Nunavut MLAs continue to stall child and youth advocate bill
“I feel that maybe we should give this to the next assembly"
Sparks flew from the get-go in the legislative assembly Sept. 11 when MLA’s discussed Bill 40, the Representative for Children and Youth Act Act, in the committee of the whole.
When the chairman of the committee Joe Enook asked the committee if Premier Eva Aariak could be escorted to the witness table — a standard procedure — Rankin Inlet MLA Tagak Curley objected.
“Nay,” said Curley.
Right after Aariak had been escorted to the table, Curley reiterated his displeasure with the action.
“Mr. Chairman, you asked whether the committee agrees for the minister to be escorted to the witness able. I nay’d, just to let you know, for the record,” Curley said.
After the disruption, Aariak — the sponsor of the bill — went on to describe what the bill is all about.
The act would essentially create an independent child and youth advocate office in Nunavut.
“Children, youth, and their families will be able to come to the representative with their concerns about the services being provided to them by government, and the representative will work with them to resolve the problems they are encountering,” Aariak said.
Aariak said that the representative would act in the same capacity as Nunavut’s languages commissioner — an independent officer that “watches over government.”
She also said Yukon and “almost all of the provinces” have a similar representative in place.
Bill 40 also ensures that:
• the concerns of children and youth relating to government services receive appropriate attention;
• the rights and interests of children and youth are protected and advanced by the Government of Nunavut;
• the views of children and youth are considered by government departments and designated authorities; and,
• children and youth have access to the services of government departments and designated authorities.
During the March 2013 sitting of the legislative assembly, the committee had been split on whether or not to vote for a motion to add an additional 120 days of deliberation for the act.
That motion passed by one tiebreaker vote, made by Speaker Hunter Tootoo.
On Sept. 11, Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott praised the act in his general comments, saying he’s received positive responses from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and UNICEF Canada.
However, Curley interrupted Elliott with a point of order during Elliott’s speech because Elliott said that at one point, Curley had actually been a supporter of the act.
Elliott encouraged Curley by saying, “Go ahead Mr. Curley. It’s your show.”
“Actually, Mr. Elliott, it’s my show. I’m the chair. Excuse me, Mr. Elliott,” said Enook, before giving Curley the floor to speak.
“It is also my privilege as a member that personally I have never supported, as attributed, as stated by my colleague, that I supported a child and youth representative,” Curley said.
“I have never stated that. I can sign legal agreements, whatever, or statement to that effect,” he said.
Elliott then said he used quotes from Nov. 14, 2008, during the Nunavut leadership forum that MLAs used to choose a premier following the 2008 territorial election. That’s when Curley was vying to become premier.
At the forum, Curley is quoted as saying that he appreciated MLA Keith Peterson bringing up a “spokesman for the child advocacy” and said “with a culturally experienced representative, I think we must not delay that vacuum any longer.”
“I think as the Premier I would commit to working with the member that we establish that program that representative provided that the family units of our community are involved in finding solutions to people that are in a very situation,” Curley said on Nov. 14, 2008.
But during committee of the whole this time around, Curley voiced concern for the bill.
“We gave our children when the religious group came in by the Anglican Church, residential schools. We all know that we went through hardship and we had to correct those,” Curley said.
“It seems like that our bringing up children is not enough so when Nunavut came into being, we now need a representative to help our children,” he said.
Curley went on to say that money to pay for the child and youth advocate’s office — more than $2 million — could be spent on youth programs.
“I feel that maybe we should give this to the next assembly. Let’s give it to those who are going to have the time to properly deal with it,” Curley said.
An official with Peterson handed out copies of Curley’s 2008 quotes to media inside the legislative assembly after the Sept. 12 sitting.
Bill 40 is set to continue at the next committee of the whole meeting Sept. 16.