In a member’s statement, Ailivik MLA Solomon Malliki called attention to bullying and violence in schools.
“It is very upsetting when a parent contacts you with a photo of their 12- year-old student who has been so badly beaten by a fellow student they have to be medevaced out of the community,” he said Monday, Oct. 23.
“It is sad to hear that parents aren’t sending their kids to school because they are worried for their safety. It is even sadder to hear that our youth are scared to go to school because of the violence they see around them, fearing that it might affect them. Mr. Speaker, our children are losing opportunities to receive their education because of the bullying and violence in our schools.”
He went on to say he recognizes the Department of Education has started to collect data on the number of violent incidents reported in schools but called it a slow start that does nothing to reassure students and parents that steps will be taken to prevent bullying and violence or hold bullies accountable.
“It seems every week there are fights at the local high school,” he said. “For the sake of our children’s health, safety, and mental wellness, this situation must not continue. For the sake of their education and their future, it cannot continue. I call on the government to address this serious issue immediately.”
During question period, Malliki asked education minister Pamela Gross if she is aware of “incidents of violence in our schools where young victims are being medevaced out of the community.” He asked how these situations are addressed by her department staff.
In response, Gross said through interpretation that she had been away on leave due to the birth of her daughter and Minister David Joanasie was acting on her behalf.
“I do know that a letter was sent to the Department of Education in regard to bullying in schools,” she said through interpretation. “Mr. Speaker, the situation was looked into and the department has written a letter back to the member on October 12 about that instance he is referring to. Yes, we are aware of the situation of bullying in the schools, and I thank the member for bringing forward his concerns. Whenever there are issues in our communities, we do hear from the member and from his constituents as well.”
Malliki responded through interpretation that she didn’t answer how such situations are addressed.
“I understand that the department has a new school violence tracking system,” said Malliki. “Can the minister describe how this system works and how it is used to directly address the increasing level of violence and bullying in our schools?”
Gross responded through interpretation that violence in school is a top priority.
“In October 2022, last year, Mr. Speaker, we had a new anti-violence reporting tracking system and that was established through the Nunavut Teachers’ Association under the Safe Schools Anti-Violence Committee, and with that we have this new mechanism for reporting any incidents to this tracking system,” said Gross through interpretation. “The reporting of incidents includes violence and harassment. It is also a way for us to use as preventative measures so that we can work on corrective and preventative actions to take if there are similar incidents that occur in the future.”
She went on to say she never wants to see incidents of violence in Nunavut schools, but this is a tool to track then and launch resources into communities where necessary.
Again, Malliki did not think his question was answered.
“I’m not getting any answers,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, as I noted in my member’s statement, parents in my constituency don’t want to send their children to school out of fear for their safety. Students in my constituency are afraid to go to school due to bullying and violence. Will the minister commit to provide additional security measures for the schools in my constituency so that our children can continue to receive their education in a safe environment?”
Gross responded through interpretation that “all of our schools do have updated security cameras” that can be reviewed following incidents.
“As far as extra security measures, I can talk to the member about what he’s referring to, and if he has any suggestions for extra security, Mr. Speaker, I’d be pleased to hear what his suggestions are from his constituents, and the Department of Education will look into his request,” she said through interpretation.
Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News