Ottawa Inuit org signs agreement to help families involved with child protective services

Ottawa, in southern Canada, has the largest Inuit population (estimated by community groups at between 3,700 to 6,000) outside of the North. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

An Ottawa Inuit organization has signed a protocol agreement with Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County in Ontario to become the designated agency assisting Inuit families involved in child protective services.

The agreement outlines how Ontario child welfare agencies should work with Inuit families as well as what to do to adjudicate disagreements or disputes. The protocol agreement also mandates training about Inuit history and culture for agency workers as well as non-Inuit or adoptive families.

“[This] is a critical first step in acknowledging and addressing the harms that the  child welfare system has inflicted, and continues to inflict, upon Inuit families in Ontario,” Amanda Kilabuk, the executive director of Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), the counselling and resource centre for Inuit in Ottawa, said in a statement.

The protocol was signed in April, but the news release about the agreement was put out this month.

New structures

TI has was been designated by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national Inuit organization in Canada, as the service provider in Ontario for families involved in protective services.

“This agreement is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of staff from both organizations,” says Amanda Kilabuk, the executive director of Tungasuvvingat Inuit. (Courtesy Tungasuvvingat Inuit)

TI says the protocol agreement builds upon work over the last two years, including the 2020  Kamatsiarniq Program, created to make it easier for Inuit families to get culturally relevant services.

“This is the much-needed work to set new precedence with newer structures to address the harms inflicted upon Inuit by child welfare societies,” Tauni Sheldon, case manager and cultural advisor for the Kamatsiarniq Program, said.

“By TI and the child welfare  agencies coming together in partnerships, this becomes rooted in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit [Inuit knowledge] as well as in the [Truth and Reconciliation] 94 Calls to Action, which strengthens Inuit well-being as a whole.” 

Largest Inuit population outside of North 

The Inuit homeland in Canada spans across the Arctic in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, into northern Quebec and in the Labrador region of the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Although Ottawa is in the South, it has the largest Inuit population (estimated by community groups at between 3,700 to 6,000) outside of the North.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Ottawa Inuit association says it’s “encouraged” by Ontario’s plan to redesign child welfare, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Psychologists in Finland sign climate petition, citing concerns for youth mental health, Yle News

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska and its tribes sign child services agreement, Alaska Public Media

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