The Situation of Nunavik’s Children

The Situation of Nunavik’s Children

by NationTalk on June 29, 20071268 Views

27 juin 2007
For immediate release

Montréal, June 27, 2007. – The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec is making an urgent appeal to all members of the community in Nunavik to mobilize to ensure the safety and protection of its children.

In a report released today, detailing an investigation into youth protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, the Commission notes that youth under 18, who make up almost half the population of Nunavik, do not benefit from the protection services they are entitled to receive by law.The Vice-President of the Commission, Sylvie Godin, travelled to Nunavik to present the conclusions and the 21 recommendations made in the report to administrators at the Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the two Directors of Youth Protection and the other authorities targeted by the recommendations. In addition, she met with members of the community, including a women’s group and health and social service workers.

“Everyone must make a commitment to work together to make children’s needs a key priority. All stakeholders bear some of the responsibility, whether the political authorities in Québec City and Nunavik, social workers, local directors, or mothers and fathers,” Ms. Godin explained. “They must all focus their efforts and work together to break the cycle of violence affecting these children.”

Conclusive observations

According to the Commission, the Inuit people are facing an identity crisis which is reflected in the scope of the social problems that have emerged in recent decades. Family violence, over-consumption of alcohol, drug addiction and suicide have become problems of alarming proportions.

Poverty adds to the difficulty of the situation, and children often live in conditions that are entirely inconsistent with their need for protection and security. A large number of children suffer physical, psychological or sexual abuse. In addition, 25% of the children born between 2000 and 2004 in the region have been given up for traditional adoption, with no prior assessment of the parenting ability of the adoptive family.

One of the main shortcomings of the current youth protection system is that front-line social services are practically non-existent, and very few preventive services exist for children aged 0 to 18.

The organizations responsible for child and youth protection work in constant crisis mode, and have to deal with the severe difficulties caused by geographical isolation and high staff turnover.

All the people interviewed during the investigation reported overcrowded housing, with two or three families, or 12 to 15 people from different generations, living under the same roof. Currently 25.5% of all families, approximately 500 families, are on the waiting list for housing in Nunavik.

Urgent need to act

In its report, the Commission asks the Premier of Québec to take personal control of this issue and to coordinate the government actions needed to protect children in Nunavik. The actions, which are described in detail in the recommendations, come under the responsibility of the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

In addition, the Commission asks Makivik Corporation to take the lead in coordinating actions by members of the community to ensure that they work together to find long-term solutions to help children. It notes that the Corporation, which administers the compensation funding allocated to the Inuit under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, is responsible for fighting poverty and promoting well-being, progress and education.

The Commission itself undertakes to follow-up on all its recommendations in one year’s time to assess the measures taken in response to the report. Ms. Godin also has also made a commitment to continue the dialogue with community representatives and to hold more meetings in Nunavik next autumn.

The investigation report into child and youth protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay is available in French and English from the website www.cdpdj.qc.ca. For journalists in Montréal, copies of the report will be made available at 8:30 a.m. today at the reception desk of the Commission (360, Saint-Jacques, 2nd floor). Journalists in Québec City can obtain copies from the Commission’s office at 575, Saint-Amable, office 4.31).

Ms. Godin will be available for phones interviews from Kuujjuaq between 9:30 to 11:00 today.

– 30 –

Source:
M. Robert Sylvestre
(514) 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477, extension 253

Montréal, June 27, 2007 – For immediate release

THE SITUATION OF NUNAVIK’S CHILDREN – PRESS RELEASE 2 OF 3

OVERVIEW OF THE REPORT

The Commission’s mandate:

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is an organization with provincial jurisdiction whose mission is to promote and defend the rights of children as recognized by the Youth Protection Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It may investigate any situation where it has reason to believe that the rights of a child or of a group of children may have been encroached upon by persons, institutions or bodies.

Its mission is also to uphold the principles set out in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Context:

Three investigators made five trips to three villages, Kuujjuaq, Puvirnituq and Salluit following the filing of two complaints in the spring of 2002, and a decision by the Commission to conduct a systemic investigation of all child protection services offered in Nunavik. During the visits, they conducted more than one hundred interviews with children, families, employees and managers in the social services, health and education systems, municipal officials, police officers and judges.

The investigators analyzed the personal and family situations of 139 children who had been reported a total of 650 times under the Youth Protection Act.

The information gathered by the investigators was forwarded to the two Directors of Youth Protection in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, as well as to the institutions directly responsible for the application of the Youth Protection Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to give them an opportunity to add their comments, which are included in the report.

Some figures:

· Nunavik has a population of 10,000 permanent residents in a territory of 505,000 km2 or one-third of Québec. Almost half the population is aged under 18;
· in Nunavik, one child out of every four born between 2000 and 2004 has been traditionally adopted. There is no supervision by social services to check whether the adoptive family offers a suitable home for the child;
· around 30% of the files of children requiring protection that were examined by the Commission during its investigation related to adopted children;
· many children were reported more than once to one of the two Directors of Youth Protection, in some cases up to 16 times;
· almost one quarter of the reports examined by the Commission during the investigation concerned sexual abuse;
· many of the cases reported were not retained for evaluation by the Directors of Youth Protection because the parents refused to cooperate, or because of family ties or friendship with Youth Protection workers or managers;
· over half of the children lived in households where one or more people had problems with drinking or violence;
· all the people interviewed during the investigation mentioned overcrowding housing, with two or three families – 12 to 15 people from different generations – living under the same roof;
· roughly 25.5% of families –500 families – are on the waiting list for housing;
· a survey shows that the rate of family violence is 10 times higher in Nunavik than the Canadian average;
· in 1996, 10% of young people aged 15 to 19 used cocaine or inhaled solvents.

Major social problems:

· an alarmingly high suicide rate among young people (one of the highest in Canada);
· a high rate of sexual abuse of children;
· the constant increase of drinking and drug use;
· the large number of children with serious behavioural problems;
· teenage pregnancies;
· family and conjugal violence was noted in the majority of the studied files;
· a high school dropout rate, even among young children;
· the alarming number of mental health problems among children.

– 30 –

Source:
M. Robert Sylvestre
(514) 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477, extension 253

Montréal, June 27, 2007 – For immediate release

THE SITUATION OF NUNAVIK’S CHILDREN – PRESS RELEASE 3 OF 3

The recommendations of the Investigation Report of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse into child and youth protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay

1. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services make children and families a key priority and set up mechanisms for regional coordination and partnerships focusing, in particular, on:
· the protection and stability needed to allow children to develop;
· the prevention of situations of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and behavioural difficulties, mental health problems and suicide prevention;
· the prevention and treatment of drug addiction;
· the improvement of parenting skills.

2. THAT Makivik Corporation oversee the creation of a coordination committee bringing together representatives of the Regional Board and of medical, educational, municipal, social and justice organizations, to ensure concerted interventions in the best interests of the children concerned, and to mobilize the general population around the objective of youth protection.

The Commission will require a copy of the action plan and work schedule of the committee, and of the measures implemented to assess its effect.

3. THAT the Minister of Health Services and Social Services ensure that the children of Nunavik receive the protection services to which they are entitled.

4. THAT the Director of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and the Director of Youth Protection for Hudson Bay specifically designate one or more experienced members of their staff to assist and advise case workers at each stage in the application of the Act to ensure that it is understood and applied in a uniform way.

For this purpose, the Commission recommends, among other strategies:
· that weekly case discussions be organized for all case workers;
· that all case workers use the appropriate tools, in particular the Manuel de référence sur la protection de la jeunesse.

5. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, provide ongoing training for their staff members concerning the various stages of the Act, in particular regarding:
· the need for stability among children and attachment disorders;
· assessments of family environments and parenting skills;
· follow-up for children and families;
· the drafting of intervention and service plans;
· file-keeping.

6. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, create local committees of people working in the youth and family sector with the mandate of helping apply the protection measures decided by the DYP.

7. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services:
· ensure that the CLSCs establish detection and prevention programs for the neglect of children aged 0 to 5;
· ensure that the CLSCs establish or maintain, as applicable, social services for children aged 0 to 18 and their families, as required by their mandate.

8. THAT the Kativik School Board, in cooperation with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Makivik Corporation, ensure that social services are introduced into the school system.

9. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services implement or maintain, as applicable, specialized treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction, physical and sexual abuse and mental health.

10. THAT the Directors of Youth Protection in Ungava Bay and in Hudson Bay ensure that the family problems and specific difficulties of a child are evaluated before the child is placed, and that they seek a stable living environment and sustainable solutions for children to promote bonding.

11. THAT the Directors of Youth Protection in Nunavik assess foster families and use the relevant tools to ensure that all the needs of the children concerned are met.

12. THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Inuulitsivik Health Centre, as part of their duties as child and youth protection centres, provide foster families with the tools and support they require to meet the needs of the children placed with them, in particular ongoing training and regular follow-up.

THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Inuulitsivik Health Centre recruit foster families for children aged 6 to 12 with serious behavioural difficulties, and that these foster families be offered training and follow-up by specialized staff members, who could be recruited from current staff members at the Group Home or the Rehabilitation Centre.

13. THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Director of the CLSC for Ungava Bay together review the entire “restricted program” to ensure that the measures applied to young people at the Rehabilitation Centre are consistent with their rights.

14. THAT the Coordinator of the Puvirnituq Group Home use isolation only in the situations strictly authorized by law, in a manner that ensures respect for the dignity of the young person concerned, and that appropriate support be provided.

15. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in cooperation with the
Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, provide training on the application of the Youth Criminal Justice Act for their staff, especially youth workers.

16. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, take steps to ensure that young people subject to the Youth Criminal Justice Act benefit from the extrajudicial sanctions program under the Act, which could be harmonized with community values.

17. THAT the Tulattivik and Inuulitsivik Health Centres set up an employee assistance program.

18. THAT the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Justice ensure that any “traditional” adoption is assessed as a permanent lifetime decision and that a psycho-social assessment of the child and of the prospective adoptive parents is carried out prior to the adoption.

19. THAT the Minister for Native Affairs and the Makivik Corporation, in cooperation with the Federal government, propose immediate and adapted solutions to the housing problem, based on the right of children to receive protection.

20. THAT the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, in cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection, take into consideration the greater interest of the children and their right to protection when assigning housing.

21. THAT the Minister of Justice:
· take steps to limit trips by children, in particular by using videoconference technology;
· increase the number of days of hearing of the Itinerant Court;
· assess the possibility of assigning a resident judge to Nunavik.

– 30 –

Source:
M. Robert Sylvestre
(514) 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477, extension 253

The complete text of the report is available in PDF format (737 kb): Investigation into child and youth protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay

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