While most teenagers hung posters of their favourite bands and singers, Eddie Calisto-Tavares hung the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now, a sense of justice which Calisto-Tavares has developed since immigrating to Canada from Portugal has motivated her to run as the Liberal MLA candidate for St. Johns.
"I grew up in a very Portuguese family, with a very Portuguese dad. I was the only girl out of six children, so I was very protected," she said.
Calisto-Tavares moved to Canada in 1973 when she was 14 years old and started working to help support her family while her mother took care of her six younger brothers. It was in Canada that she learned about equal rights and that life had much more to offer her than just being a housewife. In 1999 she founded Options for Success, a human resources management and consulting company and is one of the founding members of the Women Business Owners of Manitoba. She has worked on initiatives to build employment skills among women, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, immigrants, and individuals facing physical, mental and intellectual challenges.
The 60-year-old wife, mother of a daughter and son, and grandmother of a five-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, accompanied her 86-year-old father to the hospital and saw first-hand the effects of cuts to health care in the province.
"He would’ve died as a result of the decisions the doctor was making. Asking me to take him home when he was really sick," she told The Times. "I spent a lot of time in the hospital and I (saw) a lot of very caring health care staff cringing at the direction they were getting, of how many beds can we clear today versus how many patients are we saving today, and how many patients are ready to go home because they are better?
"We live in such a multicultural world. I saw so many people in that hospital that would be scared to push back because they don’t have the English that I do, they don’t have the understanding of our system as I do, and I said I was going to do something."
The longtime advocate and entrepreneur said she is solution-minded. She became involved with the Manitoba Liberal Party, which she has supported since 1977 when she first voted in a Canadian election, to understand what they were doing to change the path Manitoba was on.
"I have a really good reputation and I have worked above and beyond to maintain that, so I would’ve been very careful about who I would’ve associated myself with," she said.
Health care, education, and community safety are some of the main concerns she has heard from constituents while door-knocking in her riding.
"All they can say to me is, these young kids need to feel proud of their community, regardless of the community they come from," she said. "Community centres are falling apart, programs are being cut, so what are the youth doing? They are getting into trouble."
She added that if elected, she is committed to advocate for the reopening of the Seven Oaks General Hospital’s ER, quality education and better safety in the North End.
"I can’t stand by (Brian Pallister). I am this Portuguese woman whose hair is turning red because I get so frustrated with the lack of intellectual capacity. Anyone with a little bit of brain can see it all, but our premier can’t," she declared. "If you want a different result, you have to do something different."
Also running for St. Johns is Nahanni Fontaine (NDP), Ray Larkin (PC), and Joshua McNeil (Green Party). Fontaine, Larkin and McNeil didn’t respond by press time.
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti is the community journalist for The Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org