Evidence of meeting #19 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 provincial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Marion Lefebvre  Vice-President, Aboriginal Governance, Institute on Governance
  • Laura Edgar  Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

Laura Edgar

I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Would your institute propose a new and comprehensive federal environmental regulatory system to cover the reserves?

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

Laura Edgar

I suppose it's an option. The challenge is the amount of time it would take to be put in place.

When you're looking at federal legislation, the issue goes beyond first nations to military land and other federal lands, so it's actually fairly complex. Most of the regulations are already in place in the provinces, though they vary province to province. In terms of consistency across first nations, federal regulations are best. In terms of consistency within an area so that a first nation is consistent with its neighbours, provincial regulations are actually a better bet. Again, that’s a bit of a trade-off that needs to be considered.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

How would we make sure that happens, either in a provincial or a municipal process? Obviously some of these are a very high priority, particularly when you're talking about drinking water, waste water, and certainly run-off. We know of leaky fuel tanks and all those things that do create some major issues. The question is how we would work with first nations, whether it's the municipality or the provincial government and at the same time ensure that the federal regulations are met.

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

Laura Edgar

As you know—and I think it’s very important—there is a movement towards more tripartite agreements. But one thing our paper looks at is there's no point in having regulatory regimes if the first nations don't have the capacity and the resources to meet those regimes because they're immediately going to be in non-compliance. So I think the first priority has to be building the capacity for them to actually do what they need to do, now, to manage effectively. Then, further legislation in some sort of collaborative process is the best approach.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

There's about a minute and a half left if anybody has any additional questions.

Mr. Rickford?

December 8th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Actually, no, because I'm going to get into a horrendous situation where my question is—

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Absolutely, yes.

There will be opportunities for additional questions.

Ms. Bennett, you have seven minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Thank you very much.

Mr. Chair, before asking my question, I just want to give a notice of motion, unless there's consensus to go with this, which as you know we would always prefer:

That the committee hold two emergency meetings to determine what immediate steps are required to address the on-reserve housing crisis confronting first nations communities across Canada, and that the committee request testimony from the Assembly of First Nations, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Attawapiskat First Nation, Wasagamack First Nation, Elsipogtog First Nation, Kwicksutaineuk-ah-kwaw-ah-mish First Nation, and any other witnesses deemed appropriate.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you for making us aware. I'm sure the committee will get to that. We'll make sure that gets distributed to committee members in both official languages.

You can proceed with your questioning. Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

In your remarks you made it clear that you have to separate management and regulation. I think we've learned this the hard way in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. You can't do both things well. One of your recommendations was to move the regulatory function within the first nation. But you said perhaps this could be kicked up to a first-nations-led regulatory body that would build capacity across Canada and share that capacity with all first nations. I would love for you to tell me how you think that would look, how long it would take. Is this something that could be done quickly?

My second question is about building capacity. The community colleges, the polytechnics, the aboriginal polytechnics—all seem to believe that governance is something they would love to be able to teach everywhere. They want to begin to build that capacity. Can you tell us where that's working, or how you would roll it out more generally?

My third question has to do with paperwork and forms. You spend more time filling out forms than doing the job. Are there some streamlining methods that would allow this important work to be done in a simpler way?

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

Laura Edgar

As to the regulator versus the operator, whether or not this should stay with the first nations will depend on the function. For example, zoning would be okay, because the first nation can get a regulator and they are regulating businesses and other such things. But when you get to things like waste water, do you want the first nation operating the treatment plan also making its own regulations? There are a number of options for delegating that authority to other bodies. It could be delegated to a tribal council or a technical body like OFNTSC. The challenge there is that the tribal councils are creations of the first nations themselves, so it's not a full separation of regulator and operator.

The other option is to go with the province. But first nations do not necessarily want to work with the provinces. That becomes a real challenge, but that is where most of the capacity for these kinds of functions resides. There could be a way of working with the provinces. That's why we made the suggestion of creating a first nations unit within a provincial government. In the shorter term, first nations would be hired and they would be building their capacity within the government. Perhaps in the longer term they could separate out and become their own regulatory entity and do the oversight.

I don't know how long something like that would take. Anything tripartite tends to take time, but these would be some of our recommendations for ensuring separations between the regulator and the operator.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

We've heard, especially in certain communities, that using provincial standards is sometimes a great problem in places where there's much knowledge but little facility in writing a written test. What about an oral test? A person might have encyclopedic knowledge of every bacteria, every emergency procedure. Could such a system be designed by first nations for first nations?

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Partnerships and International Programming, Institute on Governance

Laura Edgar

Sorry, we're talking about—