Nunavik, Montreal health agencies agree to review youth services

Agreement would ensure Inuit youth receive culturally appropriate care away from home

A street scene in Kuujjuaq. Health authorities in both Nunavik and Montreal are reviewing services provided to Inuit youth in the city, to ensure they’re safe and culturally appropriate. (Photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik health authorities say they’re working with their counterparts in Montreal’s West Island to do a joint review of rehabilitation services for Inuit youth.

Due to limited capacity in the region, roughly a dozen Nunavimmiut youth in foster care are sent to stay in youth centres in Montreal, under an agreement with the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’île-de-Montréal.

But late last year, Quebec’s Human Rights and Youth Commission launched an investigation into those services when the commission was informed that some Inuit youth were being prevented from speaking Inuktitut.

Other youth were not re-assigned social workers when they were transferred from care in Nunavik to Montreal, the commission said. Its investigation is ongoing.

Now, the two health agencies that oversee that care have agreed to do their own review of those services, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services said in a March 8 release.

“Due to limited space in accommodating the youth in Nunavik, it is particularly important for those that are transferred to the Montréal West Island [health agency] to benefit from quality [rehabilitation] services in a culturally safe environment,” said NRBHSS director Minnie Grey.

“This agreement will allow us to strengthen the continuity of the services offered by our respective organizations.”

The review is set to be completed by July, the health board said.

It will look at what services are made available to Nunavimmiut youth from infancy through to age 18, as well as access to those services, and cooperation between Nunavik and Montreal’s health agencies.

Placing Nunavik youth in care outside the region is only done as a last resort, regional health officials have said, though the region faces a shortage of local families.

Currently, 99 Nunavimmiut children have been placed in care outside the region, though the NRBHSS says that is largely due to Nunavik-based foster families making the decision to relocate south.

Nunavik’s health board hopes to make much broader changes to its youth protection system in the coming years, to cut down on the number of children placed in care and to better adapt those services to Inuit communities in general.

An updated version of Quebec’s Youth Protection Act now allows the province to enter into agreements with Indigenous communities to design and deliver their own youth protection programs.

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