Nfld. & Labrador

Wait for inquiry into Innu children in care 'unacceptable,' premier says it's a priority

A long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care in Newfoundland and Labrador has been years in the offing, with little to no movement since it was promised three years ago, but Andrew Furey says he hopes to see some movement on the inquiry soon.

Not much to say on departure of Perry Trimper from Liberal caucus

Premier Andrew Furey says he hopes to have an update on a long-promised inquiry into Innu children in care in the coming weeks. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

A long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care in Newfoundland and Labrador has been years in the offing, with little to no movement since it was promised three years ago, but Premier Andrew Furey says he hopes to see some movement on the inquiry soon.

Furey made the comments during a recent trip to Labrador, alongside fellow Liberals Yvonne Jones, member of Parliament for Labrador, and Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

The province said three years ago it would launch an inquiry into Innu children in the child-care system. Those delays are unacceptable, Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, Jackie Lake Kavanagh, said earlier this year, after a 15-year-old boy took his own life in a group home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Furey said Thursday the inquiry was "one of the top issues discussed" when he met with Innu leaders this week.

"I reiterate how important this is to me. It's been on my desk every day. I do recognize the timeframe is unacceptable and we need to move forward with it," Furey said of the inquiry.

"It's a commitment that was made and it's a commitment that I plan to fulfil and I'm hoping to do so in short order. We had a good and fulsome, respectful conversation about how to move forward with this and it's certainly a priority for me and I'm hoping to have something to report within the next few weeks."

Furey met with the NunatuKavut community council, the Innu Nation, and the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador, where he said he got a better look at the issues affecting those Labrador communities.

"It's one thing to discuss issues in St. John's, but it certainly broadens your perspective, broadens your understanding, when you're sitting, meeting people face to face in their own backyards," Furey said.

Opposition members have asked the premier to use his relationship with Ottawa to speed up the process of appointing superior court judges. Ches Crosbie says four vacancies on the bench of Newfoundland and Labrador's Supreme Court are delaying the long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

"To hear some of the issues that are facing Indigenous populations and to see it first hand certainly brings a broader, greater, more respectful understanding of the issues, and hopefully that is something that we can then build on toward a healthy path of open, collaborative reconciliation, so it's always good to see the issues first-hand."

That's a sentiment echoed by Dempster, who is the minister responsible for Indigenous affairs and reconciliation, and who also holds the Labrador affairs portfolio.

"I go back to the number of times now over the last seven and a half years that I've knocked on doors as an MHA and I've really heard some very powerful stories, and it comes with developing an understanding of those stories, the impact that language has, in terms of understanding the far-reaching impacts of trauma," Dempster said.

"It's when we come and see that we have that deeper understanding and we're better able to build, I believe, those positive relationships."

'The member made his own comments'

As for the recent departure of MHA Perry Trimper from the Liberal caucus, Furey didn't have much to say.

"The member made his own comments. I've said that I was troubled in the past by those comments," Furey said.

"The member made his own decision to no longer sit with the Liberal caucus, and as a Liberal Party and as the premier, we're moving forward in a positive direction towards strong relationships throughout Labrador."

Trimper announced two weeks ago he would not be seeking re-election in the next provincial election. That came on the heels of comments he made on CBC Radio's Labrador Morning, when he said the homeless population in Happy Valley-Goose Bay were "choosing" a risky lifestyle.

Perry Trimper announced this week he would be sitting, and seeking re-election, an an Independent. (CBC)

Trimper also resigned as the minister of municipal affairs and environment in September 2019, when he complained with a colleague on a voicemail that the Innu were playing "the race card."

On Tuesday, Trimper announced he would be sitting as an independent MHA for Lake Melville, and seek re-election as an Independent in the next election, saying, "I believe I can be more effective representing you in a manner that will allow me to speak freely and to expose the character assassination campaign being launched by my political opponents."

"I haven't read his statement, I haven't listened to his statement, I didn't discuss this with the member," Furey said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning