A teenager, with a cap and the hood of his sweater on his head, leans against a fence one spring day.  The image is blurred.

The First Nations and Inuit are asking Quebec to respect self-government in matters of child services. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-United States / Ivanoh Demers

After approximately three months of parliamentary break, the study of Bill 37 on the creation of the Commissioner for Welfare and Children’s Rights resumes this week. However, a major change was made: the government renounced the appointment of an associate commissioner for indigenous children.

At the beginning of February, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (APNQL) as well as the Makivik Corporation strongly opposed this idea during the study of the bill in parliamentary committee.

The head of theAFNQLGhislain Picard, affirmed that the communities refused to allow such an institution to take charge in their place the well-being and rights of their children. Rather than an associate commissioner reporting to the national commissioner, Mr. Picard called for an independent institution which would instead report to the First Nations and Inuit.

L’AFNQL asked Quebec to recognize Bill C-92, which notably affirms the autonomy of indigenous communities in matters of child services.

Desired collaboration with First Nations and Inuit

All provisions regarding an Associate Commissioner for Indigenous Children were therefore removed from the bill. In return, Quebec made amendments to provide for the possibility that its future commissioner could benefit from collaboration relating to any matter relating to its functions with the First Nations or the Inuit.

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For example, the new national commissioner for children’s health and well-being in Quebec and his possible indigenous counterpart could agree on producing a portrait of the state of First Nations and Inuit children, as well as on ways to collect the concerns and opinions of community members.

Their collaboration agreement could also relate to the day before the children died in communities, the means of information on this subject, as well as their support to appropriate resources.

In 2021, the main recommendation of the Laurent commission report on children’s rights and youth protection concerned the creation of this position of national children’s commissioner. The document also proposed that indigenous communities who wish could create their own body.

Unless he is directly supported by an associate commissioner for indigenous children, the national commissioner will not exercise his functions alone. Another modification made by Quebec to its bill provides for the creation of a commissioner position assistant.

According to our information, the Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, considered it necessary to provide an additional representative for the exercise of the commissioner’s functions, given the scale of the task and so that in the event of prolonged absence a replacement can be quickly and efficiently organized.

Death monitoring for up to 25 years

The government also wants to expand the death monitoring function of the Commissioner for Children’s Welfare and Rights.

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An amendment to the bill will specify that this watch concerns all deaths of children, but also those of people aged 18 to 25 investigated by a coroner.

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