Christyna Caldwell tops 4-H provincial speech competition

Christyna Caldwell of Kenton has won first place in the Provincial Senior Speech Category for 4-H.

Caldwell is a Gr. 11 student and a member of the Kenton Kraftsmen 4-H Club.  

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Last year she gained national attention for her petition to bring an amendment to the Criminal Code. This work became the basis of her winning speech. In a seven-minute presentation Caldwell told of a social evil that is hurting so many today – sexual predation. She spoke of her efforts to create and present a petition to federal law makers to amend a definition that would broaden the meaning of dangerous offender. A petition to help protect children from sexual predators.

In the speech competition she had to place in the top two at the Club level, then win Area level to qualify for Provincials. Those two wins put her into Provincials, against top speakers from the different areas in Manitoba. The setting was virtual, the speeches recorded.

Last weekend, April 24, Caldwell was announced the winner of the Senior Speaking category for ages 15-17.

“I was so excited to make it to Provincials, but a bit disappointed that it was not in person and I was not able to read my speech, live, to the judges. I thought everyone in my category gave great speeches, its always interesting to hear the topics that other 4-H members speak on from all across the Province.”

This win opens the door for a future competition and a chance to hone her skill as a speaker.

“I have been offered the opportunity to represent Manitoba at the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture Virtual Competition. I would have to write and deliver a speech on one of five topics that they provide related to agriculture.”

However, she really poured her heart into her winning speech: “This speech was extremely special to me, as it was the culmination of all my hard work to try to makes changes to the criminal code to better protect children.”

 [The original story is on, March 6, 2020.]

An excerpt of her speech follows here.

Christyna began with a quote from Barbara Mikulski, a longstanding U.S Senator from Maryland:

“Each of us can make a difference. Together we can make a change!”

Have you ever heard the name Peter Whitmore? Peter Whitmore is one of Canada’s most notorious pedophiles, he was convicted of sexual offenses against nine children in a span of thirteen years starting in 1993 and ending in 2006. One of the last two children in 2006 that he abducted and offended against is my good family friend Zachary Miller.

The designation "dangerous offender" is reserved for Canada's most violent criminals and sexual predators. Crown attorneys can seek the designation during sentencing and must show that there is a high risk that the criminal will commit violent or sexual offences in the future. I think it is so important for more designations to be given to more dangerous offenders like Peter Whitmore, and for the public to be more aware that people like him are out there.

I decided to try to lobby the government to change the dangerous offender designation. But how does one go about lobbying the government in the first place? How do I write a legal petition? What are the rules and regulations? How old do you have to be to create a petition to lobby the government? How should I word it? Those were just a few of dozens of questions I needed answers to. 

My first step was to find out what the process is to write and file a petition and decide whether or not I should create a paper or electronic petition, how many signatures I need etc.. I also learned that there is no age limit on how old you must be to write a petition….

My petition was online for 90 days, and on the day that it closed I had received 1396 signatures from all across Canada. I had received support from every single province and territory. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for every person who took the time to show their support for my petition. Not only for the support of the people who signed my petition but the many newspapers and news outlets that took an interest in and covered my story. I was interviewed by local reporters, provincial reporters and even was interviewed live on the CTV National News. It is still hard to believe the support I received.

Although I am grateful for all the media interest in my petition, what is truly remarkable to me is the number of child sexual abuse survivors who reached out to me to thank me for giving a voice to the subject and lobbying for change.  That makes me feel extremely proud!

When I received the response to my petition on Dec. 11, 2020, I was more than disappointed. They gave a rather token political response. Their response was basically that there is already a section of the code that deals with Sexual Interference, missing the intent behind the proposed amendment completely.

Although I was disappointed in their decision not to make an amendment to that portion of the criminal code, I believe that all the attention that my petition got across Canada started a much-needed dialogue about child sexual abuse. Just like throwing a rock in a pond, starting hard conversations such as this will cause a ripple effect that will keep people talking about things that make them uncomfortable, and encourage people to stand up for what they believe in. If you have the chance, throw that rock into the pond and see what ripples you can create….

In the words of Nelson Mandela: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the lives of children!”


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