Missing Indigenous children: an initial review since the Act came into force
PAKUASHIPI, QC, April 29, 2022 – During a tribute held in the community of Pakuashipi in the Côte-Nord region to the courage of the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died, Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière noted the submission of the first annual report on the application of the Act to authorize the communication of personal information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution. Accompanied by the members of the monitoring committee on the carrying out of the Act comprising representatives of Indigenous organizations and the Opposition parties, the Minister visited the community, which was the first to break the silence on the fate of its children, to symbolically submit the report to the bereaved families.
The Act came into force on September 1, 2021. It seeks to support Indigenous families in their quest to get answers concerning their children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution prior to December 31, 1992. On February 28, 2022, six months after the Act came into force, the Minister revealed that 35 families had already approached the Direction de soutien aux familles, Anne Panasuk, the special family support advisor, or the Association des familles Awacak to formulate requests to search for 55 children. The government is determined to do all that it can to assist the families and those who follow them in their quest for the truth.
Through the legislation, the Québec government wishes to help the families and their communities shed light on the fate of their children. Everyone concerned hopes in this way to grasp the circumstances in which the children went missing or died, find out where they are, if they are still alive, or learn about their burial place.
“It is with considerable emotion but also with a great deal of humility that I submit this initial report on the application of the Act. I am satisfied with what the entire array of partners has achieved. I am pleased that 35 families have already expressed their confidence in the Act and our government and that they are allowing us to assist them in their quest for truth. Speaking as a father, I cannot imagine what these parents, brothers, sisters and their family circle must feel. It is my hope that other families will trust us and give us the opportunity to assist them in their quest for the truth. Several answers have already been found. We sincerely hope that the answers will bring certain families some measure of peace.”
Ian Lafrenière, Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs
- Between 1950 and 1980, Indigenous children evacuated from their communities to health or social services institutions were rarely accompanied by a parent or loved one. They arrived alone to receive care. Following such admissions, certain families learned of their child’s death. Other families lost track of their children and do not know what became of them.
- The Act to authorize the communication of personal information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution was adopted in response to the 20th call for justice in the report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- It proposes culturally reassuring measures to support families in their search for information in health or social services institutions, organizations, or religious congregations on the circumstances surrounding the death or disappearance of a child after being admitted to one of these facilities.
- A special family support advisor was appointed in June 2021. Anne Panasuk has a mandate to guide and support the Minister in the administration of the Act by ensuring optimum relations and communications between the Indigenous families and the Québec government.
- The Direction du soutien aux familles has also been established to offer direct assistance services to the families and their loved ones in their search for information.
- The Association des familles Awacak is collaborating with the Direction du soutien aux familles and Ms. Panasuk to ensure that the loved ones of missing children are treated with dignity in a spirit of respect for their culture throughout the process.
For further information: Source: Mathieu Durocher, Press Officer, Office of the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Telephone: 418-805-0233; Information: Marie-Ève Fillion, Public Affairs Advisor, Ministère du Conseil exécutif and Secrétariat du Conseil du trésor, Telephone: 418-781-9520, [email protected]