Michelle Foreman’s day stretches over hundreds of kilometres in southern Manitoba. She’s a community parole officer responsible for rural areas so a few times a week, she snakes along prairie highways for hours to visit offenders.
She loves her job - the personal connections are fulfilling.
“It is never boring,” Michelle said in a phone interview while driving a quiet stretch of Manitoba road. “There is never the same case twice.”
Michelle supervises and supports offenders released from institutions. She has played a supporting role in the lives of people on a rehabilitation pathway for nearly 30 years. Her role primarily involves supervision and risk management but includes everything from mental health checks to helping offenders learn to be a parent.
Working directly with people, no matter how hard the case is, is meaningful. Michelle loves helping others.
Her work has assisted one offender for twenty years, supporting his journey as a successful single father. She’s watched his child grow from a toddler to finishing high school.
“Our job is very demanding but interesting,” she said. “I wouldn’t love it if I didn’t feel like I was helping people’s lives.”
Michelle is a team player. In her other life, she was a professional basketball player.
Michelle found basketball much like she found a career in corrections: chance.
After casually beginning to play in high school, Michelle stumbled upon a group of girls shooting hoops at a local gym. Outgoing and keen, Michelle joined them only to learn it was a tryout for a provincial team. The coaches noted Michelle’s athletic ability and encouraged her to move to a high school with better basketball opportunities.
Michelle played university basketball while studying psychology the University of Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Wesmen were incredibly successful in the ’90s. The team made multiple tournament appearances and won a national silver medal in Michelle’s first few seasons. In her final season, the team began the most remarkable run ever in Canadian basketball history.
Winnipeg held an 88-game win streak between 1993 and 1995, which tied the record for the longest win streak in collegiate basketball. They dominated Western Canadian women’s basketball and hoisted three national championships over three seasons. Michelle was a part of that first championship team and named league MVP.
Her success led her to international tournaments and a professional career. She served as an alternate on Team Canada before joining the Maltese national team at multiple European championships as a foreign national team member. Michelle lived in sunny Malta and played in their national women’s basketball league.
Michelle’s interest in law enforcement and public safety began before basketball. Her father was a police officer, and when Michelle returned to Canada in 1996, she applied to various positions, including one at CSC.
She suggested to her younger brother that he apply as well, and both were hired by CSC. They completed their recruitment and training together. She quickly became a parole officer and loved it so much that she encouraged her husband, Jeff to apply. He currently works as a correctional officer.
The new job at CSC was engaging, but she needed to scratch her itch to be on the court. Michelle continued to return to the court throughout her career.
Michelle joined a league of correctional officers, police and professional football players from the Blue Bombers who toured schools in the Winnipeg area playing basketball. The teams faced off at lunch in front of students to raise money for the Special Olympics.
The games were also an opportunity to expose students to community-oriented career opportunities. Michelle served as a role model for the presence of Indigenous women in male-dominated fields.
“You’re showing younger girls they can do whatever the guys do,” she said. “I may be old, but I can still shoot the lights out.”
The friendly games were competitive and—in Michelle’s own words—she kicked the others’ butts.
The group continued playing until 2020. Michelle also competed in tournaments around North America. She played in the Indigenous Canada Games as a part of team Manitoba and in the World Police Games.
The entire University Winnipeg team was inducted between 1992 and 1995 into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in recognition of their run. Additionally, Michelle was recently inducted into the Manitoba Indigenous Sports Hall of Fame.
“My career may have gone the furthest in basketball, but I look back at the teams I played on,” she said, “they held many Indigenous women who have all become very successful in their life endeavors.”
Winnipeg is hosting the police games this year. Michelle hopes some players will consider returning to the hardwood to join her in the tournament. If not, Michelle will still be on the court, volunteering as a referee.
Michelle has been a parole officer with CSC for nearly three decades. She will retire later this summer. Her time as a parole officer will come to an end, but Michelle will never stop playing for her community.