Nunavik children’s rights review nearly done

Review, to be released next month, will measure progress since release of damning 2007 report


Quebec’s human rights commission plans to release its long-overdue review on the state of children’s rights in Nunavik next month.

The commission’s vice-president Sylvie Godin said she couldn’t reveal what the review says before its translation from French into English is completed.

But Godin did say that the review evaluates each of the 21 recommendations for action that the commission made back in 2007, listing what progress — if any — has been made since that time.

In April 2007, investigators from Quebec’s human rights commission issued a report that slammed youth protection, social services and youth justice in Nunavik.
Investigators found that in Nunavik “a large number of children are physically, psychologically and sexually mistreated. Some children, despite their young age, are addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances that cause serious physical or mental disorders.”

They found the region’s social network failed to give children and youth the protection to which they are legally entitled.

The report pointed out many serious shortcomings in a system that is plagued by isolation, lack of teamwork, and lack of supervision and training.

And it said the Youth Protection Act is badly understood and which, “as it is poorly applied, it is considered to be poorly adapted to Inuit culture.”

The commission’s 21 recommendations suggested how Nunavik, working with the provincial government, should act to correct the situation within one year, and also recommended that Quebec Premier Jean Charest take the lead to make sure that change happened.

Now it’s three years later.

Godin said Charest has not yet seen the commission’s report on what has been done to meet those recommendations, which called for sweeping improvements in health and social services as well as the construction of new housing to relieve overcrowding in Nunavik.

But earlier this month Charest said Nunavik will receive more than $300 million for upgrades to its health care facilities, as part of the Quebec’s efforts to fight social problems and improve public health in Nunavik.

“Much progress has been made in the region…but we know we still have more work to do,” Charest said July 5. “Today, we are taking an extra step to meet the concerns and needs of families living in the region’s 14 villages.”

However, Nunavik’s need for more housing has still not been met.

And, at the same time, there is a growing resentment towards youth protection services in Nunavik.

While hundreds of children are under youth protection in Nunavik, many also live in foster care, outside their home communities or even in Montreal where there is a new youth wing for Inuit girls in the Bathshaw youth and family centre.

Godin suggested this resentment towards youth protection might be due to the increased work by youth protection agents in Nunavik to protect the rights and security of children.

But some people in Nunavik say Nunavimmiut should avoid bringing in youth protection altogether because of the risk that their children may be taken away.

At June’s Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Akulivik, Saturviit president Lizzie Tukai said Nunavimmiut need to develop a way “to protect children without going to youth protection.”

While Godin agreed that Nunavik communities need to take responsibility for the welfare of their children, she cautioned against establishing any “parallel” youth protection service for children.

Godin noted Quebec’s youth protection law applies to everyone and is designed to protect the safety and security of children above all.

A copy of the 2007 report on Nunavik youth protection services is posted below:

Investigation report on Nunavik child and youth protection services

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