Montreal

Human rights commission launches investigation into treatment of Inuit children at Batshaw

Quebec's human rights commission has launched an investigation following a CBC News report that Indigenous children were discouraged from speaking their own language while in youth protection.

Announcement comes following CBC News reports on youth protection services

An investigation is being launched into the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'île-de-Montréal's treatment of Inuit children. The organization oversees Batshaw Youth and Family Services, pictured here. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

Quebec's human rights commission has launched an investigation following a CBC News report that Inuit children were discouraged from speaking their own language while in youth protection.

The commission is also looking into allegations, reported by CBC News, that Inuit children who are transferred from Nunavik to youth protection facilities in Montreal often don't have a social worker who can meet with them face to face and advocate for their needs.

The lack of oversight leaves them in a kind of "no man's land" without proper support, according to Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

The commission announced the investigation into the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, which oversees Batshaw Youth and Family Services, in a news release on Friday.

The purpose of the investigation, according to the statement, is "to verify whether the rights of these young people have been respected and, if necessary, to have the situation corrected."

The commission declined a request for an interview.

Batshaw denies allegations

Last week, CBC News reported that at least three Quebec group homes or rehabilitation centres for youth stand accused of discouraging Indigenous children from speaking their languages and, in some cases, punishing them for doing it.

At two Montreal group homes, under the jurisdiction of Batshaw Youth and Family Services and the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal​, several youth were told they could not speak Inuktitut among themselves, according to a person with knowledge of the Batshaw's operations.

Batshaw has denied the allegations.

On Friday, Nakuset said she was "thrilled" to learned the commission was looking into the matter.

"I'm feeling very optimistic and really, really good," she said.

A spokesperson for CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal​ said in an email Friday the aim of the agency is to "provide quality services to the children, youth and families they serve."

"The Batshaw Centres are recognized for their openness to diversity and their ethnocultural skills," the statement said.


Read our feature report on Nakuset and her sisters here: 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

With files from Sarah Leavitt

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