Nunavut MLA calls for penalties for truancy

Citing the high number of students in Nunavut who don’t regularly attend school, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone is calling for a territory-wide vote on whether to introduce a truancy law. Such a law could result in families being fined if their children are consistently absent. Education Minister David Joanasie said he would bring up Lightstone’s suggestion with staff. The discussion came after several MLAs raised questions about attendance figures contained in the Education Department’s latest annual report, reported on last week by Nunatsiaq News. (Photo by Jane George)

By John Thompson

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by Dave on

    Nothing will solve this problem faster than new laws that are unenforceable. Yes that was sarcasm!!!!

  2. Posted by Mr. Kabloona on

    Well if the department of education will be charging fines, they better be prepared for an accumulation of arrears/delinquent accounts. Parents will not pay the charges. Arrears will mount. Truancy will not end. The department of education will hire three people in each region (12 FTEs) to collect the arrears (and they will be unsuccessful). Before you know it the department will be paying $1.5 million a year for salaries of the 12 staff and will have arrears in their millions. Then there will be another debate in the house as to whether to write off those arrears or hire even more people to help the 12 staff to collect. Ask Nunavut Housing Corporation. They have been down this road with mortgages and public housing rents.

    • Posted by Dave on

      Good points to make, but I’ll add….. you can’t fine anyone without giving them their day in court. That will be another major cost, to a justice system already over burdened in Nunavut.

  3. Posted by Outside peeking in… on

    The children in the territory are being short changed by their families. Instead of helping them achieve the needed skills to become independent in this territory, they hold them back.
    Parents need to be responsible for the mental health, the well being and the education of their children. Without education Nunavut will always need to rely on outsiders to do the work they are not able to do.
    It is time for change, it is time for the children to take over this Territory and become independent of others.

  4. Posted by How will it work? on

    Parents do need to be held accountable for not ensuring their children attend school daily.
    Not sure how the GN will ever get any fines from parents –what happens if parents don’t pay for their truant children? I don’t see anyone heading over to the hamlet office to make a ‘Truant Bill’ a payment. Oh, and the money collected from the fines: where will that go?
    Some have suggested previously that welfare or the Canada Child Benefits should be linked to a child’s school attendance. This could be the only option.

    Why is Social Services not actively involved in this issue?

  5. Posted by Oh Ima on

    Most children that are missing school are living in poverty! 7 out 10 kids go hungry every day!! So ramp up school breakfast and lunch programs!! Before anyone blames parents don’t bother stop blaming poor people for being poor!! Poverty is vicious cycle to get out of!! We need real actions

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      It’s heartening to see the previous comments.

      Lightstone is out of touch with humanity for suggesting to fine parents for truancy and Minister Joanasie is equally so for considering it. Consensus government. I think not. Consensus oppression is a more likely title.

      No matter what the published attendance figures, actual attendance is worse. It is at best 30% throughout Nunavut (excepting Iqaluit perhaps) and graduation rates are even less. Heck, attendance by the few parents who work is no better and productivity is even less. The attendance at school and work, the level of health and welfare, are as symptomatic to reality as a runny nose is to fatal pneumonia.

  6. Posted by Colin on

    Elsewhere penalties for truancy have been found to be ineffective. Truants generally come from the poorest and most marginalized families that have no money to pay fines anyway.

    The surest cure for truancy is to make it so that students really want to get to school. That means making it challenging, which is almost (but not quite) the opposite of making it entertaining. A sense of achievement requires effort.

    Really good school meals help, and so do organized sports and hobbies as after school activities.

    Read the book There are no shortcuts by Rafe Esquith.

  7. Posted by Abecedaran on

    Why not ask those who don’t go to school why they don’t go to school? It’s called consultation and the GN has a duty to consult.

    Perhaps they find school to be boring.
    Perhaps it has something to do with not understanding the teacher.
    Perhaps it has something to do with the teacher not being there.
    Perhaps it has something to do with bullying in school.
    Perhaps it has something to do with them not seeing any reason to go to school because they see few, if any jobs in their community.

    How about trying to figure out what would encourage kids to want to go to school?

    How about identifying the real problem and fixing the real problem.

    “Fixing” symptoms does nothing except make a few people feel good. Fix the symptom and either the condition fixes itself (happens occasionally) or different symptoms appear as the condition gets worse (the usual result).

    Nay, that’s too hard. Let’s just pass a law. That’s guaranteed to work. Just like the Education Act worked.

    Reminds me of the US state legislature that passed a law making pi = 3.

    • Posted by Oh! on

      Blame the teachers! I love it, you are a real thinker! We need more dupes! At least we found one.

    • Posted by George on

      First solve the social problems in your communities and more good things will follow.

  8. Posted by iRoll on

    This punitive approach is obviously not a very well thought out one. Take a look Nunavut, these are our so called ‘leaders’. Not a creative or interesting thought in their heads. Surely we can produce better than this?

  9. Posted by Lori Thompson on

    Teachers and principals own children and grandchildren not going to school sends the message education is not important.

    Social Services says that truancy is not under them.

    “He is sleeping” “He is up all night playing vidoe games” :He can’t get up” “He never came home last night” These reasons have to stop being acceptable. Parents need to lead, not the child. Attending should not be the child’s choice but the expectation. .

    Fines will not work. Parents have to parent. It is the childs right to have access to education.

  10. Posted by Me on

    My son says there was a study done about school attendance and the study shows attendance would improve if school started an hour later. He agrees.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Even more studies show that if you wake up late for 9:00 you will soon learn to wake up late for 10:00. Everyone knows multiple studies have shown that children/teenagers need more sleep than adults but no one wants to make the obvious decision of sending children to bed earlier.I guess that’s too much parenting for some people. When I was a little kid bedtime was 8:00 and when I was in my teens it was 9:30-10:00. I got enough rest to function in school. There was no hanging out with my buddies till all hours. I guess my parents were actually parenting. They didn’t worry about me being pissed off if they told me what to do and low and behold we still have a very good relationship despite all that parenting and discipline when I was a kid.

    • Posted by Dave on

      I have seen those studies too, but I have noticed kids don’t read all of it and make big assumptions.

      The studies I have seen refer to schools (largely US) that start the school day before 8:00 AM. Kids tend to miss that, and get excited about school starting at 10:00 instead of 9:00. But that is not what the studies are saying at all.

  11. Posted by Positive approach on

    My goodness, can’t believe ‘those in charge’ are actually contemplating fines for families whose children have attendance problems! Often, these families are poor to begin with. They already feel alienated from the system. Having a punitive, blaming and shaming approach towards families will not help the kids. School has to feel as positive as possible. Trust, compassion are the values to put forward. Families need to feel welcomed in the school system in order to make progress.

  12. Posted by Larry on

    The fines approach, the withholding of welfare, etc. remind me of the cajoling and threatening done by the earlier colonizers, RCMP and Settlement Managers, etc. Next thing the Nunavut government will be sending the kids off to residential schools further south so they will be educated with all the proper supports and no distractions. History repeats itself. I think the only thing that might work is a hearty breakfast with the proviso that the kids have to then spend the whole day to qualify for the next day’s breakfast. Tough love.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Pretty much all schools in Nunavut have breakfast programs now. I would be surprised to hear of one that didn’t. Some also have lunch programs and snack programs.SA has gone up and Child Benefit has gone up. What other excuse will people use? The sad thing is that when those kids reach 18 they start collecting their own SA and the parents in many cases won’t support them anymore. They have to clothe and feed themselves and sometimes they end up homeless too when their parents get tired of the drug and alcohol abuse which inevitably comes along. It is quite often young men. Look around your communities ….you will see those skinny, poorly dressed, uneducated guys who can’t get jobs, and are couch surfing etc… That’s what happens to kids when parents don’t parent. They grow up to be dependent on the government and individuals who will toss them something to survive once in a while. Even worse are the ones who are producing children with several women and can’t afford to provide for them too. And the cycle continues.

  13. Posted by Abacus on

    Many cases of truancy are historical ones where the grandparents saw no value in Education and had no trust in “authority” including schools, RCMP, churches, local government, GLO’s etc…. so they could care less wether their children or grandchildren went to school—remnants of the colonial/residential days. People will not pay fines even if they are threatened with jail time for not paying. They will go to jail if that’s what the consequences are. They don’t care. A test case was done in Kugluktuk many years ago where they spent months contacting a family about their kids not attending school. They crossed all their T’s and dotted all their i’s to take the case to court. The judge threw it out immediately as a waste of the court’s time.The thing which really works is holding back money eg SA and communicating with people face to face so that they will understand the benefit for their children. The teachers, principal, school counsellors and the DEA members are the ones that should be contacting parents directly on this issue. Every DEA id suppose to be addressing attendance and meeting with families who have poor attenders-they are not just there to collect an honorarium cheque. Most DEA’s do nothing themselves except whine about the issue. They are the link to the community and they should be stepping up.

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Thank you for your comments, Abacus. I think your intentions are good.

      Unfortunately though, those comments are at best innocent and incoherent and at worst a reflection of much of the fatigue that abounds in NU. I’ll touch on a couple of the standard delusions:

      “Many cases of truancy are historical ones … remnants of the colonial/residential days.” More accurately, many cases of truancy are a reflection of the physical circumstances of parents and children and the resultant psychological outcomes. How much influence do you think events from decades ago affect YOU in comparison to what happened yesterday? It is time to get a new horse!

      “The thing which really works is holding back money eg SA ” Sure, at the same time let’s refuse to fix broken pipes, windows and doors. Better still, lets lock people out of their houses. Maybe you have a few more suggestions related to food or sleep deprivation. Add more booze to trigger a bit more alcoholism?

      Though your comments appear to be from someone who has Nunavut in sight, their lack of insight belie that you’ve never been there.

      • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

        Nunavut born and raised Rob and widely travelled to almost every community in Nunavut. I know what I’m talking about.

        • Posted by Rob M Adams on

          You seem to know what you`re talking about, Crystal. That`s helpful and I appreciate your comments.

          You take on a new persona when you are Abacus.

  14. Posted by tom on

    Imagine as a parent if the first question in your mind every day was how am I going to feed my kids?

    Food insecurity is the #1 cause of many issues in Nunavut. We need to eliminate food insecurity 100% for everybody. Not GN, NTI, or NGOs talking about it and having endless meetings and conferences.

    Parents with no money and no food for their kids and not going to give too much thought about a fine, lol. Glad he is an MLA and not a Minister

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Though I think your comment is well intended tom, it does not address the #1 cause of many issues in Nunavut. Far and away, the #1 cause of nearly all issues in Nunavut and beyond is a lack of education. Education at all levels – formally through the schools, informally through family and non-formally through being an engaged member of society. Not only do many adults have no prospect of employment, they have no concept of engagement.

      There is no lack of intelligence among those in poverty or who are running the show. Neither is their a shortage of money or resources. Both are in abundance in every Nunavut community and have been for quite some time. Do not relate food insecurity with enough money to buy food or enough resources to acquire it.

      Literacy, whether related to reading and writing, forming and supporting a coherent opinion, buying and preparing food, having and parenting children, living in a home and maintaining it or having a job and doing it – is the key to overcoming insecurity (whether of body or mind). You could add to this list of outcomes that literacy brings. Please do so.

  15. Posted by Baffin on

    Schools do have breakfast programs –which ones in Nunavut don’t? There is Brighter Futures money, and there are other pools of funding that can be tapped in to as well. Schools also have funds to provide snacks.
    So yes, there are food security issues in Nunavut, but schools are one place children can get food. Don’t use that as an excuse to not send children to school.

  16. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    In order to ensure compliance you need to be able to take away something that is valued by the offender.

    For instance to get a kid to eat their vegetables you threaten to withhold their toys.

    What are the parent’s toys? TV? Cigarettes? 4 wheeler?

    I agree that trying to fine someone on Social Assistance is stupid and won’t work, but there are levers that can be used.

  17. Posted by Concerned on

    Great Idea!! Do it GN.
    Report card says in Grade 8 going to grade 9 but also says reads at a grade 3 level and grade 4 level math, just as an example.
    Something needs to be done, graduating kids with the proper grade 12 is also a concern. Low attendance is just one factor.

  18. Posted by Africa on

    One only needs to look to Africa where there is very little if any social safety net and breakfast programs are an alien concept. With so much less, why are those kids always in school and eager to learn?

    To say that poverty, food insecurity, overcrowded housing and colonialism is to blame for Nunavut’s atrociously bad educational indicators completely ignores the billions in the 3rd world who are subject to much higher levels of these four condition yet manage to show up to school every day.

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Thank you Africa. I agree. In some ways the social safety net is the problem. There is an intricate web of illness in NU and other NA jurisdictions that is perpetuating. The most significant proponent of this worsening and debilitating illness is that group of individuals who do not appear to have the symptoms. This was especially clear in a recent letter contrived by Sandra Inutiq and distributed through social and mainstream media.

      Therein lie the differences between Africa and NU. Here, the masses are safe in poverty, addiction and illiteracy. They are normalized without strength or drive for transformation. They are deluded that the carriers are their only hope for survival and that the boogey man is the outsider.

      Feed them crumbs, house them in slums, commiserate with their misfortune, terrorize them with control, intoxicate them with booze and lies, keep them uneducated. Only then do you have power. We are unwitting abetters.

  19. Posted by inukdude on

    while there are many factors that leads to low attendance rates, stuff like poverty, overcrowding, bullying at school, kids being entitled and parents not parenting. growing up in a small community I also learned that if I wanted a job with the Hamlet or the Housing Corporation, I had to be a relative or a friend of someone in the hiring department, this nepotism really discourages youth to even go to school, at least for me I thought “whats the point in school if I’ll just end up being on social assistance?”, I couldn’t even get a job at the Northern Store cause they said I’m “over qualified”, and that they’ll just have to hire someone else if I find a better paying job, my only option was to move away from home and get more education, by the way it was the best decision of my life, I can always go back home for a visit, maybe this summer.

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Hey Inuk dude. Thanks for your comments and commendations to you for your honesty and effort. I can relate.

      The commenter “Africa” also offered some valid insight earlier. Additionally, it’s interesting to observe two key outcomes in third-world societies – where social safety nets are not available:

      1) Blame has no value
      2) Transformation is desirable

  20. Posted by “Putuyi” on

    Bullying in school has to stop because that why he said he doesn’t want to go to school anymore.

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