MONTREAL -- Junior health minsiter Lionel Carmant intends to bring the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres back to order, as it continues to act in a way that is deemed unacceptable with the young Indigenous people in their care.

Last week, Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal, announced that she was no longer working with the Batshaw Centres' management because of their refusal to correct practices that she considers to be systemic racism.

The Batshaw Centres are responsible for the care of English-speaking youth in West Montreal who are entrusted to them by the Youth Protection Branch.

They also take in Inuit youth from Nunavik, where significant gaps in youth protection resources and services result in their transfer to Montreal.


The treatment of Inuit youth in Batshaw Centres has been criticized many times, the most recent denunciation coming from an investigation report of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJQ) last May. The report mentioned numerous grievances, including a ban on Indigenous children and their mothers communicating in their mother tongue, the lack of access to education services, and the absence of interveners and tools adapted to their culture and interpreters.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Minister Carmant indicated that he intends to meet "soon" with the management of the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'île-de-Montréal, which manages the Batshaw Centres.

The commission's report only added to the grievances that have been piling up for years about the treatment of Indigenous youth in this institution. Despite repeated promises from CIUSSS and the Batshaw Centres, nothing has changed, according to Nakuset, who blames a flagrant lack of will.

The minister did not hide his irritation since this issue has been raised many times in the past: "We have intervened in the past on this subject and I will repeat the same message that we cannot prevent people from communicating in their mother tongue," Carmant said.

"The CDPDJQ had also recalled in its report the necessity of 'reaffirming the right of Inuit youth to freely speak their mother tongue when they are housed in a rehabilitation center.'"

Carmant indicated that his colleague responsible for Indigenous affairs, Ian Lafrenière, was also seized of this situation. Although he would like to know the facts more thoroughly, the minister stated that, "If the situation persists, we will do what needs to be done to correct it."

He would not, however, comment on possible sanctions to be imposed in case of internal resistance.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 4, 2021.