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

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

Mr. Wilks, for seven minutes.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you very much for coming today. To both of you, I just have one question that you can elaborate on as long as you want. Through reviewing and using the Indian Act as a police officer, I have my own opinions. It is at best antiquated, but our government has said that it would make incremental improvements where possible, like Bill C-3 and MRP.

Does CAP think there would ever be full support from the aboriginal community on how to replace the Indian Act? If so, what are some of the obstacles you can see that could be removed from and/or implemented in the act?

12:55 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

I believe that if you go back to RCAP you'll see that there were some very good suggestions in RCAP as to how to deal with this, because this issue was brought up during the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People. There were extensive consultations done right across Canada. They spoke to the issue of the Indian Act. I believe that at that time they were calling for an aboriginal peoples act.

It's like any piece of legislation: it has to be updated with modern times and modern case law. Unfortunately, there has been a piecemeal approach to it as case law has unfolded. Nobody seems to want.... It's a very touchy issue.

People are always fearful of change. A lot of our brothers and sisters are fearful that if in fact you tinker with the Indian Act, it's going to cause a great calamity, that it's a way of assimilating them and doing away with their rights and things like that.

But we all know that if you look at case law, the case law is very clear on what rights you do have, so it would be virtually impossible to do away with aboriginal treaty rights.

12:55 p.m.

National Vice-Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Dwight Dorey

With that, our people have suffered generations of division. That's what the Indian Act has done for years. Even when there's a real sense of community on a broader basis, when those divisions are entrenched, generation after generation, it takes a long time to heal and to rebuild those units, those family units and those community units. That was part of the whole healing process that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation addressed. It's going to take time, but it has to be done. There has to be a start to doing that.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

You mentioned some of the aboriginal peoples being fearful of change. What are the fears that you see?

12:55 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

In the past when change occurred it was never to their benefit; it was always detrimental. But that was before we had a lot of the case law that has unfolded over the last 10 or 15 years.

We are just like the general population. We have various treaties from the east to the west, so there's never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution, and there's that fear that it's going to impede or take away things they've long fought for.

12:55 p.m.

National Vice-Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Dwight Dorey

The unfortunate reality also is that when you're at the bottom end of the social scale, and social issues, social conditions, and health issues remain, there is some comfort taken in what little comes about. That is an unfortunate and sad reality. Those people really, in many instances, do not want to see change. It's a sad reality that we often have to deal with internally. We are members of first nations communities. I don't mean each individual band, which is often referred to as a first nation. I'm talking about the Mi'kmaq, the Mohawk, the Crees, whatever. There are still strong family ties and family beliefs and traditions there, but it has been the Indian Act that has caused the problems. In spite of that, some people just can't seem to foresee a future without some protection, because it does give them some comfort level, and that's the unfortunate reality.

1 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Is there any time left?

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You have a little bit, yes, if you'd like it.

1 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I defer to Mr. Payne.

November 15th, 2011 / 1 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Chair.

And thank you, Chiefs, for coming today. It's really important to hear what you have to say.

I just wanted to say that our daughter-in-law is full-blood Ojibway, and when I got elected she told me to get rid of the Indian Act.

Anyway, aside from that, I understand that you're very pleased with the change in the name of the department to Aboriginal Affairs, so if you could give us a bit of information as to why you believe that and what the impact is for the congress....

1 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Betty Ann Lavallée

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, as Dwight stated in his brief, was instrumental.... Our former leader, Harry Daniels, who was part of the constitutional talks and who negotiated section 35 into the Canadian Constitution Act, which said the aboriginal peoples of Canada are the Indian, Inuit, and Métis.... When the department was changed to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, it was reflective of section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, and that Constitution is extremely important to us.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

Thank you so much for coming, national chiefs. Mr. Dorey, thank you so much for your testimony and your frankness with our committee.

Committee members, I just want to inform you of a couple of housekeeping details.

At our next meeting, which is Thursday, we intend--are hoping, are seeking--to get a departmental briefing with regard to land tenure and land registry overview. This will be for the first hour.

The second hour will be set aside for the subcommittee. Those members who are part of the subcommittee, can you be here with the intent to discuss the submissions that you brought forward with regard to the study we're undertaking, as well as thoughts? If you don't have a submission, that's fine. Just come prepared to discuss that.

In terms of the following week, the intention is to have a policy briefing on November 22, again from the department, with regard to additions to reserves. In the second hour we'll have a committee of the whole, with a discussion on future business planning and ratifying the plan that was brought forward by the subcommittee.

On November 24 we will have two one-hour briefings. The first one is in regard to land management boards and land use planning under modern treaties. The second hour will be a briefing on all the land management programs available on reserve, including a cursory discussion with regard to FNLMAs.

Just as a point of note as well, committee members, on November 24 we may be in a different committee room, so please just make sure your staff is prepared. If you're like me, I keep going to the same place unless somebody notifies me of a change.

We are out of time, but, Mr. Bevington, just for a moment....

1 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Are we under some time constraints in terms of getting the minister here to speak on supplementary...?

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Yes, we are working to get the minister here before supplementary--