Nunavut child advocate awaits answers a year post-removal from unlicensed homes

Jane Bates, Nunavut’s Representative for Children and Youth, says all of the children removed from a group home in Alberta last year where sent back to Nunavut. (Carl Cardinal/CBC )

Jane Bates questions the whereabouts of several children placed in unlicensed group homes in Alberta last year

Nunavut’s Representative for Children and Youth says she is still trying to find out what happened to several children who were removed from unlicensed group homes in Alberta last year.

Jane Bates says questions remain about where these children are, and whether Nunavut’s child welfare system is able to provide adequate services.

In March 2023 reporting from Radio-Canada revealed that several children from Nunavut had been placed in three unlicensed group homes in Alberta last year.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Bates said her office is currently looking into the fate of those children, with the goal of releasing a report soon.

The Department of Family Services in Iqaluit. The department declined an interview from Radio-Canada. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The Department of Family Services confirmed that it had removed the children on March 31, 2023 from the Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services in Airdrie, Alta. They were subsequently placed in another group home, Petmier Care, in Edmonton.

Bates also said two other children from Nunavut were already living at Petmier Care at the time.

A few weeks later, all of the children were sent back to Nunavut, Bates said.

“All of the children were then repatriated back to Nunavut, back to their various communities or parents. Some were repatriated back, I assume into group care or foster care homes back here in Nunavut,” Bates said.

“And so really the question remains is what happened? Where are those children now?”

Radio-Canada made several attempts to speak with the Department of Family Services, but they did not provide comment or grant an interview.

Interview requests sent to Petmier Care also went unanswered.

The Ever Bright care homes in Alberta didn’t have the necessary permits required under the pan-Canadian protocol that governs inter-provincial placements. Nunavut also did not inform Alberta about the children until months after their arrival.

Bates fears the problems that led to the removal of children from the first group homes also occurred in the case of Petmier Care.

A ‘traumatizing’ experience

Being repeatedly displaced is “traumatizing” and “difficult” for these children, Bates said.

“We’re talking about young people for who it’s been determined that they require out-of-home care, for various reasons, and they’re already having difficulties,” Bates said.

“They’re being separated from their family, from their community. They’re being sent to another province, then they’re being uprooted again, [and] moved very quickly from another placement to another and then another.”

The sun shines down on Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit. Questions remain around what happened to children from the territory who were removed from group homes in Alberta last year. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Bates’ office still wants to know what changed for Nunavut’s Department of Family Services to decide that it was better to repatriate children to Nunavut, even after recognizing that systemic deficiencies in the territory and the dire lack of services have a direct impact on children and families.

Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster, who repeatedly pressed Family Services Minister Margaret Nakashuk in the legislative assembly last week, said she wants to feel confident in the system.

“What I want is reassurance that all of those children are in fact safe and that they’re in the care of either healthy families or in licensed facilities and licensed programs,” Pitsiulaaq Brewster said.

History repeats itself

Late Friday, Radio-Canada obtained a copy of the internal investigation led by Ottawa-based firm Lamb & O’Brien into how the children were placed at the Ever Bright homes.

The 130-page report shows that certain gaps still exist, nearly a year after Radio-Canada’s reporting exposing the placements was published.

A GN employee interviewed by Lamb & O’Brien said that children are still being placed outside the territory without the receiving province being notified in advance.

“The receiving jurisdiction again had no idea the children were there,” the report said.

Bates’ office is also preparing a report that looks at the placements of children who were sent to group care settings in Ontario.

Reporting by Emma Hautecoeur/Radio-Canada, translated by Emma Tranter

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

CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *