Nunavik school board retracts potential defamation of region’s only Inuit lawyer
“Statements that could be perceived to be defamatory, false and misleading against Joey Flowers”
Eleven months to the day after the Kativik School Board published a commentary slamming a research paper by Nunavik lawyer Joey Flowers, the KSB published a retraction on its website Feb. 28.
The retraction admitted that the KSB published remarks about Flowers that could be perceived as defamatory.
Its Anngutivik Annual Review for 2011-2012 had published a commentary by the KSB’s Student Services unit on Flowers’ Pijunnanivunnut study, which examined the experiences of post-secondary students from Nunavik.
That study was done while Flowers, then a McGill University law student, was a Jane Glassco Arctic Fellow.
“After meeting with Joey Flowers and further analysis, KSB noted that the article contained statements that could be perceived to be defamatory, false and misleading against Joey Flowers. KSB retracts these statements, ” the KSB statement said.
“To restore Joey Flowers’ reputation,” the KSB and Flowers have agreed that KSB will publish and distribute Joey Flowers’ study with a brief summary in Anngutivik 2012-2013,” the KSB said.
That, the the school board’s retraction said, will be jointly prepared.
“KSB is grateful for this constructive criticism,” it said.
Flowers’ paper is also “immediately” available in English on its website, the KSB said.
Among the allegations that KSB made in the retracted commentary:
• that Flowers makes “sweeping generalizations,” which were “made based largely upon his own personal views;
• that he made recommendations that were” own invention” and bear “the stamp of his personal animosity;”
• that he was “eager to tarnish (KSB student services staff members’) reputations;” and,
• that his “intent was not, after all, to be useful, but rather to do damage.”
The now-retracted commentary, which was published in English, French and Inuttitut and distributed to every household in Nunavik, also referred to personal information from Flowers’ files, including reference to “a letter to his high school teacher from Student Services, suggesting that Joey might prefer Creative Arts to Social Sciences” in college.
However, revealing this kind of personal information breaches the KSB policy directive on the protection of personal information.
As for Flowers, who is now a clerk to Federal Court Judge Leonard Mandamin in Ottawa, he said he is “happy to put this behind me.”
“I look forward to continuing a healthy, peaceful relationship with KSB, “Flowers told Nunatsiaq News.
“The research I undertook during this fellowship helped me to realize that I have a place in civic life in Nunavik and in Canada. Nunavimmiut must feel they can participate in public discourse about our institutions,” Flowers said.
Flowers, a beneficiary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, also said he wants to thank KSB for their support and guidance throughout his post-secondary studies.
In his research, Flowers found that students were satisfied with the financial support offered by the KSB, which covers students’ travel to and from the south, accommodation and living expenses while they study.
Students also told Flowers that the KSB’s college preparatory program — which brings students South for orientation weeks before their classes begin — should continue.
But based on other concerns expressed by current and former students, Flowers wrote that “it is clear that changes are necessary.”
Here are some of the issues Flowers identified from his interviews:
• a current post-secondary student should accompany KSB representatives during recruitment in high schools. Post-secondary schools could offer “real-life” insight into their experience by having an actual student on hand, Flowers said.
• several students shared “disturbing” accounts of active discouragement from KSB counsellors. KSB’s failure to require personal counsellors to have membership in a professional order or to conduct their work by a code of conduct is a serious problem, Flowers said.
To help nurture better independence, Flowers said the KSB should tell students that they exist as one source of support and guidance, but that other avenues are possible.
The longer students stay in the South, the more resourceful they become, he added — and the more likely to complete their studies.
To ensure that more Nunavimmiut graduate from post-secondary programs, Flowers said the KSB must re-examine its post-secondary sponsorship program.
And to do that, Flowers suggested that the school board create a working group of senior KSB administrators, representatives from the post-secondary program, current and former students, and parents and elders, to develop strategies and policies to improve services.
Flower’s report was intended to respond to a gap in research looking into post-secondary education among Inuit and what programs across the country have proven most successful.