Writhing in pain, an Inuit teenager asked Batshaw for help. Instead, he was put in solitary confinement
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
Last April, in the middle of the night, an Inuk teenager woke up writhing in pain.
At first the sensation seemed to come from his stomach, but soon it began to emanate from his groin.
According to sources, one of his testicles was so twisted that it needed to be removed.
But that only happened later, after a night spent in agony in a Batshaw Youth and Family Center detention facility in Prévost, north of Montreal.
The account of what happened is based on interviews with people familiar with the case, put in contact with CBC News by a local advocacy group, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations. They spoke on the condition that they not be named.
The case hinges on troubling questions about the level of care provided to Indigenous youth in state care.
He is now the subject of an investigation by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec.
The teenager, from a community in northern Quebec, cannot be identified because he is in youth protection.
That night, in pain, he rang for help from the staff member on site, sources told CBC.
She was given an over-the-counter painkiller and ice, and told to go back to bed.
The pain only got worse and he banged against the wall and screamed for attention, asking someone to call 911.
Instead, he was placed in an isolation unit in the basement for several hours, where he vomited in pain.
Finally, around 7 or 8 am, he was taken to the hospital in handcuffs. He was operated on a few hours later.
The boy’s case was reported to Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.
« In so much pain, and instead of them caring for him, they put him in an isolation unit, » she said.
Pattern of abuse
The youngster’s harrowing experience is part of a pattern of discrimination against Indigenous youth staying at Batshaw, advocates say.
Batshaw, responsible for the care of young Anglophones in protection and detention in Quebec, has been the subject of numerous critical reports.
There have also been stories of indigenous youth put in solitary confinement unnecessarily and say not speak their own language.
Katherine Bailey, a former Batshaw employee, said she felt Aboriginal youth were being treated poorly at Prevost, where she worked.
A member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation, Bailey said she quit her job in part because she felt unsupported as an Indigenous staff member.
“The only solution we can really have is to have qualified indigenous personnel. To get qualified Indigenous personnel, we really need to get resources,” she said.
In investigating this latest case, the commission said it would try to « verify whether the facts alleged are true and whether the rights of the child are respected. It also aims to ensure that measures are taken to avoid that the situation does not happen again ».
The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which both work with the teen, are also calling on the provincial government to conduct an independent investigation and make lasting changes. to improve the treatment of Aboriginal Youth in Care.
According to sources, the youngster was transferred out of his community, to southern Quebec, without a social worker attached to his file to ensure regular follow-up and support.
On one occasion, he was also told not to speak his own language with another Batshaw youth.
Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, said the provincial government « seems to have turned a blind eye to many of these frequent and repeated complaints about the treatment of Indigenous youth right here in Montreal. »
“There needs to be stronger, more effective and transparent oversight of the system,” he said.
« It’s about the welfare of the child. It’s about the safety of the child. »
Racism will not be tolerated, authorities say
Batshaw declined a request for an interview and did not comment directly on the matter, citing the confidentiality of the minor involved.
“That being said, no form of violence, discrimination or racism against young people under our protection is tolerated,” said Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, spokesperson for the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de -Montreal, the health authority that oversees Batshaw.
« When allegations of such behavior come to our attention, we take them very seriously and take immediate action to bring them to light. »
Bergeron-Gamache said Batshaw has revised its policies and guidelines for employees « to reaffirm the right of young Aboriginal people to speak their mother tongue » and to ensure that care is provided with respect « to the realities and everyone’s culture so that they feel good about their lives ». their new environment.
There are now two Indigenous employees at Batshaw – and Bergeron-Gamache said they are always looking for more.
The Government of Quebec promised greater monitoring of Batshaw over a year ago.
In response to questions about Batshaw, Department of Health spokeswoman Marjorie Larouche said in an email that the government is committed to improving care for Indigenous youth.
Larouche said the Department of Health provides travel funds to allow families who live in Nunavik, the autonomous territory in northern Quebec, to visit their child in care.
There’s also more emphasis on a program called My Family, My Community, which allows young people to stay in their home communities, either in a group home or in foster care, Larouche said.
Yet the problems persist. In Quebec (and across Canada), young Aboriginal people are largely overrepresented in state care.
A recent review by researchers from the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission documented the problems of the system and argued that it is « increasing evidence that First Nations are best placed to make decisions about the future of their children, determine the needs of their community, and identify the best ways to meet those needs. »
Contrary to this objective, the Quebec government is fight a federal law that gives First Nations, Métis and Inuit autonomy over the treatment of their children in the foster care system.
Province said it shares the goal of federal law to give Aboriginal communities greater autonomy in youth protection, but it wants to do so through its own youth protection service.
Assistance is available for anyone affected by this report. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or texting WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It’s free and confidential.