Nunavut government commits to regulate custom adoptions

Currently, no safeguards prevent convicted child abusers from custom adopting

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main asked the Minister of Family Services on Friday, Feb. 22 to commit to work on protecting children adopted through custom adoptions in Nunavut. (File photo)

By Courtney Edgar

Nunavut’s minister of family services has committed to work on changing the law governing custom adoptions in the territory.

This would end the ability that known child abusers have right now to adopt children in Nunavut.

Elisapee Sheutiapik offered the commitment in the legislature on Friday, Feb. 22, after Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main asked her during question period if there are currently any requirements in place to protect children custom-adopted by convicted or known abusers.

“For adoptions under the Adoption Act there are safeguards and protections in place, such as criminal record checks and home assessments, to ensure that children are being adopted into a safe environment,” said Main.

“My understanding is also that under custom adoption, there is no requirement for these safeguards and protections.”

Little oversight for custom adoptions

When he asked Sheutiapik to confirm this, she said that there are three types of adoption processes under the Adoption Act and that in the case of private adoptions, they do require criminal record checks.

Main pressed on, clarifying that he had asked about the custom adoptions process.

He quoted from a Family Services report that says the department has no direct involvement in the custom adoption process, but is responsible for the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act.

This includes appointing, training and paying adoption commissioners.

“Is it currently possible for a convicted child abuser to adopt a child in Nunavut, yes or no?” said Main.

Sheutiapik replied that it is not possible through the Adoption Act, but through the Custom Adoption Recognition Act, it is possible.

She added that parents are responsible for custom adoptions.

“So I would hope the parents themselves are not allowing adoptions to take place knowing that they are abusers,” said Sheutiapik.

To that, Main told the minister that using the word “hope” does not suggest there is a lot of oversight or monitoring of the issue.

Child abuse not Inuit custom: Main

Additionally, he read from another page from the department’s report that said custom adoption commissioners can refuse to process a custom adoption if they do not feel the legislation or Inuit tradition is being followed.

Allowing a child abuser to adopt is not tradition, said Main, as he referenced past quotes from Rankin Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie, who has spoken out on the topic.

“Will the minister take a position on this issue … will the minister commit to telling these Aboriginal custom commissioners that this is not Aboriginal customary law?” asked Main.

Sheutiapik replied that social workers will not make much of a difference. Instead, she said the wording of the Custom Adoption Recognition Act needs to change.

“But I’m certainly committed because I don’t support child abuse,” said Sheutiapik.

“So I certainly commit to working on that.”

In 2017, a Nunavut judge warned that the law governing custom Inuit adoptions needed a makeover, saying the issue was “of upmost importance to our children.”

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by KIds first on

    Child abuse isn’t anyone’s “tradition”. Inuit are no more wholesome and pure than any other skin colour. There should be one adoption law that applies to everyone equally. “Custom” adoption is not in the child’s best interest, every child deserves a safe and loving home. Every culture used to have “custom” adoption, but gradually as societies evolve protection of children becomes more important, and adoption gets regulated. It’s way overdue for Nunavut to be doing so, and not allowing kids to be adopted just anywhere because it’s the “custom” to not have it be regulated to protect the kids.

  2. Posted by John on

    You should learn and do more research about Inuit custom adoption before commenting, it really shows your ignorance trying to discuss Inuit custom adoption from your point of view which seems to be very narrow.

    With all the trauma and social issues today, I agree there should be some level of regulations but it should not take away from Inuit traditions and Inuit should be at the lead of creating regulations for Inuit custom adoption. Having someone tell you what to do from the outside and not really understanding the culture and custom never works. There has been too much of that with many races.

    • Posted by Inuit kids also deserve the best homes on

      I wonder sometimes if the people throwing the word “ignorant” around even know what it means. It’s not just a word for people who disagree with you, you know. Nobody is saying to leave inuit out of the process, everyone would be involved. The thing is, there should be regulations and guidelines so that kids don’t get given to abusers or taken in as servants, or treated as lesser members of their adopting families. You’ve never seen those things happen under custom adoption? And you are calling me ignorant? The kids are inuit too, remember. Should they be treated worse just because it’s traditional to do so?

      • Posted by John on

        Yes I am calling you ignorant with the tone you are using making your comment. “Used to be” “evolve” what are you saying that our custom or our society is not evolved?
        The thing is a lot of us are tired of this kind of narrow way of thinking and the high and mighty point of view that you spew, it gets really tiring.

        Like I said earlier, there should be some regulations that will protect us Inuit and the children, we have our traditional way with custom adoption and with all the social issues that we have today we can add the western regulations that we see fit to use to protect Inuit kids while continuing to use our way. Having someone from somewhere else dictating what we should do never works out very well. We don’t have to look far to see this, residential schools did incredible damage to Inuit that we are still struggling to move past it. Custom adoption has to be lead by Inuit and approved by Inuit, plain and simple.

  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Traditionally babies were adopted by grandparents especially boys so that there would be someone to help with hunting and fishing etc when the grandparent got older and less physically able. Sometimes a baby was given to a couple who could not conceive. Those children were loved and adored as if born to their natural parents. Occasionally however a child was not treated very well and was more like a servant and in those instances of an orphaned child who was taken by another family they were sometimes not treated well. In the last few decades however traditional adoption does not resemble anything like the original intent. Babies are handed out to anyone including sexual predators which makes my skin crawl. I think traditional adoption is often being used for couples who find themselves pregnant and unable or unwilling to raise another child. God knows how expensive it is to provide for another mouth to feed these days. I was even horrified on 3 occasions to see expectant mothers looking for people to adopt their unborn babies on facebook.

    • Posted by Birth Control on

      In other words, custom adoption is being used as a form of birth control, though a much more consequential one (if you are the adoptee).

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