Deaths of 2 Nunavut care home residents trigger multiple investigations

Margaret Nakashuk, Nunavut’s minister of family services, said the 2 youth, aged 12 and 19, died after ‘critical incidents’ at a care home in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut. She said that the department has hired an outside team to do a comprehensive investigation. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

By Tessa Vikander · CBC News

Family services minister says officials working to move the rest of the patients out of Naja Isabelle Home

Multiple investigations, including one by the RCMP, are underway at the Naja Isabelle group home in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, after two young residents died in hospital.

In a news release Friday morning, Margaret Nakashuk, Nunavut’s minister of family services, said three people were hospitalized as a result of “critical incidents” at the care home. Two died.

Nakashuk refused an interview request, citing the investigations.

The Nunavut coroner’s office confirmed a 12-year-old died on Jan. 6 in Nunavut, and a 19-year-old died on Oct. 17, 2023, outside the territory.

“The Nunavut Coroner Service is investigating this death and will also review the circumstances surrounding the death that occurred outside of Nunavut Jurisdiction,” reads the coroner’s statement.

A third resident was hospitalized due to the incidents, and territorial officials say they are working to move the rest of the patients out of the home.

In Friday’s news release, Nakashuk said the department has hired an outside team to do a comprehensive investigation.

“I am deeply saddened by the deaths of the clients in care,” she stated.

Nakashuk said families connected to the incidents have been informed.

Pimakslirvik CEO ‘surprised’ by minister’s statement

The Naja Isabelle Home cares for children and adults under the age of 40 from across Nunavut with specialized medical needs, and is operated by the Pimakslirvik Corporation, under contract with the territory’s Department of Family Services.

Marc Ippiak, CEO of Pimakslirvik Corporation, told CBC News that he hadn’t expected the minister’s statements on Friday.

“We are very surprised by the minister’s statement regarding the Naja Isabelle Home,” he said.

“The government of Nunavut has not given Pimakslirvik Corporation the opportunity to review the investigation finding to determine if there’s any justification for the statement made by the minister about the facility.”

Ippiak would not comment any further, and would not say whether he had been contacted by RCMP.

According to the Chesterfield Inlet Development Corporation’s website, it is the majority owner of the Pimakslirvik Corporation.

‘A meticulous examination’

The RCMP released a statement on Friday afternoon saying it is assisting with the investigation at the request of the territorial government.

Nakashuk said following an “initial investigation into critical incidents” by the department, the Nunavut government contacted the Representative for Children and Youth and hired an outside legal team to investigate the quality of care that the group home has been providing at the facility.

Nakashuk said investigators will look at how all clients have been cared for at the facility, including “a meticulous examination” of the home’s practices and protocols.

Timely injury reporting

Jane Bates, the Nunavut Representative for Children and Youth — a government-appointed watchdog — said the Department of Family Services notified her of the incidents in December, and told her they were conducting a preliminary review of the home.

That means it took roughly two months for the territory to notify Bates of the 19-year-old resident’s death, which happened in October.

Bates said the department is obligated to tell her as soon as possible when there has been a death or critical injury of a child in government care.

“I can tell you that there have been ongoing issues with the reporting of critical injuries and deaths to our office in a timely manner,” she said.

However, since then, Bates said there has been a big improvement in incident reporting to her. She attributes it to the guidance of the department’s new deputy minister Jonathan Ellsworth, and assistant deputy minister Bernadine Rogers.

“I think that they’ve put the mechanisms in place and … you see a much more timely reporting structure happening.”

Bates said she is saddened to hear that circumstances in the group home were such that they raised serious concerns. She still hasn’t been told details of the incidents, but said the department has nonetheless been keeping her informed.

“[It’s] incredibly serious because the implication of having RCMP involved is that there potentially could be a criminal charge … and who that is against I wouldn’t know.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Nunavut gov’t apologizes to people impacted by family services crisis, CBC News

United States: Legislation would better support family violence survivors, say Alaska advocacy groups, Eye on the Arctic

CBC News

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