According to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) in Nunavik, one in three Inuit youth in Nunavik, the sub-arctic region of Quebec will have come in contact with child protection services at some point in their lives since 2017.
“Currently our intervention workers now have on average 45 files, said Chantal Laverdure, co-director of the Nunavik DYP.
“The provincial average is 18 files per intervention worker so obviously there are issues that affect the quality of services.”
Representatives of the DYP for the Nunavik region presented these statistics to the Quebec inquiry examining the relationship between Indigenous peoples and certain public services.
They outlined challenges they say they face when trying to keep up with a caseload that grows every single year.
Among their concerns they listed the retention of employees who only last on average one and a half years, recruitment of more Inuit employees for translation and social work, and inadequate remuneration for Inuit foster families who currently receive $40 a day.
André Lebon, a consultant with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) testified that they are currently in negotiations with Quebec to up the amount to $80.
“For sure if we can be more attractive, more people will be open to accept a [foster] child,” said Lebon
In 2007 Quebec’s human rights commission made a damning report regarding youth protection in the Nunavik region.
Since then the DYP says they’ve worked to minimize taking Inuit children away from their parents.
And when it does happen, they say they’ve done better at keeping them with extended family or Inuit foster families.
“As a parent, I think that for children the best place for them is in their families but at the end of the line when we have to remove a child it is a question of safety, generally speaking,” testified Martin Careau, Co-Director of the Nunavik region DYP.
Despite the DYP’s talk of progress, a prosecutor for the inquiry pointed out a recent coroner’s report regarding the 2018 case of an adolescent Inuk girl in Salluit who took her own life after she didn’t receive the mental health follow up she was supposed to get after falling under the DYP’s care.
“This is a regrettable situation, and of course we’re trying to put means in place for this not to occur, but I have to say that there are some issues of the frequency of services, and we’re facing sometimes these types of situations,” testified Laverdure, who went on the conclude that in order to make sure more Inuit children don’t fall through the cracks more funding is needed.
Not only for themselves, but for other social services and housing in Nunavik.
“We must attack this problem, this problem of taking children away,” said Laverdure.
Since Nov. 12, when the inquiry landed in Nunavik, commissioners have heard testimony about a broken justice and social system in the sub-arctic region of Quebec.
On Monday, the former mayor of Kuujjuaq put the social problems in Nunavut squarely at the feet of the federal and provincial governments saying colonialism was the root of their problems.
Hearings will continue in Kuujjuaq, QC until Friday November 23.