Human rights boss clarifies comments on Nunavik youth protection
“All of us want what is best for the children of our communities wherever they are”
Last month, I had the privilege to visit Nunavik, including Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq and meet with several youth protection workers and inspiring young Inuit leaders. Although my stay was short, these meetings allowed me to better understand the reality facing the population.
Upon my return, I shared this tremendous experience with a journalist from Montreal’s La Presse [which was reprinted in Nunatsiaq News] In a lengthy interview. I naturally told him of the great challenges facing those responsible for youth protection in Nunavik, but also of the great hope that I observed.
Unfortunately, he chose to report only on the negative aspects of my comments, ignoring all of the admiration I expressed for the work that is being done in the community and my hope for the future. Fortunately, I subsequently had the opportunity to give other interviews where I spoke about hope for Nunavik.
Allow me to review some of the key points I expressed. Firstly, I explained that youth protection is as important to the Inuit of Nunavik as it is for those in the rest of Québec. All of us want what is best for the children of our communities wherever they are.
There is a difference but it concerns the means available to them to ensure this very important protection.
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Québec’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission) has clearly documented it in its systemic investigation report on youth protection services in the Ungava Bay and the Hudson Bay released in 2007, and in a follow-up report in 2010, where it recommended wide-ranging measures to correct the situation and called on the community to mobilize around these issues.
Secondly, I found, during my visit, that this call for mobilization has been heard. I met several forward looking young Inuit leaders. They want to change things, in their own ways, and their determination is exemplary.
In the course of this interview, I also broached the topic of education as it is a critical issue to improve the situation of children and youth in Nunavik.
There are many challenges such as the need to integrate Inuit culture in the school program all the while respecting the Education Ministry’s curriculum requirements.
Another challenge concerns the absenteeism rate of teachers often causing classes to be cancelled. Thus, too many children are deprived of the schooling that is required by law.
Absenteeism is a problem for all teachers, whatever their origins, and all must make more efforts and make more of a commitment to ensure that all children and youth in Nunavik succeed in school.
I remain convinced that everyone can do more according to his or her responsibilities and mission. That is why I have called upon several ministers in [Quebec Premier Philippe] Couillard Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission, whether they relate to health, housing, education or youth protection.
Camil Picard, Interim President of the Quebec Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse
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