Evidence of meeting #34 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 lands.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Right now, I do believe we're up to five buildings that have to be demolished, torn down, due to the inability to provide a long-term lease or rental agreement to individuals, not only first nations members but to the mainstream. We've always complied with the request of the department not to quote any long-term interests on those private properties until the lands are transferred and so on. Because we're tied to that commitment, we're losing out. The losses are continually mounting because of the maintenance. If you don't have people living in those units, those losses are going to continue to grow. Basically, if this continues, we'll have no other option but to seek damages for that delay.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Do I have time?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

One minute.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

If you were to make two or three recommendations to us as to how things need to be improved, what would they be?

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

For me, it's the management or implementation of the ATR. Here in Ontario, I know for a fact that the lands unit is not fully staffed. I'm also aware of personal issues with management. There's a structure in place there that basically says, here's a work plan, or here's our business plan, and this is what we're going to get off the table. It seems as if they're doing more negotiating than implementing.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Implementation of land claims agreements is a criticism across the country. People sign agreements, but the implementation process drags on forever. Is there an adequate dispute resolution process, in your view?

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Under the ATR, no. I think the only dispute resolution—because we signed a settlement agreement—is to take it to court. The court's bottom line is going to be, “Here, you've got to go and do this under your ATR policy.” So you're back in the same boat.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thanks, Mr. Cada.

Mr. Rickford for seven minutes.

May 3rd, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to the witnesses.

I thank my colleague who has brought forward a discussion I'd like to develop a little further with respect to additions to reserves. There is another subject that perhaps I'll get to later.

First of all, I want you folks to understand that you're exactly the kinds of witnesses we want to hear from at this committee—the perspective of the economic development people who have spoken to things like FNLM, first nations land management, and the board itself. Other witnesses, specifically from communities, have added their positive and critical impressions and experiences with respect to a number of activities and exercises that are involved in first nations land management, or, in a broader sense, land-use planning.

Keith, land management, as you rightly pointed out, represents significant economic benefits to a community. In your case, your concern is loss of opportunity, just as one example.

It benefits us all when we have a frank discussion about these matters, because these are long-standing structural challenges of a decade or two that we must overcome. The important work the committee is doing here is to break some of this down.

I just want to ask a couple of questions.

You've identified that each parcel of land may have unique considerations to be resolved before adding to the reserve. What do you think is a reasonable timeframe?

This isn't an easy question because we've heard from the chief of Kitigan Zibi, for example, who said that some of the smallest parcels of land represent some of the biggest challenges to actually go through that process. Then others, without explanation, tend not to take as long, but represent larger pieces of land.

Generally speaking, James, can you comment on that?

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

In all honesty, I can't speak for the department. I've seen a number of issues, or, to me, excuses on delays, such as changes in the formatting of OICs, orders in council, and so on and so forth.

These lands have been studied to death in regard to title and environment. There have been three studies on them. There are no impediments. The only impediment is to get the offers signed, the lands transferred to Canada, and the order in council completed. There is nothing else that's impeding that process.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

There are some administrative or bureaucratic issues, in this case at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. You feel we should be able to be more responsive. There are some complexities.

I'm going to move on to my question about third-party encumbrances. I understand that at least in one instance there was a nearby first nation that had some kind of dispute. Sometimes it's where the timelines get extended as you resolve these situations.

Could you speak to any specific third-party encumbrances and/or any lingering disagreements, if you will, with nearby communities, be they municipalities or a first nation, and what your experience was in that regard?

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

For us, we've had basically no encumbrances. In the land claim consultation process there was a lot of uproar and so on, but I think a lot of that was dealt with through amendments or through the negotiations. We provided assurances for a lot of the hunters, the cottagers, and so on. We continued to do that as custodians, to allow that access, when the lands were still under federal status.

To me, there are no impediments. Union Gas and hydro, and Ontario, with its private right-of-ways and whatnot, are the only ones there. We've had no problems with them at all.

Right now, as I said, Union Gas is prepared to enter into an agreement under the land code and easement agreement. The turnaround time would probably be six months. That includes one month to allow for a vote.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

They're a business moving at the speed—

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

They always have been cooperative. Hydro One is interested. I think basically they're going to get tired of the issues they're dealing with, with the department, because their timelines continue to drag on.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

James, I can appreciate that.

This time goes by so quickly, so I'm having to go over some stuff here more rapidly than I want to.

I know that in September 2000, the department released a final report, “Impact Evaluation of Contributions to Indian Bands for Land Management on Reserve”. It's kind of a long title. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the report. But importantly, this final report recommended that the department “work towards national ATR legislation that incorporates process and approval improvements to streamline the process and increase efficiency”.

Perhaps you would like to take this last minute or two to expound on that recommendation, based on a very experienced community in this regard.