By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Government of Nunavut has quashed a fully-paid-for program that would help students with behavioural disabilities, despite having supported the idea a few years ago, says the Iqaluit District Education Authority.
The authority received funding from the federal government in September to hire contractors to assess 28 students for psychological issues and develop a support plan for them. It’s called the Inuit Child-Specific Program.
Then in January, a month before the program was set to begin, the Education Department’s student achievement division sent a memo to Iqaluit schools telling them to not allow contractors into the schools, said IDEA chairperson Nicole Giles.
“I have no idea. It’s so crazy. No one knows where it came from.
We had full permission,” Giles said, adding that the program has been cancelled and the money has to be given back.
Giles said she doesn’t know how much money the authority received.
The Department of Education declined Nunatsiaq News’ request to interview Education Minister Pamela Gross and did not provide a reason for not granting the interview. Instead, Nunatsiaq News received an unsigned email with a statement from the department.
Nunatsiaq News did not receive answers to any follow-up questions.
The statement said the department already has contractors who have been vetted and signed confidentiality agreements and provide similar services, such as speech language pathology, mental health support and others.
The department said every student in Iqaluit who needed support services received them.
“We commend the IDEA for its efforts to bring about initiatives to support our students, however, the processes we have in place for external contractors to enter schools are critical for ensuring consistent and safe supports for our students,” the statement reads.
But Giles said the services the department provides simply aren’t enough.
“Well, there’s no services to begin with, which is the problem,” she said.
The department sends a contractor to communities once a year to work with students with disabilities, Giles said, adding that often if a student has two issues, only one of those issues will get attention.
And in terms of the mental health services the department provides, Giles said she completely disagrees that they are adequate.
IDEA has requested a meeting with Gross and says it is going to find a way to move forward with the programming.
“We are going to continue to pursue this,” she said. “It’s too important; there’s too many people depending on this program.”
David Venn is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with NUNATSIAQ NEWS. LJI is a federally funded program.