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(Peter Power)
(Peter Power)

Globe Editorial

The young are neglected in Nunavut Add to ...

Nunavut belongs to the young, and the young are neglected. The most neglected of all are the most vulnerable, those children who have been sexually or physically abused or whose basic needs have not been met, owing to the substance abuse of their parents. And the Nunavut government, which should be protecting these children, is heaping more neglect on them. It is sending the message that no one cares about them.

The young people have sent their own message about how they feel about their lives, in the most vehement and devastating way available to them: Those aged 15 to 19 commit suicide at a rate 10 times the Canadian average. Neglect is surely not the only reason for this epidemic of self-destruction, but it is a dangerous message to send in such a community.

It is especially dangerous because Nunavut, created in 1999, has the country's youngest population, with 40 per cent of its 33,000 residents under 19. Of those, 633 receive some form of care or support service from the territory's Health and Social Services Department.

Children are being placed in foster care or even adoptive families without the legally required checks first being made, Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General of Canada, found in an audit of 61 case files in several Nunavut communities (Ms. Fraser serves as auditor for Canada's territories). Criminal record checks and home studies, whether of relatives or non-family foster parents, are usually not done. The three group homes in Nunavut went largely unchecked, though the law requires an annual visit to each. Scores of children were sent out of the territory to eight special facilities; again, few of the required checks were done.

Where are the leadership and urgency? More than one-third of the critical jobs of child-protection are unfilled. Out of a $1.25-billion budget, Nunavut spends just $6-million on child protection. Shortcomings in child protection are hardly unique to Nunavut, but in Nunavut the situation of so many children is dire. The territory needs to be exceptionally diligent in defending their interests. Nunavut should act to show that the children are not being left on their own.

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