Complaint alleges racism in Quebec youth protection


“She must have burnt cells from drinking too much.”

This is how a social worker at Batshaw Youth and Family Services referred to an Inuit mother whose child is in state care, according to documents obtained by Ricochet. The Batshaw employee was in charge of helping the mother and her child navigate Quebec’s youth protection system.

In a May 20 complaint filed against Batshaw, an advocate for the Inuit mother questioned how the social worker could build relationships with Indigenous clients given the blatant prejudice she displayed.

“If this is how the social worker speaks about the mother, how is she treating the family,” the complaint reads. “The mother in question is an Inuit woman whose first language is Inuktitut, and is also fluent in French and English. I met her on a few occasions and can confirm we communicated well and understood each other easily.”

The complaint was filed by a family care worker at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, which often helps women in difficult situations try to start a new life with their kids. It details a culture of derogatory attitudes toward Indigenous mothers.

Batshaw Youth and Family Services serves families based in and around Montreal as well as clients from Inuit villages along Quebec’s northern coast. The organization is overseen by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

“On another occasion, a social worker stated, based on her personal point of view, that an Inuk mother we both work with ‘obviously needs to be medicated,’” the complaint reads, adding that Quebec’s “Department of Youth Protection is supposed to intervene with families in need of help and support, not put them down when they get frustrated. In this sense, these comments are not only unacceptable; they are disturbing, disrespectful, racist and unprofessional.

“I understand that not every social worker speaks and behaves this way with the families they intervene with, which is appreciated.”

A representative from the ministry was not immediately available for comment. But the complaint does say that, in some instances, social workers apologized for and corrected their behaviour.