Judge reserves decision on whether Nunavik class action suit can go forward
Lawsuit alleges discriminatory and unlawful underfunding of child welfare services in Quebec
A judge has reserved her decision on whether a class-action lawsuit alleging discriminatory and unlawful underfunding of child welfare services in Quebec will go forward.
Justice Marie-Christine Hivon heard arguments on whether the suit would be authorized as class action in Superior Court of Quebec on Monday and Tuesday.
“[It] went well,” said William Colish, who is part of the legal team presenting the suit.
Sotos Class Actions filed the suit with two other law firms, Kugler Kandestin LLP and Coupal Chauvelot s.a. in Montreal.
The lawsuit was put forward by two petitioners who went through the child welfare system in Nunavik. Both the Canadian and Quebec governments are named in the lawsuit.
By allegedly failing to provide child welfare, health services and social service to Inuit at a level that any other child receives, both governments have breached the members’ constitutional right to equality, the lawsuit alleges.
All Inuit Nunavik youth impacted by child welfare services since 1975 are eligible to join. All off-reserve First Nations and Métis youth through Quebec who have been removed from their homes dating back to 1992 can also join.
“The problem is well known, it’s been well documented,” Colish said of the allegations.
“And yet, nothing substantive has changed over the years.”
Colish said the legal team for the suit brought forward multiple arguments that come down to one basic point on the legal arrangement between the federal and provincial governments on providing family services.
That point is: “The service in the youth protection system that is being provided is simply not up to the demand and hasn’t been financed in a way that is to the needs of the family and children in Nunavik [particularly] and for off-reserve children and for Métis,” he said.
During the public hearing of the authorization of the suit, online viewers voiced their displeasure at a lack of translation services for the part of the proceeding that was in French.
It is lawful to speak French during the proceeding because of the Official Languages Act, Colish said. He added that during this stage of a class-action lawsuit, translation services typically are not provided.
“But it is possible that later on in the proceedings that translation services are something that could be [provided],” he said.
“Especially given that a good segment of the class [in the suit] may not understand French.”
It is difficult to predict when the judge will make a decision on whether the hearings proceed, Colish said.
Lawyers for the Quebec and federal governments did not respond to a request for comment for this story.