advisory squad, think the latter is the best way to do it.
"You can have it written, everyone can have a leaflet handed out, a brochure handed out to them, but not everyone’s going to read that," explained Stang, co-leader of the project along with Rose Fontaine.
"This way, it’s up on the city."
The murals, designed and painted by members of the squad themselves, are part of the "Re-Right" project, headed by Stang, which hopes to spread awareness about the rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in a different way.
"It’s very inviting," she said.
"You look at it and you want to have fun, you want to be with your friends, and you want to play, rest, and enjoy your life the way you see fit. We hope that children looking at it are going to take that from it, too."
Full of colour and light, the mural is the first of as many as 42 murals across the province, each one depicting a different right outlined in the UN convention.
"This is a moment for them to recognize that they don’t have to grow up so quickly," she said.
The squad is an initiative of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth office.
Ainsley Krone, the acting Manitoba advocate, said that this right in particular holds a special place in the office.
"This one is all about letting kids be kids," she said, "making sure that we’re protecting their abilities and spaces for them to just be kids, that they’re not always training for adulthood."
For her, ensuring that is especially important because of the way society interacts with kids, training them for their adult lives rather than allowing them to play.
Driving by, a person may recognize the painting of the Red River Ex, a snapshot of the advisory squad’s experiences on a trip there with play and enjoyment, but it’s upon a closer look that the details come out.
The mural’s depiction of the 31st right, "the right to play, rest, and enjoy your life," is done through a lens specific to Manitoba and to Canada, with an emphasis on the province’s relationship and responsibilities to Indigenous children and Indigenous communities.
The mural includes the seven sacred animals of the seven teachings, the medicine wheel, and the four direction colours.
Knowledge keeper Cheryl Alexander explained that the right has a special context, specifically with its application to Indigenous children’s lives lost and to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The viewer can see four red dresses in the painting and a child in an orange T-shirt, as well as silhouettes that represent those who have passed on to the spirit world, she said, along with people in all four stages of life.
Krone said the office prioritizes issues of decolonization and reconciliation.
"A lot of the work that we’re doing is supporting young people who, because of those lasting legacies, are undeserved and overrepresented in a lot of the public systems that fall into our formal scope of mandate," she said.
Krone and Stang both look forward to collaborating with other organizations and buildings across the province to depict the 41 other UN convention rights.
"Our youth just grew closer in the process," said Stang, "I think everybody’s ready for round two."