Nunavut MLAs call for government to change how it tracks child sex abuse
Recommendations aimed at next government, representative for children and youth
Following up on a report that called child sexual abuse in Nunavut a crisis, a legislative committee made recommendations to address it on Monday.
The report by Jane Bates, the representative for children and youth in Nunavut, was tabled in June.
It says incidents of sexual abuse are not accurately tracked and that there is a lack of accountability within the territorial government.
Bates called the numbers in her report “shocking.” Of the 625 registered sex offenders in Nunavut at the time of the report, 70 per cent have abused children.
Bates said there is an accepted complacency that this is “just the way of the North” and when government officials don’t acknowledge and address the abuse that some children experience, it is being condoned.
In the legislative assembly on Monday, John Main, the chairperson for the standing committee on oversight of government operations and public accounts, tabled the committee’s recommendations to address Bates’ findings.
The committee first recommends the representative track the success of her own office and provide the information in future reports.
It also recommends her office works with the GN to streamline information collection and incident reporting, and to find specific ways to support parents and families.
The committee called on the GN to make sure the Department of Family Services gets enough financial support and resources to better collect data and to address staffing needs — another issue outlined in Bates’ report.
The committee also made recommendations for the next territorial government to consider in relation to Bates’ office.
It noted a section of the Representative for Children and Youth Act that would allow Bates to review any matter related to the death or critical injury of a child that is not currently in force.
“Given the high rates of violence and sexual abuse across Nunavut,” the review states the next group of MLAs might want to consider creating a special committee to address these concerns and explore these issues in more depth.
Although multiple reports and reviews have been conducted on services available to children and families in Nunavut over the last decade, the committee states the auditor general of Canada may want to do a follow-up audit in this area.
Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik says her department is trying to fix the tracking issues.
In a response to questions from Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone Sept. 10, she said there have been delays with software for a case management system the department is trying to put in place. The delays resulted in the initial contractor being terminated, and now the department is deciding what to do next.
The goal is for a decision to be made by the end of October, said Sheutiapik.
The Representative for Children and Youth has not had the chance to review the recommendations in detail yet, according to Kim Foster, a spokesperson for the office.
In a written statement, Bates said her office welcomes the recommendations from the committee.
“Our hope is that the information contained in our annual reports will support departments in making timely, informed decisions and improvements to their services that are in the best interests of young Nunavummiut and their families,” she said.
“If the recommendations support that, we will definitely consider and implement them.”