Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 07, 2012 - 10:27 am

Nunavut to create child-youth watchdog office

Youth representative would work independently of GN

DAVID MURPHY

A proposed new law to create a territorial watchdog for children and youth took its first baby steps through the Nunavut Legislative Assembly June 6 when the Representative for Children and Youth Bill received first reading.

“This is the act that a lot of members of the public wanted to see to ensure that youth and children are in a safe environment,” Premier Eva Aariak told Nunatsiaq News.

If passed, an officer would be hired to advocate for young people to help protect their interests, especially in the provision of government services for children, youth, and families.

The children and youth representative would be independent of the territorial government and report directly to the legislative assembly.

“We know that children and youth often do not have the means to make their views known and respected, or to advocate for services that will best meet their needs,” Aariak said in a Government of Nunavut consultation package.

The bill was to receive second reading June 7. On June 8, it will be referred to a standing committee.

“A lot of work has to go through in terms of a legislative bill because all stakeholders and consultations and legal opinions, and all those things have to be considered,” said Aariak, adding the bill will also incorporate Inuit values.

“So it takes time. And we want to do it right for the first time. We don’t want to go back to the act and amend it because we rushed it through.”

The proposed office would be completely independent from the government, much like the office of the language commissioner’s.

“The representative reports to this legislative assembly, ensuring unbiased decisions that are free of influence from government departments that may be affected by recommendations,” says the consultation package provided by the GN.

“The fact that it is not connected to the government [is] so that the support required and needed by the people who are representing youth and children are feeling that they are freer to do so,” said Aariak.

Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott agreed.

“There should be some type of independent body that’s out there that can look into matters for children or youth,” said Elliott. “It’s something that has been a long time in the making. It goes back to the start of the government.”

But Elliott warned the right people must be in charge of the new office if it is created as an independent body.

“If you’re going to hire someone for that position, you want to make sure you have someone who’s qualified and capable of doing the position,” he said.

But Elliot worries that finding a qualified person might be a problem.

“I would hate to see, in a year or two, people asking the same questions about why no one is in that position,” said Elliott. “It’s just hard finding people.”

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