Native women's shelter wants investigation into alleged systemic racism in youth protection

After cutting ties with the Batshaw Youth and Family Services Centre over claims of systemic racism in the organization, the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) wants questions answered.

The NWSM plans to ask the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission to launch an inquiry into systemic racism in employment and services at Batshaw.

The Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) will assist the shelter.

The women's shelter's decision comes after allegations that Batshaw practices are, "discriminatory towards Indigenous children and parents, including practices deemed to constitute racial profiling in youth protection," a news release reads.

Junior health minister Lionel Carmant said earlier this month that he intends to bring Batshaw back into order after NWSM executive director Nakuset announced she would no longer work with the centre's management because they refused to correct practices she consisters systemically racist.

"There has been dismal Indigenous representation in all job categories at Batshaw, including designated Indigenous positions," the release reads. "Indigenous underrepresentation in employment at Batshaw is seen as the main barrier to management decisions and services that are sensitive to and respectful of Indigenous children and families."

The NWSM noted the Laurent Commission on Youth Protection's highlighting of Indigenous and Black children's over-representation in youth protection as an example of how the system needs investigation.

The NWSM and CRARR were scheduled to address the media on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. 

'WE REGRET THAT NAKUSET HAS CHOSEN TO WITHDRAW'

The Batshaw centre is overseen by the Montréal West Island Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal). 

The CIUSS wrote in a statement to CTV News on Tuesday that should the human rights commission choose to launch an investigation, it would provide its "full cooperation."

"We regret that Nakuset has chosen to withdraw from our Indigenous Needs Awareness Committee. The door will always remain open to her return as we continue to work with other community partners," wrote CIUSSS spokesperson Hélène Bergeron-Gamache.

Gamache said there are currently two open positions for Indigenous liaison officers but they have yet to be filled "due to a shortage of candidates." The CIUSSS is reaching out to partner organizations to boost their recruitment efforts. 

"Our continuous improvement approach to cultural safety is deeply entrenched throughout the organization, both at the ground level and among our executive management. This issue is at the heart of our concerns," the statement read.

"Cultural safety and diversity, along with inclusion, are guiding principles for our teams and are an integral part of every decision we make.

The CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is committed to providing care and services adapted to meet Indigenous needs, to ensuring such care and services is provided in an environment where Indigenous youth feel safe in every way, and to increasing Indigenous representation within our organization."

With files from Joe Lofaro

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