Provincial Advocate for Youth Expresses Concern
THUNDER BAY – LEGAL – Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, has acknowledged the decision of the Office of the Chief Coroner directing no inquests be held using the Thunder Bay jury roll and expressed disappointment that the inquest into the death of seven young people, a process that would benefit First Nation children and youth, has been derailed yet again.
“Two years after this joint inquest was called, there is no sign that the investigation is complete and ready to proceed to a hearing,” says Elman. “Further, the government has been unable or unwilling to resolve systemic issues related to the jury rolls. I strongly encourage the Coroner’s Office complete its investigation and the decision makers involved to turn their full attention to resolving the jury roll issue and ensure there are no further delays in holding a public inquiry into the deaths of seven First Nations youth. The families, community and the province have waited long enough to understand the factors that contributed to their deaths and for recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.”
Ontario’s Provincial Advocate has been concerned about the deaths of First Nations youth since appointed in 2008. The Advocate will have standing at a joint inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations teenagers from remote reserves who were living in Thunder Bay to attend high school. The seven teens were all forced to leave their homes and families because there are few secondary school facilities on their remote reserves.
Youth Study Offered Solutions
The Regional Multicultural Youth Council examined the situation, spoke with youth, and prepared a report on the matter. Having safe and secure places for youth to go in our city was one of the conclusions that report came up with. The City of Thunder Bay entered into a public private partnership with the Wasaya Group, Youth Centres Thunder Bay and the city to run a pilot project youth centre. That agreement has expired, and the city has not come to any concrete steps toward the formation of a permanent solution.
The City did examine a proposal to partner with the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre, but that fell through.
The Provincial Advocate will use his standing to elevate the voice and wisdom of First Nations youth who participated in the Feathers of Hope youth forum in 2013. The Advocate’s Office held the forum to address the complex issues youth face, including education, culture, identity and suicide. In Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan, the report stemming from the forum, young people spoke about the issues they experience when they leave home to attend high school including feeling isolated from their community, loneliness and how these feelings can lead to despair. The action plan urges all levels of government to partner with young people to create safer, healthier communities for northern remote and fly-in First Nations communities.
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The Provincial Advocate receives and responds to concerns from children and youth who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).
The Provincial Advocate identifies systemic problems involving children, conducts reviews and provides education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.