The MP for Nunavut says she was not surprised by any of the stark findings in an auditor general’s report on child welfare services for the territory released this week.
“When I go back to my communities I hear about a lot of issues,” NDP MP Lori Idlout said. “The lack of services and the concerns with child apprehension. I’ve heard from my constituents just how unfair the system seems to be. So, it really wasn’t that much of a surprise, unfortunately.”
Auditor General Karen Hogan’s report highlights a number of areas where children in care are being poorly served.
Hogan said the long-standing problems only got more severe over the past decade and this is why the unusual decision not to make any recommendations was made.
“We found the situation is worse now than it was in 2011,” she said. “It was clear for us that a different approach was needed and it wasn’t time well spent to draft just another action plan but we were hoping the time would be better spent with the government coming together with the three departments.
“Seeing a collaborative approach to really start addressing the root causes that we found but doing so in collaboration with Inuit organizations and the communities.”
The report finds in an audit sample of 12 new foster homes, in only two had adults gone through the necessary criminal record checks.
It also finds that although social services workers are supposed to check in on children in care on a monthly basis, this often does not happen.
“We saw delays that were really long,” Hogan said. “Sometimes, it would have been just six months or so but in some cases, we saw years. In fact, over 39 months in one situation. That is a long time for a child to wait to get the care they might need.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller was asked about the report’s findings at a Thursday press conference in Ottawa.
He said Indigenous children across the country are not well served by the child welfare system and this is why the Trudeau government has put forward legislation giving communities more control of these services.
“I don’t think any provincial or territorial child agency is doing particularly well by Indigenous peoples,” Miller said. “That’s why we put forward C-92 which tries to break through a number of jurisdictional barriers because at the end of the day you’re playing a game of back and forth on the backs of Indigenous kids. Some of the most vulnerable people in the country.”
Idlout said a lack of investment in Nunavut by the federal government as a whole has created many of the issues the child welfare system now faces.
“The federal government for years has been neglecting Nunavut,” she said. “We know for example there’s been a huge lack of investments in housing, in the education system where schools are. There are too many schools that are in poor condition.”