Nearly four years after Quebec’s Viens report documented the mistreatment of Indigenous people, less than a third of the calls to action set out in the commission have been implemented or are progressing as expected.
Quebec ombudsman Marc-André Dowd on Wednesday released the first update on the commission, which was based on a three-year investigation into the treatment of Indigenous people by Quebec’s public service.
Retired Superior Court Judge Jacques Viens wrote in the September 2019 report that “it seems impossible to deny the systemic discrimination faced by First Nations and Inuit members in their dealings with public service.”
Viens described 142 calls to action.
Dowd says the lack of results to date is due to several factors, including the absence of an overall strategy by the Quebec government, fragmented initiatives and insufficient substantive planning.
“There is a long way to go,” says the Ombudsman
At a news conference Wednesday, Dowd said global leadership and coordination are needed to create systemic change and build solutions.
He pointed out areas that need improvement, such as youth protection services, and how not enough is being done to remedy the over-representation of Indigenous youth still in youth protection. Only four of the 30 calls to action related to youth protection services have been fully implemented or are progressing as expected.
Dowd says it is important to note that the government and public institutions have implemented some measures and investments, such as the construction of residences for indigenous students, for example.
But he hopes that in his next report he can announce a full implementation.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Dowd said. “Four years after the report was submitted, this clearly falls short of expectations.”
Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière says he has seen the ombudsman’s report and implementing changes will take time.
“Do we see action? Do we see change? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No,” Lafrenière said.
“Believe me it’s not over, believe me it’s not perfect. I received this report with great humility, knowing that there is still a lot of work to do.”
The calls to action focused on five sectors: police, correctional services, justice system, health and social services and youth protection.
The update, presented in Val d’Or, Quebec, highlighted progress in each sector, including interdisciplinary calls to action that include several public services:
- Seven of the 26 interdisciplinary calls to action have been fully implemented or are progressing as expected.
- Eight of the 18 calls to action on prison services have been fully implemented or are progressing as planned.
- Five of the 13 calls to action on policing have been fully implemented or are progressing as planned.
- Nine of the 16 calls to action related to justice services have been fully implemented or are progressing as expected.
- Ten of the 34 calls for action relating to health and social services have been implemented or are progressing as planned.
- Four of the 30 calls to action related to youth protection services have been fully implemented or are progressing as expected.