Eight children from Nunavut placed in unlicensed group homes in Alberta

The Nunavut government placed eight children in care in three unlicensed group homes in Airdrie, Alta., over the last year.

Business owner of the homes didn’t have the proper facility-based child care licences

Three children playing soccer
Children play soccer in a Nunavut community. The Nunavut government placed eight children in care in three unlicensed group homes in Airdrie, Alta., over the last year. (Nathan Denette/CP)

The Nunavut government placed eight children under child services care in three unlicensed group homes in Airdrie, Alta., over the last year.

According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the company managing those homes didn't have the proper facility-based childcare licences to accept the children, and the province wasn't informed of their presence in Alberta until months after their arrival.

Nunavut regularly sends children in care who have complex needs to provinces in the south when services are not available in the territory. That can include children who experience developmental, behavioural or mental health challenges, or those who live with severe disabilities.

In this case, Alberta asserts that Nunavut didn't follow the usual procedures established in Canada for this type of interprovincial placement.

Documents obtained by Radio-Canada show that eight vulnerable children were placed in three homes managed by Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services (Ever Bright) in Airdrie while their Alberta Children's Services permits weren't active.

Ever Bright office from the outside
Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services owns a dozen of group homes and other assisted housing in Airdrie, Alta. (Mark Matulis/Radio-Canada)

Alberta's Ministry of Children's Services confirmed Ever Bright asked for their permits to be rescinded four months before the children's arrival.

Margaret Nakashuk, Nunavut's minister of Family Services, wasn't available for comment.

Her deputy minister, Yvonne Niego, said she wasn't aware Ever Bright's permits were cancelled until Radio-Canada told her about the situation Friday. A spokesperson from Alberta Children's Services wrote to Radio-Canada that information "was communicated to Nunavut multiple [times] that Ever Bright no longer held a licence with the province, and therefore child placement was unauthorized in Alberta."

Woman looks through a window.
Yvonne Niego, deputy minister for Nunavut’s Department of Family Services. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Niego said measures are being taken to remove the children from the Ever Bright homes. She added inspections done by Nunavut officials in February showed no children were at immediate risk.

The executive director of Ever Bright, Bright Adelegan, confirmed Friday that seven of the eight kids were still under his care.

Ever Bright pushes back

Adelegan founded and manages Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services. He denies that the permits for his care homes were not valid when the young Nunavummiut arrived at his group homes.

This wasn't the first time Ever Bright hosted children from Nunavut Family Services.

Adelegan stated that he had to send a group of children back to Nunavut in Spring 2022 because he wasn't able to enrol them in a school in Alberta.

According to Alberta Child Services, that's when the office in charge of allocating licences received a request from Ever Bright to cancel its permit, as the company no longer had children under its care at the two addresses for which it had obtained a permit.

Man seated in front of plant.
Ever Bright’s director and founder, Bright Adelegan, maintains his licences were valid until January 2023. (Mark Matulis/Radio-Canada)

A letter was sent to Ever Bright to confirm the permits were rescinded.

The letter also stated "that if circumstances were to change in the future, [Children's Services] would begin the discussions again regarding the licensing."

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Adelegan declared that those licenses were cancelled during the children's absence but that "the licence was valid until January 2023."

A new residential facilities licence is valid for one year and a renewed licence for three years. If no children live in the home, the licence stays valid until its expiry date unless the licence owner cancels it, according to Alberta government residential facilities licensing regulations.

Alberta Children's Services confirmed to Radio-Canada that the licences were cancelled in April 2022 and that it was the first time Ever Bright had received this type of licence.

Alberta gets involved

Alberta Children's Services Minister Mickey Amery wasn't available for an interview.

In an email, his press secretary Chinenye Anokwuru said "it is the responsibility of the originating province or territory to advise the receiving province or territory before a child is placed, so that sufficient services and supports can be in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child."

That email also asserts that the department has had "multiple communications with Nunavut" since it became aware of the children placed by the territory in an unlicenced facility. The email also says the department had concerns related to the fact the children were not enrolled in school, and that "courtesy workers" were assigned to the children. 

The back of a student in front of'École des Trois-Soleils
The Alberta government was worried that children from Nunavut weren’t enrolled in school while they were in the province. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Alberta's education law states any children under 16 residing in Alberta with a Canadian legal guardian must go to school. 

However, only the official caregiver can enrol the child, which is why Ever Bright's director and the employees couldn't do it.

Radio-Canada wasn't able to confirm the legal care status of the eight children.

Nunavut officials declined to respond to Radio-Canada's questions about schooling.

Safety standards not being followed

This isn't the first time young Nunavummiut have been placed in homes without proper licences by the Department of Family Services (DFS), according to Jane Bates with Nunavut's Representative for Children and Youth Office (RCYO) in Iqaluit. 

"The DFS has not always ensured that facilities they contract are properly licensed, are providing the needed support and services that are in the best interest of and in support of the rights of the children living there," Bates said in a statement provided to Radio-Canada. 

A squat, green and yellow office building sits in the snow.
Nunavut's Department of Family Services office in Iqaluit. (David Gunn/CBC)

She also said her office "has evidence that the standards that are in place to ensure the health and safety of children and youth in [out-of-territory] placements are not being followed." 

The Auditor General of Canada made a similar remark in 2011 when it concluded Nunavut didn't always verify that extraterritorial group homes had the proper licences in place, delivered by the local provincial authority. 

The 2021 census found about 33 per cent of Nunavut's population is under the age of 15.

Today, roughly 500 children and youth are under the care of Family Services. Most live with a foster family or a relative, but 88 live outside of Nunavut.

Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario are the main provinces who host them.

A significant lack of resources

Niego, Nunavut's deputy minister for Family Services, admits the extraterritorial placements are worrisome.

"It's not fair to be case-managed by extreme distances," she said, giving the example of a child placed in Edmonton with a case worker 2,000 kilometres away in Pond Inlet. 

Niego said the lack of resources in the child services system limits the capacity of Nunavut to keep children and youth in care in the territory. Nunavut struggles with retention and attraction of social workers to the territory. 

To make things even worse, there's a scarcity of local foster families and the only group home for youth in the territory closed in February.

Still, Niego said she's doing everything she can to make sure no other children have to go through what those eight kids went through in Alberta.

"I will be demanding more resources in Nunavut to be able to take care of our children in the territory," she said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.


Matisse Harvey and Emma Hautecoeur are reporters with Radio-Canada, with Harvey based in Iqaluit and Hautecoeur in Edmonton.

With files from Colleen Underwood; Adapted from French by Evelyne Asselin