Investigation demanded after detained Inuk youth allegedly put in solidarity, told not to speak language

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) are calling on the Quebec government to investigate after they allege an Inuk youth was placed in solitary confinement at a youth detention facility.

The two organizations are demanding an independent investigation into the Batshaw Youth and Family Centers after the NWSM says it received an anonymous tip.

“The youth has been placed in isolation for extended periods of time and has been told not to speak his own language to other Inuk youths,” reads a CRARR news release. “It seems that he was transferred to the South without a social worker attached to his file to provide regular follow-up and support.”

The CRARR release adds that a health condition that was not properly treated led the youth to unnecessarily lose a testicle.

“Both groups will call on the government to order an independent, external inquiry into the case since this situation is another example of ongoing systemic problems facing Inuit children and families at Batshaw,” CRARR notes. “The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s investigation process has many flaws, which further create barriers of access to justice for Indigenous children under youth protection in Montreal.”

Batshaw said the Youth Protection Act has very strict confidentiality rules and cannot comment on specific cases.

However, Montreal West Island health and social services (CIUSSS-OIM) communications director Hélène Bergeron-Gamache said the facility has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of violence, discrimination or racism towards youth.

“When allegations of such behavior are brought to our attention, we take them very seriously and take immediate action to shed light on them,” she said. “At all times, youth can choose to express themselves in the language of their choice. For safety reasons, the only time they will be asked to speak in English is when workers fear that the health or physical integrity of a youth or a staff member has been compromised.”

Bergeron-Gamache said workers need to know what is being said to ensure their and other people’s safety.

“Under exceptional legal circumstances, our facility must ensure that all possible means of cultural safety are used (eg, interpreters) before restricting communications in their native language,” she said. “Safety and cultural diversity, as well as inclusion, are fundamental principles of our institution and that any behavior that contradicts these principles will not be tolerated.”

She said Batshaw’s priority is to provide an environment where Indigenous and culturally diverse people “feel safe and secure in every way.”

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