Marianne French is determined to protect children by working to change the laws around background checks for people who work with youth.

“I think people who work with children should have child welfare checks done. Criminal checks are great, but they don’t show any complaints made, only criminal convictions” she says.

“It is extremely difficult to get convictions of child sexual abuse. (Welfare checks) will show a pattern that the employer can see and make more appropriate hiring decisions.”

She adds that she would like those who work with children to undergo more training to recognize signs of abuse and hopefully catch and treat it early.

“I strongly feel that if we could help prevent childhood trauma (specifically child sexual abuse), we would change the trajectory of many lives,” she says, adding untreated trauma leads to a number of problems in adulthood including addiction, mental health issues, criminal behaviour, homelessness and medical issues.

Coralea Bignell, French’s friend for 14 years, says French is using her own story of personal trauma and how she overcame it to make a significant difference in the lives of others.

“Marianne deserves this award because she has been through so many traumatic things in her life and instead of curling up and feeling bad for herself, she is using her experiences to make other people’s lives better,” says Bignell.

French spoke to members of the Calgary Police Service about her transition from powerless to fearless for Bell’s Let’s Talk day in January 2019.