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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — The Late Cherry Kingsley

December 7, 2021

Honourable senators, like a shooting star, Cherry Kingsley blazed bright, but last week left us too soon and wanting more. We met in 1988. Within minutes of meeting her, I offered her what she described as her first “straight job,” and so she became the founding member of the Alberta Youth In Care and Custody Network and the driving force behind the Youth Advocate in ’88 conference.

When her housing fell through, she moved in and so joined our family, later adding her beloved son Dakota to our circle. When Cherry was 11, she and her sister fled their home to escape abuse by her stepfather. Indigenous girls, they were both taken into care and at once abandoned to the streets. Like too many, she was used, abused and traumatized by many and trafficked between Calgary and Vancouver. She challenged us to recognize the misogyny, racism and class bias of ordinary men — fathers, husbands, grandfathers, uncles and brothers — particularly men in significant positions of privilege who objectified, dehumanized, degraded, used and abused children and young women. She challenged police officers, social workers, politicians and the UN to uphold the rights of women and children.

Cherry was brilliant, articulate, courageous, generous and caring, and used her experiences to open the eyes and minds of many. She demanded we all recognize that children were trafficked and exploited in the sex trade and were not willing participants. Thanks to her, international human rights bodies changed their language and eliminated the term “child prostitute” from all lexicons.

In 1996, Cherry and Senator Pearson attended the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. In 1998, they co-chaired Out From the Shadows, an international summit of sexually exploited youth. They presented the results and an agenda for action to the United Nations. The same year, Cherry co-authored the Sacred Lives report with future B.C. MLA Minister Melanie Mark.

She also found common cause with former senator Roméo Dallaire and former Minister Ethel Dorothy Blondin-Andrew, who nominated Cherry for a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case in 2000. When asked by security staff here on the Hill what the medal was for — quicker than lightning — she quipped “Hurdles!”

I am so grateful to have known and loved Cherry. I miss her in more ways than I can describe. Thank you.

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