After consulting First Nations and Inuit, Quebec abandons the idea of ​​a commissioner dedicated to indigenous children

Winning the case for the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (APNQL) and the Makivvik Corporation: to comply with their demands, Quebec is putting aside the idea of ​​appointing an associate commissioner for the rights of indigenous children.

The Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, will confirm this decision this week by tabling an amendment during the detailed study of Bill 37 “on the commissioner for the well-being and rights of children”, which resumed Tuesday after more two months break. This information was reported earlier in the morning by Radio-Canada.

The establishment of an associate commissioner, dedicated specifically to the realities of First Nations and Inuit, was the subject of strong criticism in the parliamentary committee in February.

” In [leur] current form, the functions planned for […] this associate commissioner will limit themselves to assisting and advising the commissioner to whom he reports,” noted the head of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard. With the Inuit organization Makivvik, he deplored the lack of autonomy from which the latter would have benefited.

“It’s extremely trying,” said Mr. Picard, denouncing the “relentlessness” of the CAQ government “in debating that it is the only one able to exercise in this field of competence.”

The new provisions put forward by Mr. Carmant propose to completely erase the idea of ​​the associate commissioner assigned to indigenous issues. Rather, they offer the Commissioner for Children’s Well-being and Rights to enter into “collaboration agreements” with all Indigenous or Inuit communities that so desire.

These would allow the national commissioner to collect information from communities, to monitor deaths observed among First Nations and Inuit children, as he will do everywhere else in Quebec, or to “accompany” children. which require it towards specific resources.

In interview with The dutyTuesday, Mr. Carmant gave the example of the Attikamek community of Opitciwan, which in 2021 became the first indigenous community in Quebec to equip itself with an independent youth protection system, through the project of federal law C-92, validated this year by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“They created their own law, but our local DYP still continued to support them and provide help when needed,” he said.

Although he considers it “tragic” that the First Nations had to go to court to assert their point, Ghislain Picard welcomed the minister’s decision on Tuesday. “Essentially, what I read in the government’s change of heart is that there is recognition, ultimately, that communities have the right to self-determination, have the right to have their own commissioner,” he said. he said on the other end of the phone.

The C-92 effect

Minister Carmant affirmed last month that the time passed since the commission took a break, at the end of February, from the study of Bill 37 had made it possible to “co-construct” the mandate of the commissioner with the First Nations and the Inuit. . On Tuesday, he agreed that the Supreme Court’s decision on C-92 also played a role in this change of course.

“With C-92 and the recognition of the rights of First Nations and Inuit, and the fact that, from the outset, we said that they are best placed to take care of their children, I found it normal that we lets them determine the functions of their commissioner,” he told the Duty.

The CAQ elected official still intends to create a “deputy commissioner” to lend a hand to the national “ombudsman” whom he intends to appoint, but his mandate will not be limited to a single category of children.

In reaction to the abandonment of the Indigenous associate commissioner, the Quebec Liberal Party said it was disappointed on Tuesday that a recommendation from the Laurent Commission on children’s rights and youth protection was set aside.

“This decision risks compromising the mode of co-construction that was planned as well as the adequate representation of First Nations and Inuit, while respecting their right to autonomy in matters of youth protection in order to help them create their own system », Supported MP Brigitte Garceau in a written statement sent to the Duty.

On the social network “We risk abandoning these children, when we could have done so much better! It’s not yet too late to do the right thing, I hope they can be heard,” he wrote.

According to Parti Québécois MP Joël Arseneau, “the minister no longer had a choice.” “The construction of a specific mandate with the First Nations and the Inuit, we had to think about it beforehand. Before the tabling of the bill, before the special consultations, before beginning the study article by article,” he said.

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