Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Basic information about young people who have used government services in Nunavut isn’t being tracked because of “complacency and a lack of accountability,” says the annual report from the territory’srepresentativefor children and youth.

Jane Bates says her 2019-2020 report needed data from government departments to create baseline information on people under 19 that could help shape policies and legislation.

In March, her office sent questions to the departments of Family Services, Health, Education and Justice about where, why and how youth were getting access to services.

She says what she got back, for the most part, was incomplete.

“The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments. In some cases, inaccurate information was provided by the department’s own admission,” Bates writes in the report.

“Some service providers are not following their own department’s legislation and supervisors are not enforcing corrective actions,” she writes. “In bringing this to the attention of directors and deputy ministers, there appears to becomplacency and a lack of accountability about this from the top down.

“There is no recognition of the problem, no commitment or follow through for training and adherence to quality assurance measures, and no support to hold those responsible accountable.”

Family Services said 560 young people used its services last year, but the department did not have available data on their ages or what region of Nunavut they lived in.

The Justice Department did not provide data on how many and what type of child and youth matters were before the courts, or on the number of convictions in crimes against youth last year.

In an email to The Canadian Press, Mark Witzaney, policy and planning director with the Department of Justice, said some of the information requested by Bates was “not consistent with how this information is reported nationally or through (Statistics) Canada.”

“We did not have the ability to do the detailed statistical breakdown and analysis requested by the representative for children and youth by their deadline,” Witzaney wrote.

Health provided the least data of the four departments. It did not provide, among other things, the number of young people who used its services or the number of suicides by age in the last year.

A spokesperson for Health said the department was still compiling data for 2019-2020 when Bates made her request. A ransomware attack on the government of Nunavut last fall caused a backlog in the department’s data entry, the spokesperson said.

The department has since compiled the missing data, except for the number of youth who needed health services.

The Department of Education said in an email that itdoes not have the resources to collect information on class sizes and doesn’t have a way to note the number of students on support plans. The department also said it does not have a system to formally track violent incidents, but is in the final stage of creating one.

Bates said she’s concerned that the four departments don’t have a full picture of who they serve and therefore cannot adequately provide services.

“How are you making decisions on what services to offer? How are you budgeting to add services? How are you understanding where the gaps may be in services if you’re not tracking that information?” Bates said in an interview.

“Young people and families in Nunavut should be expecting more. They should be expecting more accountability.”

Her report also criticizes Family Services for its response to violence and physical abuse against young people.

“Investigations were inconsistently conducted into these circumstances and steps to reduce the potential risk of further exposure and/or harm to the young person(s) involved were not taken due to a lack of adequate options available for both victims and offenders, or because keeping a family together, despite safety concerns, was prioritized.”

Arijana Haramincic, executive director of Nunavut Family Services, agrees that more could be done.

“Do I believe that sometimes we’re not using our best judgment, or it hasn’t been used? Absolutely,” Haramincic said.

“That’s why there’s always improvements, more training and more focus on developing our social workers to be comfortable in making those decisions.”

The department tracks data manually, which makes it time-consuming to compile regional and age-specific information, she said.

“I take it very seriously. I look at (the report) and say, ‘Yep, we can do better.’ She’s absolutely right. Our data collection needs to improve.”

The department is working on a way to track client information electronically, Haramincic added.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Rimbey, Ponoka

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Most Read