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Children have a special place in Inuit society and it is rarely a place segregated from the adults of the community. In the south, child and adult activities have been separated for so long that it seems routine that this is so.

Even in the recent past, a child's daily life n the Arctic was not scheduled around employment and school hours, meal times and bed times. Inuit children ate when they were hungry and slept when they were tired. This practice is continued in many families today. This approach to child rearing is sometimes considered "unstructured" by southerners- a word that can have negative connotations amongst teachers and social workers. Inuit approach child rearing by beliefs that children have capabilities and the adults respect the child's judgment.

Children's Aid Society in Ottawa & Strides to bridge our Cultural Considerations

Follow-up on CAS Community Consultation

A letter was received from the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society to thank T.I. and the community members who attended the Community consultation held on February 17, 2007. There was excellent participation from the Inuit community at this meeting. The translation services and sharing circles allowed people to fully share their stories which, as stated in the letter, had “a profound effect on those of us who attended...”
The letter, from Jacquie Woodward, Director, Child and Youth in Care Services, goes on to state that:

“Clearly we identified the importance of demonstrating through concrete actions our commitment to the journey we have embarked on. We recognize each of these immediate steps are only the beginning and the true demonstration of our commitment lies ahead in the interactions with both yourselves as Service Providers and the members of the communities.  We know any journey has a beginning and we believe we have taken the important first steps to our destination.”

CAS has committed to some improvements that will be made on the short, medium and long term.

Immediate improvements include:

  • CAS will integrate aboriginal activities and ceremonies into their current processes and celebrations
  • CAS is exploring who best can provide the translation of our information pamphlets into Inuktitut for parents and Service Providers.
  • CAS will be adding to their Welcome sign in the lobby signage in both Inukitut and Algonquin.

   Medium and Longer Term Actions

  • An internal work group of the CAS will integrate the learnings from the consultation into their work plan and develop concrete objectives to work with the community. This work plan will be reviewed by the Aboriginal-Inuit Liaison Committee. Note: Inuit are represented on the committee by T.I. and The Ottawa Inuit Children’s Program.
  • To develop a model of Dispute Resolution that is consistent with Inuit and other Aboriginal cultures. 

Although changes to such a large organization will take time, there are hopeful signs that positive changes are taking place. The CAS-Aboriginal-Inuit Liaison Committee continues to give feedback and direction to CAS on how to better serve the community and how to implement its mandate in a more culturally appropriate way.

Inuit Customary Adoption

The Inuktuitut word describing adoption means, " the one we took" or "my adopted," Inuit do not use words such as "give up" or "give away" to describe adoption. Rather, the word describes the practice from the perspective of the adoptive parent-choosing and wanting the child.

In Inuit society, there is no stigma attached to being adopted. It is a practice that is open and flexible, in which a child knows his or her birth parents and family members. If an adopted child lives in the same community as her or his biological parents and family, the child will know them and visit with them.

Inuit continue to practice customary adoption throughout their communities, including Ottawa. The absence of certified recognition of this type of adoption can result in problems for adoptive parents living in Ontario, where such practices are unknown. In the view of department officials, only Inuit adoptions in Ontario that involve a biological parent who is a resident of Nunavut-where there is a customary adoption recognition law-would be acceptable. Customary adoptions where both the biological and adoptive Inuit mothers are residents of Ontario are not considered legal (in the officials' view) and, therefore, the birth certificate will not be issued with the child's adopted mother's surname.

This is only one of many examples. Usually, problems arise over what appears to the service provider as a simple administrative matter. Unfortunately, this simple administrative matter ends up becoming a serious legal matter, which requires lawyers and dollars to pursue. To get by, Inuit have had to set their customs aside and go through the system. TI is hopeful this will change alongside recognition of Inuit rights and a commitment to supporting Inuit culture and community.

Some service providers have suggested that this type of adoption must be written into provincial law in order to be legally valid. However, this should not be necessary because Inuit are practicing an Aboriginal right that is protected under 35 of the Constitution and supported in common law. If Inuit customary adoption rights were to included in the laws of Ontario, then it would be important to involve Inuit in the developing the legislation. The Nunavut Government's legislation could also be used as a model.