Quebec commission calls for better access to education for Inuit youth in care
‘Our investigation revealed a lack of initiative,’ says vice-president responsible for youth mandate
Inuit children in care outside of Nunavik need better access to education services, culturally relevant programming and more interactions in Inuktitut.
That’s the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by Quebec’s human rights commission, which found Inuit youth are being deprived of these rights.
The commission found that Inuit youth placed in Montreal homes or facilities are being denied access to a basic education and falling behind academically while in care.
Due to a limited number of foster homes or rehabilitation centres in Nunavik, many Inuit youth must be placed in care in the greater Montreal area, typically through the city’s West Island health and social services network.
The result, the commission said, is social and cultural isolation for Inuit youth in care.
It launched an investigation last year following reports that many Nunavik children who were placed in care in the Montreal area were discouraged from speaking Inuktitut.
A 2019 report prepared by Montreal’s Batshaw Youth and Family Centres found that Nunavimmiut children were having trouble enrolling in Montreal-area schools in English due to Quebec’s language restrictions, which require those families to produce an English eligibility certificate.
As a result, Batshaw found that many don’t attend school at all.
The report released this week says a handful of Quebec government services are to blame.
“The Ministry of Education has not taken any initiative to investigate the situation and ensure the school attendance of this population, which gives us reason to believe that there has been a violation of their rights,” said Suzanne Arpin, the commission’s vice-president responsible for its youth mandate, in a Wednesday release.
“The commission has therefore recommended that the Ministry of Education find a lasting solution to the issue of eligibility for English instruction for out-of-territory Inuit children.”
In its report, the commission noted it was unable to gather statistics on how many Inuit youth haven’t had access to accredited education during their time in care outside Nunavik.
And while Nunavik’s school board, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, offers tutoring services to those youth, that service isn’t being used by Montreal-area care facilities.
The commission recommends Inuit families and organizations be consulted in order to develop an action plan to ensure foster homes or rehabilitation centres offer culturally relevant programming to youth and spaces where Inuit youth can socialize and speak Inuktitut.
The commission’s investigation did not find any specific rules prohibiting the use of Inuktitut in foster care settings, but called on youth services to ensure that the use of Inuktitut was encouraged in its facilities and that the promotion of Inuktitut was written into its codes of conduct.
The commission also recommends interpretation services for all Inuit youth, to help facilitate exchanges between educators and children.
And finally, the commission asked the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services to share its plan to create its own regional care system.
You can read the commission’s English language report here.