Custom adoptions only for Inuit, says NTI vice president

“Nunavut’s current Aboriginal Custom Adoption Act allows Inuit to adopt in accordance with our customs. It does not apply to non-Inuit adopting an Inuk”


A recent article about adoption requires clarification. It suggests that private adoptions, or custom adoptions, outside Nunavut are easier.

Indigenous Peoples across Canada have custom adoption practices that are recognized and affirmed through Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Non-Indigenous Canadians are not permitted to adopt Indigenous children using Indigenous custom adoption practices.

Prior to the creation of Nunavut, the Government of Northwest Territories recognized Indigenous Peoples’ right to exercise custom adoption in 1996 through the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act. It set out a process where an Indigenous Custom Adoption Commissioner could affirm that a custom adoption was between a biological parent and an adopting parent in accordance with Indigenous customs.

Nunavut’s current Aboriginal Custom Adoption Act allows Inuit to adopt in accordance with our customs. It does not apply to non-Inuit adopting an Inuk. A non-Inuk must conform to the province or territory’s legislation in which the adoption is taking place. This requires approval of the Director of Adoptions if the adoption occurs in Nunavut.

Each province and territory in Canada has legislation regarding adoptions for non-Indigenous parents, including Nunavut. Legislation in each territory or province has provisions to approve adoptions through a structured process of placement assessment and suitability of parents. Each placement requires a court order affirming the adoption.

The Government of Nunavut’s department of Family Services administers legal adoptions pursuant to the Adoptions Act. The only difference in Nunavut is that there are no adoption agencies to assist with placements and suitability assessments.

Once adoptions processed through the Adoptions Act are finalized, the ties between a biological parent and biological child are severed. In legal terms, this means the adopting parent assumes all parenthood responsibilities and the biological parent no longer has any right to exercise parenthood for the child.

James Eetoolook
Vice President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

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