Translation of a letter sent to the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister Delegate for Health and Social Services on the Child and youth protection services in Nunavik
Montréal, March 18 2019
Madame Danielle McCann, ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux
Monsieur Lionel Carmant, ministre délégué à la Santé et aux services sociaux
Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux
1075, chemin Sainte-Foy, 15e étage
Québec (Québec) G1S 2M1
Subject : Child and youth protection services in Nunavik
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse wishes to inform you of its deep concerns regarding the child and youth protection services offered to children in Nunavik. In 2010, the Commission published a follow-up report on the implementation of its 2007 recommendations following its investigation of child and youth protection services in Nunavik. The Commission concluded in that report that, although all regional bodies had made significant efforts, the situation remained precarious and conveyed a sense of urgency.
In 2014, the Commission was informed of eight cases involving children in Ungava Bay, and alerted the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding the protection of children in Nunavik. The Commission asked them to take urgent action in response to these persistent and recurrent situations of children in danger, due to their living conditions, the economic and social conditions, the housing situation, the poor organization of health and social services and the precarious situation of the safety net available to children, which is practically non-existent.
The Commission then organized 16 meetings involving 23 stakeholders from the political, administrative, clinical, health and social services, education and justice sectors, as well as community members. Noting that the problems experienced by children and youth should not be reduced to youth protection, the Commission decided to visit Kuujjuaq in September 2016 to open a dialogue with the communities.
Several key findings emerged from this dialogue between the Commission and local leaders. Proposals of a series of actions were developed to address the various issues related to housing, education, drug abuse, protection and the justice system. These actions are part of an action plan adopted by the authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Services and local communities. The Commission regularly invites those responsible for implementation of the action plan to monitor its progress.
In March 2018, the Commission presented these findings to the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress.
Unfortunately, the Commission’s presentation expressed once more the recurrence of the same problems and findings in its investigations.
Last November, the Commission presented the findings of an investigation report to its Investigation Committee members, which clearly demonstrate that the findings leading to the action plan in Nunavik are still very current. The Commission looked into the mediatized drama of an 11-year-old girl who was found dead of hypothermia, intoxicated, 4 days after she was last seen. Her disappearance had only been reported to the police the day before she was found. This tragedy highlights the problems that persist and the urgency to solve them. The investigation identified problematic elements such as: the lack of diligence and shortcomings in the processing of multiple reports since birth, which have resulted in only intermittent interventions that did not ensure the safety and protection of the child, shortcomings in the services offered to the child and her family by the social services, and the lack of staff of the DYP, the Health Centre and the school, as well as the lack of front-line and specialized services to support victims of sexual abuse, treat addictions and mental health problems, support couples or families in difficulty and the critical shortage of housing, very often pointed out by the region stakeholders as a major source of serious social problems.
For the safety and development of Nunavik's children and youth, a reminder is crucial. The various problems identified regarding the application of the Youth Protection Act to Nunavik children and youth and their families persist. Considering the willingness of members of Nunavik communities to take care of the well-being of the children in their communities, and considering the distress of their children and the need to intervene in order to prevent the deterioration of their situation, the Commission reiterates the urgency to act in order to create favourable conditions for these communities so they can finally ensure real protection for their rights through the implementation of concrete support measures, in particular by allocating sufficient resources to solve urgent problems related to housing, education, drug addiction and access to health and social services in the field of youth protection.
Madam Minister, Mr. Minister, we remain available to discuss this letter at your convenience.