Investigation finds Montreal youth services fail Inuit children

An investigation by the Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Youth Rights revealed that Inuit children in youth protection facilities on the West Island of Montreal were left behind, deprived of the opportunity to receive proper education, and sometimes reluctant to speak their own language. And feel lonely and homesick.

One of the committee’s investigators, Yolaine Williams, told CBC News: “They don’t have many aspects of culture in their lives, so they do have a sense of cultural alienation.” The committee released a report on Wednesday. .

The investigation was partly triggered in 2018 CBC investigation People who find children in collective houses operated by Batshaw Youth and Family Services and the local health department-CIUSSSOuest-de’l’le-de-Montréal are sometimes punished for speaking about Inuktitut.

The committee launched its own investigation, and after finding that many children did not even go to school or receive basic education, the investigation quickly expanded its scope of tasks.

Williams said: “For many years, these children have had very limited publicity in receiving formal school education.”

Cultural insecurity

Williams said that the commission’s investigation did not find any evidence that children are specifically prohibited from speaking Inuktitut, but that it is discouraged in some cases.

She said: “Sometimes, educators need to understand what young people are saying. They may ask you to either switch to English or translate what they just said.”

According to investigator Yolaine Williams, Inuit children receive “very limited education.” (CBC)

A source told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2018 that they kept telling children not to speak Inuktitut to each other.Williams says the committee found the ban unusual.

She said that even so, it still has an impact.

Williams said: “Using their language can create insecurity for young people. When educators are present, they may be forced to speak English.”

The committee made several recommendations, including more training for staff, hiring of interpreters, and a clear list of language-related codes of conduct, and ensuring that these codes of conduct are translated into Inuktitut.

Bureaucratic “inertia”

Commission investigators found that the bigger problem is getting the most basic education.

Indigenous children in Quebec are not required by law, they must receive a French education. In Nunavik, children can go to Kindergarten to Grade 2 from Inuktitut. They can then choose to study in English or French. Most people choose English.

The problem with protecting young people is that they are moved thousands of kilometers away from home, and if they want to teach in English, they suddenly face red tape.

Williams said: “As soon as they leave, they must apply for English qualifications.”

“Historically, there have been many administrative obstacles to obtaining the required documents.”

She said many children were surprised that no one seemed to be stepping up to help them fill out all the forms.

Williams said: “I can say that the youth protection authorities, the school board and the education minister all have a certain inertia.”

result? Children do not have English qualifications and must rely on tutoring, without getting the education they deserve.

Williams said this also strengthened their sense of isolation.

She said: “The young people I talk to feel marginalized because they don’t go to school. They feel different and they feel excluded from normal education.”

The government vowed to act quickly

The CAQ government quickly responded to the report and issued a joint statement from the Minister of Education, Social Services and Indigenous Affairs, calling the situation “intolerable” and promising to resolve it quickly.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said: “The situation presented in this report is unacceptable.”

Many children from Nunavik who entered youth protection were sent thousands of kilometers to the south to stay in collective housing and rehabilitation centers on the West Island of Montreal. (Eilis Quinn/Radio Canada)

He said: “We will take necessary and permanent corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of this sad situation.”

The statement said that some administrative changes have been made to simplify the process, and an agreement will be reached between the Ministry of Education and Social Services on a permanent solution.

Still have big problems

Williams said that although such a move is welcome, it can only go a long way.

She said: “If you want, the fundamental problem is that young people are migrating to the south in large numbers.”

She said: “You were taken away from the community and placed in a completely different world.”

She said: “I think homesickness is a big part of the problem.”

This migration occurred because of the extreme lack of services in the north, including mental health, drug treatment and youth protection.

Williams said that the main recommendation is for the Nunavik District Health Commission, with the support of the province, to establish its own youth protection system in the north.

This echoes the recommendations in the previous report, including Come to the committee with Laurent Committee, This is something the province said it is considering.

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