Indigenous children and their families are subject to “racist attitudes” at the organization that oversees a Montreal youth protection agency, compromising the type of care they receive, a new report says.
The report, prepared by researchers at Concordia University in collaboration with the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and other local community groups, details problems at Batshaw Youth and Family Centre and offers recommendations to improve the situation.
It is based on three years of research in co-operation with Batshaw and the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, the regional health board that oversees the agency.
A focus group of Batshaw workers said “racists attitudes” of staff at the regional health board was one of the main obstacles to improved care.
Workers at Bathsaw said they felt “families were victims of stereotyping and that many [in the regional health authority] held the attitude of Indigenous families as somehow separate from other families they worked with.”
The report, titled “One step forward, two steps back: Child welfare services for Indigenous clientele living in Montreal,” has not yet been made public. It was obtained by CBC News after first surfacing in the Montreal Gazette.
Here are some of the key findings:
- The number of Indigenous children and families is not adequately tracked and likely underreported. The report notes improved records is one of the first recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
- Researchers noted a “lack of will” on behalf of upper management at the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal to implement the calls to action put forward by the TRC.
- Staff at Bashaw said there is a lack of information about the resources available for Indigenous clients, and “little awareness of the diversity” among First Nations in Quebec.
- There were no First Nations, Inuit or Métis staff on the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal team designated to work with Indigenous families at the time of the report’s completion.
- The lack of translation services, particularly for Inuit families, is highlighted as a major barrier to services.
The recommendations include improved staff training, the hiring of Indigenous staff, establishing best practices in working with Indigenous youth and the establishment of an ongoing working group where community experts would be consulted.
Change needed ‘immediately’
In the conclusion, the report’s authors say they expect the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal to “begin working immediately” with organizations representing Indigenous peoples in Montreal.
Batshaw has been beset by problems in recent years. Last December, the Quebec human rights commission launched an investigation following a CBC News report that Inuit children were discouraged from speaking their own language while in youth protection.
The commission, as well as the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, is also looking into the services offered to youth who are transferred from Nunavik to Montreal.
CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.