The fi­nal re­port

The rec­om­men­da­tions of the prov­ince’s Child and Youth Advocate.

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - GLEN WHIF­FEN

Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Ka­vanagh re­leased a re­port Wed­nes­day in Nain, Labrador, fol­low­ing a nearly year and half com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the treat­ment and ex­pe­ri­ences of Inuit chil­dren and youth in the New­found­land and Labrador child pro­tec­tion sys­tem.

The re­port con­tains 33 rec­om­men­da­tions that iden­tify im­me­di­ate changes needed to boost chil­dren’s rights. The re­port states the rec­om­men­da­tions also of­fer a path to long-term change that, if im­ple­mented, can help sup­port and build ca­pac­ity for a tran­si­tion to Inuit-di­rected child wel­fare ser­vices.

“When we be­gan this independen­t re­view there were 1,005 chil­dren in care in New­found­land and Labrador. There were 345 Indige­nous chil­dren, and 150 of th­ese chil­dren were Inuit. Many Indige­nous chil­dren have been re­moved from their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and cul­ture,” Lake Ka­vanagh said. “This in­for­ma­tion is nei­ther new nor unique to this prov­ince. Indige­nous chil­dren are crit­i­cally over-rep­re­sented through­out Cana­dian child wel­fare sys­tems. Bold sys­temic change is re­quired where young peo­ple are heard, re­la­tion­ships are reset, power is shared, com­mu­ni­ties are en­gaged, re­sources are en­hanced, and Inuit knowl­edge and be­liefs are val­i­dated and in­cor­po­rated into new ways of keep­ing chil­dren safe and supported.”

The re­port notes the rec­om­men­da­tions came af­ter com­mu­nity ses­sions and other interviews, and a re­view of 213 case files, and from ex­pe­ri­ences ad­vo­cat­ing for vul­ner­a­ble Indige­nous chil­dren and youth over the years.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the re­view was broad, and in­cluded Inuit com­mu­ni­ties, other Labrador and is­land com­mu­ni­ties, and peo­ple from other parts of Canada who have strong ties to Inuit com­mu­ni­ties in Labrador.

Lake Ka­vanagh said the re­view shows there is an ur­gent need to be­gin to work in a dif­fer­ent way with Inuit chil­dren and youth.

“While there are spe­cific ac­tions that can oc­cur to make im­me­di­ate im­prove­ments in their sit­u­a­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences, there is also a re­quire­ment to cre­ate a new vi­sion and re­la­tion­ship with Inuit, and may in­volve Nu­natsi­avut govern­ment as­sum­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for th­ese ser­vices in the fu­ture,” she said. “Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is a much-used word, but it must be rec­og­nized as a fun­da­men­tal cor­ner­stone in any plan to move for­ward. And this rec­on­cil­i­a­tion must hap­pen at all lev­els, in­clud­ing Inuit chil­dren and youth. If there had been any doubt, this re­view has shown that the cur­rent re­la­tion­ship with Inuit re­quires heal­ing.”

The rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude that the pro­vin­cial govern­ment en­sure Inuit val­ues, knowl­edge and cul­tural prac­tices are in­te­grated in all poli­cies, plan­ning and ser­vices for Inuit chil­dren and youth, and that the in­put and per­spec­tives of Inuit chil­dren and youth are in­cluded in all plans that af­fect them.

Inuit chil­dren and youth must be pro­vided the means to main­tain re­la­tion­ships with im­por­tant in­di­vid­u­als in their lives, with spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion for sib­lings when­ever pos­si­ble, the re­port states.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions sug­gest the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment com­plete an au­dit on all out-of-com­mu­nity place­ments, and en­gage the Nu­natsi­avut Govern­ment to en­sure all place­ment op­tions have been con­sid­ered first within the child’s fam­ily and/or com­mu­nity, and se­condly within Nu­natsi­avut ter­ri­tory.

The re­port also rec­om­mends the depart­ment broaden its man­date and range of re­sponses to fo­cus more on pre­ven­tion and early in­ter­ven­tion for chil­dren and fam­i­lies in the child pro­tec­tion sys­tem, and sup­port Inuit com­mu­nity ser­vices and pro­grams that con­trib­ute to pre­ven­tion and early in­ter­ven­tion.

It also sug­gests a re­view and up­date of the cur­rent level of fi­nan­cial sup­ports to Inuit chil­dren, fam­i­lies and care­givers in the child pro­tec­tion sys­tem to re­flect the north­ern Labrador re­al­ity, and that this must in­clude ad­dress­ing prices of goods and ser­vices, as well as trans­porta­tion and de­liv­ery costs.

“Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is a much-used word, but it must be rec­og­nized as a fun­da­men­tal cor­ner­stone in any plan to move for­ward. And this rec­on­cil­i­a­tion must hap­pen at all lev­els, in­clud­ing Inuit chil­dren and youth. If there had been any doubt, this re­view has shown that the cur­rent re­la­tion­ship with Inuit re­quires heal­ing.” Jackie Lake Ka­vanagh Child and Youth Advocate

Lisa Demp­ster, min­is­ter of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment, re­sponded to the re­port by say­ing her depart­ment will work with the Nu­natsi­avut Govern­ment, the Of­fice of the Child and Youth Advocate, other pro­vin­cial and fed­eral govern­ment de­part­ments, and part­ners to com­plete a thor­ough anal­y­sis of the rec­om­men­da­tions and de­velop an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the Inuit com­mu­nity shar­ing their col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and wis­dom through par­tic­i­pat­ing in this re­view, rec­og­niz­ing that, in many cases, shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences is painful,” Demp­ster said. “Our com­mit­ment to the chil­dren and fam­i­lies is un­wa­ver­ing. We share the goal of im­prov­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence and out­comes of Inuit chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies.”

Demp­ster also noted that the new Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies Act — which came into ef­fect in June — con­tains pro­vi­sions that di­rectly ad­dress many of the rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port and pro­vide the means to im­ple­ment oth­ers.

“In col­lab­o­ra­tion with our Indige­nous part­ners, we are de­vel­op­ing train­ing for so­cial work­ers on Indige­nous cul­tures and his­tory,” she said. “We also worked with the Nu­natsi­avut govern­ment to ad­dress re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion is­sues and, as a re­sult, we are pleased to re­port that we cur­rently have a full com­ple­ment of so­cial work staff in Inuit com­mu­ni­ties.”

Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Ka­vanagh.

Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Ka­vanagh re­leased a re­port Wed­nes­day called “A Long Wait For Change: Independen­t Re­view of Child Pro­tec­tion Ser­vices to Inuit Chil­dren in New­found­land and Labrador.” The re­port’s cover photo is of a mu­ral in Jens Haven Memo­rial School in Nain painted by Lu­cas Ang­na­tok and Ed­ward Bar­bour.

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