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May 19, 2021News Release

Chronic violation of the right to education of Inuit youth placed in rehabilitation centers outside their communities

An investigation by the Commission concludes that young Inuit from Nunavik living in a rehabilitation center in the Montréal area have been denied their right to cultural preservation and cultural life, as well as their right to education.

Montréal, May 19 2021 - After the publication of articles mentioning that Inuit children could not speak their language in the rehabilitation units of the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS-ODIM), the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse launched an investigation on its own initiative, which concludes that the rights of these children to the preservation of their culture and to a cultural life were not respected, and that their right to education was chronically violated.

Due to the limited availability of rehabilitation centres in Nunavik, many Inuit youth must travel to the Montreal and Laurentian regions to receive rehabilitation services. The Commission's investigation initially focused on the youth's right to speak their mother tongue as well as their social follow-up in the context of residential care in CIUSSS-ODIM units, but after quickly realizing that the youth were not receiving accredited schooling, the focus of the investigation was broadened to include the right to education.

Inuit children can be educated in English in their community without a declaration of eligibility for English instruction from the Ministry of Education. However, as soon as these children leave Nunavik, they must go through at times cumbersome and complex administrative procedures to continue their education in English. Eligibility for English instruction does not follow the child but is tied to his or her territory of residence. The investigation revealed that the difficulties encountered by Directors of Youth Protection in obtaining the documents required for eligibility for English instruction created a chronic situation of non-attendance at school for many Inuit youth living outside their community.

"Our investigation revealed a lack of initiative on the part of the actors involved, namely the DYP, the Ministry of Education and the school boards, to put an end to the lack of schooling for these young people," said Suzanne Arpin, vice-president of the Commission responsible for its youth mandate. "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. 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," continued Ms. Arpin.

Use of mother tongue

Although the investigation did not reveal any formal rule prohibiting Inuit youth in rehabilitation centers from speaking their mother tongue, restrictions on the use of Inuktitut among Inuit youth during surveillance interventions may lead to a feeling of insecurity regarding the use of their language. The Commission therefore recommended that the right of Inuit youth to freely speak their mother tongue be reaffirmed and that this right be clearly written into the codes of conduct of rehabilitation units. 

In addition, the Commission recommends interpretation services for Inuit youth and the translation of codes of conduct into Inuktitut. Access to interpretation services would facilitate exchanges between Inuit youth and educators. The translation of codes of conduct into Inuktitut would also allow these children to understand what is expected of them during their stay in rehabilitation centers.

Social and cultural isolation: obstacles to the exercise of one's culture

Placement in rehabilitation centers in the Montreal area generates the social and cultural isolation of Inuit youth. In this regard, the Commission concluded that the rights of Inuit youth to the preservation of their culture and to a cultural life were not respected and recommended that they be consulted about cultural activities that meet their needs, that an action plan for cultural safety be developed in consultation with Inuit organizations and that rehabilitation programming be put in place to allow Inuit youth to socialize with each other and to speak their language.

To counter the negative effects of uprooting these youth from their communities, the Commission recommended several measures to allow for more regular meetings between youth and their families via appropriate technological means and more regular visits to their community. The Commission also recommended that the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services report to the Commission on its action plan for the creation of a self-sufficient rehabilitation system for youth in Nunavik to prevent these youth from being uprooted from their community and placed in rehabilitation centers outside of Nunavik.

The summary of the findings of the investigation concerning Inuit children in the rehabilitation centers of the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île de Montréal and the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre is available on our website.

The Commission has also issued recommendations to other stakeholders which have been transmitted in the following letters :

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Human Rights and Youth Commission) ensures the promotion and respect of the principles set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It also ensures that the interests of children are protected and that their rights recognized in the Youth Protection Act are respected and promoted. In addition, the Commission oversees compliance with the Act respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies.


Meissoon Azzaria
438 622-3652

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