Too many Nunavut children are taken from their families: MLA
"Apprehension of children leads to anger towards the system"
Nunavut community social workers need to focus more on counselling and less on taking children away from their families, Amittuq MLA Louis Tapardjuk said in the legislative assembly Oct. 30.
“We all know that with Inuit best practices, counselling and advice provision, along with improving one’s self, which is how Inuit traditionally corrected a person’s behaviour, apprehension of children leads to anger towards the system,” Tapardjuk said.
He asked Keith Peterson, Nunavut’s minister of health and social services, how many social workers in the territory are Inuit or aboriginal.
Peterson said he didn’t know, but stated there are over 40 social workers in Nunavut right now.
“The apprehension would be the easy part. However, that’s when the social worker’s job starts. That’s when you apprehend a child, and then you start working with the family, the individuals involved, and the community on how to bring the family back together and reconcile them,” Peterson said.
“I know many social workers across Nunavut, many of them are my friends, and I know that they work hard to bring families together. It upsets them that they do have to apprehend children,” he added.
Peterson cited a 2011 report from the Auditor General of Canada that “documented a lot of horrible things that have happened to our children out there in our communities.”
“It’s incumbent upon us as politicians, leaders, and officials to support our social workers and support our communities to help our most vulnerable. That’s why this government has decided to create the Department of Family Services, so that we have more focus on our families, our children, and our communities,” he said.
However, Tapardjuk was not convinced.
“That was a cookie-cutter response. Indeed, in this House we have continually heard the government line, actually our Nunavut residents are given this government’s line that Inuit societal values will form the basis of the government’s operations,” he said.
But the territorial government has consulted with Nunavut communities, Peterson said.
“We’ve had people involved in the establishment of the family services department. I have spoken to the new deputy minister of Family Services, Aluki Rojas, about the absolute necessity to incorporate Inuit societal values in the new department,” Peterson said, in response to Tapardjuk.
Tapardjuk also wanted to know if there are other ways social workers can help dysfunctional families or those families in crisis so that a child doesn’t ends up being taken from him or her family.
“How can we stop them from getting to that point,” he asked.
Peterson said he’s sat at several planning care committees in Cambridge Bay where a social worker and family members come together to help the family.
Peterson agreed that taking children out of their homes doesn’t always provide the best results.
“I’ve seen many occasions in the past in Cambridge Bay where I come from where children have been apprehended, sent off to other communities and oftentimes down south and often it’s not a good situation.”
Peterson said he personally believes children should stay in their home communities.
“It’s where they have their friends, they know their schoolmates, they’ve got their families. I believe in that. That’s what we’re going to endeavour to do when we start up the new Department of Family Services. The current legislation… we will stick to that until we get the new legislation,” he said.