THE SITUATION OF NUNAVIK'S CHILDREN



    
           PRESS RELEASE 1 OF 3 - THE COMMISSION DES DROITS DE LA
        PERSONNE ET DES DROITS DE LA JEUNESSE ISSUES A CALL TO ACTION
    

    MONTREAL, June 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The Commission des droits de la personne
et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec is making an urgent appeal to all
members of the community in Nunavik to mobilize to ensure the safety and
protection of its children.
    In a report released today, detailing an investigation into youth
protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, the Commission notes that
youth under 18, who make up almost half the population of Nunavik, do not
benefit from the protection services they are entitled to receive by law.
    The Vice-President of the Commission, Sylvie Godin, travelled to Nunavik
to present the conclusions and the 21 recommendations made in the report to
administrators at the Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the two
Directors of Youth Protection and the other authorities targeted by the
recommendations. In addition, she met with members of the community, including
a women's group and health and social service workers.
    "Everyone must make a commitment to work together to make children's
needs a key priority. All stakeholders bear some of the responsibility,
whether the political authorities in Québec City and Nunavik, social workers,
local directors, or mothers and fathers," Ms. Godin explained. "They must all
focus their efforts and work together to break the cycle of violence affecting
these children."

    Conclusive observations

    According to the Commission, the Inuit people are facing an identity
crisis which is reflected in the scope of the social problems that have
emerged in recent decades. Family violence, over-consumption of alcohol, drug
addiction and suicide have become problems of alarming proportions.
    Poverty adds to the difficulty of the situation, and children often live
in conditions that are entirely inconsistent with their need for protection
and security. A large number of children suffer physical, psychological or
sexual abuse. In addition, 25% of the children born between 2000 and 2004 in
the region have been given up for traditional adoption, with no prior
assessment of the parenting ability of the adoptive family.
    One of the main shortcomings of the current youth protection system is
that front-line social services are practically non-existent, and very few
preventive services exist for children aged 0 to 18.
    The organizations responsible for child and youth protection work in
constant crisis mode, and have to deal with the severe difficulties caused by
geographical isolation and high staff turnover.
    All the people interviewed during the investigation reported overcrowded
housing, with two or three families, or 12 to 15 people from different
generations, living under the same roof. Currently 25.5% of all families,
approximately 500 families, are on the waiting list for housing in Nunavik.

    Urgent need to act

    In its report, the Commission asks the Premier of Québec to take personal
control of this issue and to coordinate the government actions needed to
protect children in Nunavik. The actions, which are described in detail in the
recommendations, come under the responsibility of the Minister of Health and
Social Services, the Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for
Aboriginal Affairs.
    In addition, the Commission asks Makivik Corporation to take the lead in
coordinating actions by members of the community to ensure that they work
together to find long-term solutions to help children. It notes that the
Corporation, which administers the compensation funding allocated to the Inuit
under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, is responsible for fighting
poverty and promoting well-being, progress and education.
    The Commission itself undertakes to follow-up on all its recommendations
in one year's time to assess the measures taken in response to the report. Ms.
Godin also has also made a commitment to continue the dialogue with community
representatives and to hold more meetings in Nunavik next autumn.
    The investigation report into child and youth protection services in
Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay is available in French and English from the website
www.cdpdj.qc.ca. For journalists in Montréal, copies of the report will be
made available at 8:30 a.m. today at the reception desk of the Commission
(360, Saint-Jacques, 2nd floor). Journalists in Québec City can obtain copies
from the Commission's office at 575, Saint-Amable, office 4.31).
    Ms. Godin will be available for phones interviews from Kuujjuaq between
9:30 to 11:00 today.


    
                PRESS RELEASE 2 OF 3 - OVERVIEW OF THE REPORT

    The Commission's mandate:

    The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is
an organization with provincial jurisdiction whose mission is to promote and
defend the rights of children as recognized by the Youth Protection Act and
the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It may investigate any situation where it has
reason to believe that the rights of a child or of a group of children may
have been encroached upon by persons, institutions or bodies.
    Its mission is also to uphold the principles set out in the Charter of
Human Rights and Freedoms.

    Context:

    Three investigators made five trips to three villages, Kuujjuaq,
Puvirnituq and Salluit following the filing of two complaints in the spring of
2002, and a decision by the Commission to conduct a systemic investigation of
all child protection services offered in Nunavik. During the visits, they
conducted more than one hundred interviews with children, families, employees
and managers in the social services, health and education systems, municipal
officials, police officers and judges.
    The investigators analyzed the personal and family situations of 139
children who had been reported a total of 650 times under the Youth Protection
Act.
    The information gathered by the investigators was forwarded to the two
Directors of Youth Protection in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay, as well as to the
institutions directly responsible for the application of the Youth Protection
Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to give them an opportunity to add
their comments, which are included in the report.

    Some figures:

    - Nunavik has a population of 10,000 permanent residents in a territory
      of 505,000 km(2) or one-third of Québec. Almost half the population is
      aged under 18;
    - in Nunavik, one child out of every four born between 2000 and 2004 has
      been traditionally adopted. There is no supervision by social services
      to check whether the adoptive family offers a suitable home for the
      child;
    - around 30% of the files of children requiring protection that were
      examined by the Commission during its investigation related to adopted
      children;
    - many children were reported more than once to one of the two Directors
      of Youth Protection, in some cases up to 16 times;
    - almost one quarter of the reports examined by the Commission during the
      investigation concerned sexual abuse;
    - many of the cases reported were not retained for evaluation by the
      Directors of Youth Protection because the parents refused to cooperate,
      or because of family ties or friendship with Youth Protection workers
      or managers;
    - over half of the children lived in households where one or more people
      had problems with drinking or violence;
    - all the people interviewed during the investigation mentioned
      overcrowding housing, with two or three families - 12 to 15 people from
      different generations - living under the same roof;
    - roughly 25.5% of families -500 families - are on the waiting list for
      housing;
    - a survey shows that the rate of family violence is 10 times higher in
      Nunavik than the Canadian average;
    - in 1996, 10% of young people aged 15 to 19 used cocaine or inhaled
      solvents.

    Major social problems:

    - an alarmingly high suicide rate among young people (one of the highest
      in Canada);
    - a high rate of sexual abuse of children;
    - the constant increase of  drinking and drug use;
    - the large number of children with serious behavioural problems;
    - teenage pregnancies;
    - family and conjugal violence was noted in the majority of the studied
      files;
    - a high school dropout rate, even among young children;
    - the alarming number of mental health problems among children.


                           PRESS RELEASE 3 OF 3 -

    The recommendations of the Investigation Report of the Commission des
    droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse into child and youth
    protection services in Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay

    1.  THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services make
        children and families a key priority and set up mechanisms for
        regional coordination and partnerships focusing, in particular, on:

        - the protection and stability needed to allow children to develop;
        - the prevention of situations of neglect, physical and sexual abuse,
          and behavioural difficulties, mental health problems and suicide
          prevention;
        - the prevention and treatment of drug addiction;
        - the improvement of parenting skills.

    2.  THAT Makivik Corporation oversee the creation of a coordination
        committee bringing together representatives of the Regional Board and
        of medical, educational, municipal, social and justice organizations,
        to ensure concerted interventions in the best interests of the
        children concerned, and to mobilize the general population around the
        objective of youth protection.

        The Commission will require a copy of the action plan and work
        schedule of the committee, and of the measures implemented to assess
        its effect.

    3.  THAT the Minister of Health Services and Social Services ensure that
        the children of Nunavik receive the protection services to which they
        are entitled.

    4.  THAT the Director of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and the Director
        of Youth Protection for Hudson Bay specifically designate one or more
        experienced members of their staff to assist and advise case workers
        at each stage in the application of the Act to ensure that it is
        understood and applied in a uniform way.

        For this purpose, the Commission recommends, among other strategies:

        - that weekly case discussions be organized for all case workers;
        - that all case workers use the appropriate tools, in particular the
          Manuel de référence sur la protection de la jeunesse.

    5.  THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in
        cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and
        Hudson Bay, provide ongoing training for their staff members
        concerning the various stages of the Act, in particular regarding:

        - the need for stability among children and attachment disorders;
        - assessments of family environments and parenting skills;
        - follow-up for children and families;
        - the drafting of intervention and service plans;
        - file-keeping.

    6.  THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in
        cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and
        Hudson Bay, create local committees of people working in the youth
        and family sector with the mandate of helping apply the protection
        measures decided by the DYP.

    7.  THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services:

        - ensure that the CLSCs establish detection and prevention programs
          for the neglect of children aged 0 to 5;
        - ensure that the CLSCs establish or maintain, as applicable, social
          services for children aged 0 to 18 and their families, as required
          by their mandate.

    8.  THAT the Kativik School Board, in cooperation with the Nunavik
        Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Makivik
        Corporation, ensure that social services are introduced into the
        school system.

    9.  THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services
        implement or maintain, as applicable, specialized treatment programs
        for drug and alcohol addiction, physical and sexual abuse and mental
        health.

    10. THAT the Directors of Youth Protection in Ungava Bay and in Hudson
        Bay ensure that the family problems and specific difficulties of a
        child are evaluated before the child is placed, and that they seek a
        stable living environment and sustainable solutions for children to
        promote bonding.

    11. THAT the Directors of Youth Protection in Nunavik assess foster
        families and use the relevant tools to ensure that all the needs of
        the children concerned are met.

    12. THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Inuulitsivik Health Centre,
        as part of their duties as child and youth protection centres,
        provide foster families with the tools and support they require to
        meet the needs of the children placed with them, in particular
        ongoing training and regular follow-up.

        THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Inuulitsivik Health Centre
        recruit foster families for children aged 6 to 12 with serious
        behavioural difficulties, and that these foster families be offered
        training and follow-up by specialized staff members, who could be
        recruited from current staff members at the Group Home or the
        Rehabilitation Centre.

    13. THAT the Tulattavik Health Centre and the Director of the CLSC for
        Ungava Bay together review the entire "restricted program" to ensure
        that the measures applied to young people at the Rehabilitation
        Centre are consistent with their rights.

    14. THAT the Coordinator of the Puvirnituq Group Home use isolation only
        in the situations strictly authorized by law, in a manner that
        ensures respect for the dignity of the young person concerned, and
        that appropriate support be provided.

    15. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in
        cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and
        Hudson Bay, provide training on the application of the Youth Criminal
        Justice Act for their staff, especially youth workers.

    16. THAT the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, in
        cooperation with the Directors of Youth Protection for Ungava Bay and
        Hudson Bay, take steps to ensure that young people subject to the
        Youth Criminal Justice Act benefit from the extrajudicial sanctions
        program under the Act, which could be harmonized with community
        values.

    17. THAT the Tulattivik and Inuulitsivik Health Centres set up an
        employee assistance program.

    18. THAT the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of
        Justice ensure that any "traditional" adoption is assessed as a
        permanent lifetime decision and that a psycho-social assessment of
        the child and of the prospective adoptive parents is carried out
        prior to the adoption.

    19. THAT the Minister for Native Affairs and the Makivik Corporation, in
        cooperation with the Federal government, propose immediate and
        adapted solutions to the housing problem, based on the right of
        children to receive protection.

    20. THAT the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, in cooperation with the
        Directors of Youth Protection, take into consideration the greater
        interest of the children and their right to protection when assigning
        housing.

    21. THAT the Minister of Justice:

        - take steps to limit trips by children, in particular by using
          videoconference technology;
        - increase the number of days of hearing of the Itinerant Court;
        - assess the possibility of assigning a resident judge to Nunavik.

    Source:   M. Robert Sylvestre
              (514) 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477, extension 253
    
    -%SU: SOC
    -%RE: 1




For further information:

For further information: M. Robert Sylvestre, (514) 873-5146,
1-800-361-6477, extension 25

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Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

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