Evidence of meeting #12 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was aboriginal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Udloriak Hanson  Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Jim Moore  Executive Director, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Elizabeth Ford  Director, Department of Health and Environment, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Betty Ann Lavallée  National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
  • Dwight Dorey  National Vice-Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

November 15th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

[Witness speaks in his native language]

If I am not mistaken, your organization is made up primarily of aboriginal people who live in cities or off reserve. You are very likely aware of the advantages of living outside the community, off reserve, but also of the disadvantages, particularly the dilution of the connection with the land and the traditional practices of communities.

What does your organization do to ensure this traditional knowledge is passed down, and to preserve the relationship with members of the home community?

12:30 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

Thank you for your question.

Actually, it's quite the opposite. I grew up in a traditional aboriginal family and I never lived on reserve. I grew up with my grandparents, who taught me the ways, and my great-grandparents. My first hunting trip was at four years old. We've always practised our traditions off reserve. It's unfortunate because my brothers and sisters on reserve were prohibited by law to practise. They're just starting to get back into it now.

For those of us who have never been on reserve, we haven't lost those traditions and cultures. My grandfather spoke Mi'kmaq and I heard it growing up. He actually spoke three languages: Gaelic, English, and Mi'kmaq. I grew up hearing the language. Unfortunately, once he passed on, it wasn't used anymore.

I have never lost my traditions. They were instilled in me at a very young age. Most of our off-reserve aboriginal peoples have always come together to practise these rights.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

It is important to understand that in cities, having a connection with traditional territories can be more difficult. Does your organization work to ensure the eventual return of your members, and the resumption of traditional practices on forest land?

12:35 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

Even in the urban centres our organizations do have powwows; they do practise their traditions. Every year one of our organizations in P.E.I. has a powwow at Panmure Island.

Our people still travel the powwow routes. Now that they're becoming more prevalent on reserve, they do go to these things. We have elders in our urban centres who provide us with our teachings and our culture.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

I would like to ask another, more specific question.

What adjustments have been necessary or what changes have been made in your organization since the McIvor decision?

12:35 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

The changes for us, of course, are that some of our people who were not eligible for status are going to gain status. Unfortunately, not all of our people will, as I said, but at this point there are a lot of happy individuals out there.

I do get the odd e-mail and phone call that they're getting their status. I had one woman we've known for years who called my parents. She cried on the phone for 30 minutes because she finally got her status under our PTO. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Qalipu Band, which is an off-reserve band, got band status, and we'll have over 28,000 members registered now.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Do you keep statistics on the education of your 28,000 members? If so, are they similar to those of communities, or are they different?

12:35 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

Unfortunately, CAP does not receive the same capacity as our other national organizations. Of the $8 billion that is spent yearly in Canada on aboriginal issues, for every $8 spent on reserve only $1 is spent off reserve. We work hard with Stats Canada to try to capture the statistics. Unfortunately, we haven't quite been able to get them. We know for a fact, based on some of the statistics that have been captured, that most of our aboriginal children are not finishing school. They're apt to end up in jail before graduation. The statistics are much the same.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You have 30 seconds.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

You spoke about the gun registry. What are you doing to return to hunting and trapping practices that do not include guns? After all, there were no guns 500 years ago.

12:35 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

Maybe just slow down a bit.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You'll have to ask the question again. The interpreter missed the question.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

You raised the issue of the gun registry. What do you think of traditional hunting and trapping methods that did not include guns, given that they did not exist 500 years ago?

12:35 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

According to current case law, even though back when the treaties were negotiated we were using spears or bows and arrows, just like other people our traditions evolve and our way of doing things changes. We have the right to hunt with a long rifle. I am a long-gun owner. I have been around rifles since I was young and I was taught the proper way to handle them. My first hunting trip was when I was four. My son's first hunting trip was around the same age. We harvest for food only, not for sport. What this has done to a lot of our aboriginal peoples is not right: if we didn't register our guns, we were technically in breach of the law. The unfortunate aspect of this whole situation is that there was no proper consultation with aboriginal peoples.

I'll speak for the off-reserve, in particular. I was the chief and president at the time of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council. There was no consultation with us on this registry. I believe the courts have been clear: if you're going to do something that's going to affect an aboriginal and treaty right, you have an obligation to do proper consultation. That was not done with us.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Mr. Clarke.