Nunavik children and youth in trouble, says Quebec Human Rights Commission
Inuit children in Northern Quebec are living in constant crisis because they can't get the health and social services they need, the Quebec Human Rights Commission says in a new report published Wednesday.
More than half of Nunavik's children live in homes with an alcoholic or drug addict, and they are exposed to domestic violence at rates 10 times higher than the average Canadian population, conditions the report describes as disastrous.
But young people can't access help outside the home because services are overtaxed or don't exist, the report said.
The commission is urging residents of Nunavik — a region in northern Quebec where the Inuit are negotiating self-government with Quebec and Ottawa —to rally around their younger generation, who make up more than half of the community's population.
The commission is also calling on Quebec Premier Jean Charest to get personally involved to ensure the community gets health and community services guaranteed under the law.
The report examined 139 cases of children who were referred to youth protection services.
The commission found that among the cases, family dysfunction is widespread and exacerbated by overcrowding, substance abuse and violence.
Children have been referred to youth protection as often as 16 times, but have not received any followup, either because their parents wouldn't co-operate, or the child was related to workers at the agency, the report said.
And front-line community services are virtually non-existent, so children and teens have little recourse, the report said.
They often turn to drugs and alcohol, and addiction is common, the report stated. About 10 per cent of teenagers age 15 to 19 consume cocaine and inhale solvents.
The Quebec government said it is alarmed by the report, and said it's important to recognize the extent of the problem, and launch a more open dialogue with the Inuit community.
"I will be asking for their co-operation, in order that the government of Quebec could intervene efficiently, in order to solve the situation in collaboration with the Inuit," said Benoit Pelletier, minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.
Charest and other government officials are already planning to attend an August forum organized by the province and Inuit communities, Pelletier said.