Iqaluit education authority takes Nunavut gov’t to court

Swings in front of Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit. The Iqaluit District Education Authority has asked the Nunavut Court of Justice for a judicial review, claiming the Government of Nunavut is barring support workers from helping students in need. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The Iqaluit District Education Authority is taking the Government of Nunavut to court, alleging the territory’s Department of Education blocked access to assessment services it wanted to provide for students.

The education authority says it received $120,000 from the federal Inuit Child First Initiative earlier this year to screen 28 children for emotional and behavioural challenges.

The group claims the GN barred some support workers from helping students in need by preventing professionals from entering schools to conduct assessments and encouraging the contractor of the services to withdraw its contract.

The Department of Education told CBC News it would respond to a request for comment by the end of the day Thursday.

Anne Crawford, the education authority’s lawyer, said the group wants the Nunavut Court of Justice to review the situation through mediation.

“Several members of the district education authority came to see me with the concern that they hadn’t been able to make any progress in the usual ways with exchanges of letters with the deputies,” Crawford said.

“As a consequence, the money is still sitting there and they want services to be delivered to kids.”

Crawford said the education authority has not received a response from the GN on why it denied the services. The group is also asking the court for an order to let them bring the services in, since it still has the money approved for the 2023-2024 school year.

This seemed to be a way to get the government to talk. – Anne Crawford, lawyer

“If government agrees to mediation, that’s wonderful. If they don’t it’s going to be a much longer process,” she added.

In a statement in April, the Department of Education said it has specific rules in place for how external contractors can enter schools. Those rules, it wrote, are “critical for ensuring consistent and safe supports for our students.”

“When we received the list of referred students from the [education authority], we immediately followed up and provided services to all referred students still enrolled in our schools,” the department wrote, adding it isn’t aware of any students who didn’t receive support.

The Department of Education wrote that its student achievement division has “worked tirelessly over the past decade to expand support services available for our students.”

It said it also secured more funding in February to make sure mental health support services are delivered in all of Nunavut’s schools.

The application will be heard in court on Dec. 4 in Iqaluit.

Related stories from around the North :

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