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Manitoba child advocate calls for more supports after family killed

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Manitoba's advocate for children and youth is calling on the provincial government to better support young people facing intimate partner violence after a man was charged with killing five family members, including his three young children.

Sherry Gott offered her condolences to relatives, friends and the southern Manitoba community where the victims lived.

"This case highlights the failures of the government to respond to our recommendations. We need to make meaningful changes to prevent this from happening (and) to better support children that are impacted by intimate partner violence," Gott said in an interview Wednesday.

Gott's office released a report in 2022, estimating a child in the province witnesses a police-reported case of intimate partner violence every two hours.

Gott said numbers are often under-reported due to shame and fear.

"Intimate violence is insidious. Sometimes the violence is hidden," she said.

The report featured seven recommendations, including the creation of therapeutic and culturally safe supports for children, education in schools, and increased funding to family violence shelters for a child-focused trauma specialist.

The advocate's office also urged the province to look at a policing standards framework for investigations involving intimate partner violence.

A recent progress report from Gott's office found none of the recommendations have been fully completed while some were partially compliant.

Gott said a team is reviewing the deaths to determine whether it will launch its own independent investigation into what services the family may have received.

The province did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Data from Statistics Canada says from 2009 to 2022, almost 18 per cent of victims of solved homicides were killed by an intimate partner.

About 46 per cent of women were killed by a partner, compared with six per cent of men.

Ryan Howard Manoakeesick faces five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old common-law partner, six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and two-month-old baby girl, as well as his partner's 17-year-old niece.

RCMP have not publicly identified the victims, but an obituary has named them as Amanda Clearwater, her children -- Bethany, Jayven and Isabella Manoakeesick -- and her niece Myah-Lee Gratton.

Court records show Manoakeesick, 29, was previously convicted of mischief and sentenced to 18 months probations in 2019.

A sentencing hearing was told Manoakeesick struggled with a methamphetamine addiction and had anxiety and depression as well as other underlying mental health issues.

He is also facing charges for impaired driving from 2021.

RCMP have declined to say whether officers were previously called to the family's home in Carman, Man., for domestic violence or for any other reason, citing the murder charges before the courts.

In an interview, Gratton's mother, Juliette Hastings, said she had been concerned about her daughter staying with Clearwater and Manoakeesick, because of the man's mental health concerns.

Hastings said she was fine with Gratton staying with the family when they alllived with Clearwater's mother.

It was when they moved out that she became concerned.

"I said, 'I don't trust Ryan,"' Hastings recalled telling her daughter.

Hastings said her daughter had been staying with the couple since last spring.

"I was OK with Myah-Lee being there, as long as Ryan was being treated for his mental illness," she said.

Gratton told her father about "episodes" Manoakeesick was having about a month ago, said Hastings.

She last spoke with her daughter the night before the killings, when Gratton told her about tattoos she wanted to get when she turned 18 to commemorate her faith, siblings and family.

Hastings said the last message she got from Gratton said, "I really do love you and I appreciate you. I'm sorry I wasn't good at showing my appreciation."

   This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.

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