Child sex abuse in Nunavut at a ‘crisis’ level, advocate says

Even without cases being properly tracked, the numbers are ‘shocking,’ says territory’s children and youth representative

Jane Bates, Nunavut’s representative for children and youth, answered questions from members of the standing committee on oversight of government operations and public accounts during a two day hearing on her 2019-20 annual report. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

High rates and inaccurate tracking of sexual abuse against children, as well as a lack of accountability within Government of Nunavut departments were discussed in the legislative assembly last week as MLAs questioned the territory’s children and youth representative on a recent report.

Of 625 registered sex offenders in Nunavut, 70 per cent have acted against children, according to the Representative for Children and Youth’s 2019-20 Annual Report, the most recent one published by her office.

Jane Bates, the representative, called the numbers “shocking” while answering questions about her findings during a committee hearing in the legislative assembly on June 21 and 22. As representative for children and youth, Bates is responsible for ensuring the Government of Nunavut provides ethical, equitable and consistent services to young Nunavummiut and their families, her office’s website says.

MLA Adam Lightstone, a member of the committee reviewing Bates’ report, asked her at what point the levels of violence and sexual abuse against children in the territory is considered a crisis.

Jane Bates was appointed the representative for children and youth in June 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Representative for Children and Youth’s office)

Bates said it already is at a crisis level.

In her report, Bates said she was not only shocked by the prevalence of violence and physical and sexual abuse against children in the territory but by these incidents not being counted.

“Family Services has admitted these occurrences were not being tracked consistently,” she said in the legislature.

Bates referenced a statement Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik made in March 2020, when she said the department gets about two calls per week about child sexual abuse.

“That means any year, Family Services is receiving approximately 104 reports of child sexual abuse,” Bates said, adding that the actual numbers aren’t known because they aren’t actually tracked.

The Government of Nunauvut’s lack of tracking of basic information about services for young people was something her office learned while collecting information from GN departments to create the annual report, Bates said.

“It took my staff many hours to sift through, decipher, and clarify what was provided,” she said.

Bates said the first step to tackling the issue is having an accurate understanding of how big the problem is.

“There needs to be a community understanding and acknowledgment that child abuse is occurring,” she said.

Bates said departments have been aware of many issues in the report for years with “little or no” action being taken.

In the report, Bates — who has held her role for two years — said some GN employees aren’t held accountable. She called for actions to be taken.

“Many staff at all levels are not following policy, procedure, and legislation,” Bates said during the hearing.

For example, she said required documentation isn’t being done by Family Services employees.

“This is not a one-off instance,” Bates said. “We see it at all levels.”

Another example Bates gave is families not being informed of their rights and plans of care not being created, which is the law.

Plans of care are written agreements between parents and the department that outline a plan to keep a child safe when a youth or family needs support, but there’s no serious concern for the child’s safety or well-being.

They give families the chance to resolve issues themselves before having to go to court, according to the GN.

Bates said her office often hears the issue is a lack of staff, but even if positions are filled, not everyone is following policies.

Yvonne Niego, the deputy minister of Family Services, noted gaps across the department including high staff turnover and burnout-level workloads for social workers.

But she said progress is being made, such as creating the family wellness division, and reorganizing senior managers and staff to balance workloads and “strengthen supervision” and communication.

A new critical incident database, a quality assurance team and a new phone number for child welfare-related calls are other improvements Niego listed.

In terms of solutions, Bates said mental health services, addiction treatment, and trauma counselling need to be taken into account, as well as historical trauma and “all the factors that contribute” to child abuse and neglect.”

She also said extended family and the larger community need to be included and considered.

“Keeping a family together cannot be prioritized over protecting a young person from abuse,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean that they have to be placed in the care of the director.”

Based on the discussions during the hearings, the committee will present recommendations in the legislature in the fall.

Share This Story

(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nunavut’s epidemic of shame. on

    Hang another red dress outside your doors and hide behind another 215 sign.

    You hypocrites!

    • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

      believe me because I am very serious in what I say:

      we’d glad, happily go back to where we came from.

      • Posted by Where too? on

        Where are you going, Jay? Chukotka, Siberia? Utqiaġvik / Barrow, Alaska?

  2. Posted by Children First on

    Yep ladies and gents. Every child matters, past, present, and future.
    Let’s pay attention to what is going on around us. Let’s put our energy where is matters.
    So sad.

    • Posted by Uvanga on

      I’m an inuk. Grew up in a community of 350 people. I was first molested at 5 by a neighbor. Second by my best friends father, third by older teenager and by an uncle by marriage. As a teenager many guys tried raping be but I got skills to fight them off usually by pulling there hair or proking their eyes. You will not believe this but I thought this was normal and you just had to learn to fight it of. If you said anything the family of the abuser would bully you. I am now 50 but I know I fought and survived and always made sure my friend knew of who the abusers were. Tried court once but never again, it wasn’t for me as the reliving in public was a joke especially when the abuser got away with it. Charging and courts are not for everyone but we need to do better in taking care of the abused. Sexual abuse didn’t start at residential schools, it has been around Inuit for 100s or 1000s of year. We really need help but need to find a good way forward in the communities.

  3. Posted by Glad to hear it ! on

    Well said UVANGA, I feel you are a true leader of Nunavut, your statement of truth is very
    encouraging indeed. (Even if you were not elected ) .
    It is our own fault, we put up with social experts & elected leaders who do not do a thing
    for us, year after year.
    Always report an offender to the police right away, so that a record is kept.
    We should be reporting absentee fathers as well, instead of waiting for MMIWG or
    Pauktuutit who won’t do a thing for Inuit women.

  4. Posted by Colonizer, One and all on

    We blame white people for colonizing North America, but tend to forget that First Nations
    and Inuit started it all by leaving Siberia and Eastern Russia in the first place many thousands
    of years ago.
    I wonder what happened to the people who were here before them ???
    Many Inuit were killed by Inuit colonizers from Alaska, about 500 years ago.

    • Posted by M Center on

      Guilty reflection and you just instinctively protect your guilt? You just emitted Entitled Pro Level deflection. Expert Level.

      • Posted by Off Center on

        What do you mean exactly?
        I think Colonizer made their opinion well open & straight forward !
        Try it sometime.

  5. Posted by Dòchas a’ Onnust on

    Jane Bates; hello.


    Overwhelming situation I bet; I tend to go through that here in Ontario.

    Redirection helps; there is a thing called “Repetitive rehearsal,” that is the act of committing an action to someone else that was done to you; or that is being done around you.

    In old Scandinavian Shamanism; it was a way of foresight or prediction that enemies were near when the people would replicate bad behavior; maybe their lack of efforts in following administration are a result or their rejection of the psychic connection; maybe they feel that the influence of other people is creating these issues in their community.

    Redirection in this sense works; instead of focusing on the issues, redirect them to a healthier way of thinking. Creating a healthy mentality and bonding between them…

    Do you have enough toys up there? Bicycles for the children and what not; a good moto to raising our children; and yes, we get criticized because they are strong personalities but they are bred to listen well is let them be bad… a bit bad is good; let them be out of control, they fall asleep faster… they get worn out… etc. etc.

    This is sad and too popular nowadays… all this abuse is a popular conversation…

    we need something new to talk about.

  6. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    So where is the list of offenders in Nunavut? I want to protect my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren from these predators.
    How am I able to do that if I don’t know who they are?

Comments are closed.