Major changes need to be made to the system for Inuit children in care, an independent review released by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has determined.
“I am extremely troubled about the poor outcomes for Indigenous children in the child protection system,” Jackie Lake Kavanagh, Child and Youth Advocate, said of the report.
“This is a historical issue with its roots in colonial practices reflected in residential schools, generations of families with histories of trauma, and social inequality. The status quo is not acceptable and cannot continue for Inuit children and youth.”
At the time of the 2018 report, "A Long Wait for Change", there were 1,005 children in care in Newfoundland and Labrador. Of those, 345 were indigenous children, and 150 of these children were Inuit.
The report interviewed 575 people, mostly in Labrador, about the system and their experiences.
Nunatsiavut Minister of Health Gerald Asivak said the report is a step in the right direction, but long overdue. As a former social worker, he also said it contained nothing surprising.
The report found the current reactive and crisis-oriented approach to protecting Inuit children is not working and part of the issue is removing children from their communities. It heard repeatedly that people perceive more resources are going into sending children away from their communities than in keeping them close to home, or within circles of people that know and care about them.
“There is an undeniable and pervasive sense of fear and mistrust of child protection authorities,” the report reads. “Child protection is not seen as a resource, but rather as a source of fear.”
Asivak said this has been a systemic national issue for generations, referencing the Sixties Scoop as an example of the history between the governments and indigenous peoples.
“I don’t know if it was ignorance of the problem and now the public will know how big of an issue it is with this report,” he said. “Some people are ignorant of the fact of how many children have been in care and are in care. Systemically it’s been broken for a long time.”
Asivak said recommendations include more consultation with Inuit, training more Inuit staff, to actively supporting capacity building in communities. He called on the province to act on all 33 recommendations as soon as possible.
The full version of the report can be viewed at https://www.childandyouthadvocate.nf.ca/pdfs/IndependentReview2019.pdf