Evidence of meeting #35 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 kahnawake.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:05 p.m.

Diane McDonald Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council

Regarding the original land management act, our people have actually never been involved in any consultation, period.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So how did it happen without your involvement? It's your land.

4:05 p.m.

Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council

Diane McDonald

Exactly. Our people are being more educated nowadays, and we are so unaware of many policies that have been proposed by provincial and federal governments, and we're just learning as we're going along in our lands department.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Just so that it's clear, somebody handed you a land management plan and said, “This is it”, even though these are your lands, your territory?

4:05 p.m.

Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council

Diane McDonald

No. I mean, we've never been handed the land management act, but we've learned through the Internet that the land management act is being reviewed. I come from Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nation, and we were invited to attend the consultation by the aboriginal affairs department, I guess, and that's how I became aware of what the land management act was all about on the reserve. We don't know a whole lot about it, but we know that it does exist, and we certainly understand that there are proposed changes coming to the mineral act on reserve. Certainly, our people were never, ever consulted when it was first evolved, either.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

Ms. Crowder, thank you for your time.

Mr. Wilks, we'll turn to you now for seven minutes.

May 15th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

My questions are for Chief Phillips.

We've heard from many first nations with regards to the process of adding land to reserve. It's time consuming, costly, and a pain in the derrière , shall we say. Kahnawake is presently adding three additions, as I understand, two through the province and one through Transport Canada. From that, I also understand that your community has lost a lot of potential economic opportunities that come with that. I wonder if you could tell us about some of those potential economic opportunities that have been lost, and where you see yourselves moving forward.

4:05 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

Through economic development, we've had many different opportunities over the past few years. You need to have a perspective on the exact location of Kahnawake, on where we're situated. We have every single type of highway, byway, bridge, car bridge, train bridge, St. Lawrence Seaway system, Quebec autoroute running through a 24-square-mile area. That's what Kahnawake is in size—not to mention that we're under Montreal Dorval Airport's flight pattern. So planes, trains, automobiles, and ships; we have it all.

We also have high rates of cancer in our community, and I'm pretty sure this is due to environmental issues, whether it be genetics or environment. That is something we need to be mindful of all the time.

We have had different things come our way through our economic development authority in Kahnawake. We have a business that does exactly that, look at different things. Through the Seigneury of Sault St-Louis land claim, which is currently at the federal level, we're looking at wind turbine energy. We were successful in working with Hydro-Québec, although it's not in Kahnawake or in the traditional seigneury area. We've had to look at renting lands, probably about 40 miles away from the current reserve. That's going to cost us, because we can't do it in our back yard. Although traditionally we did have the lands, we don't have the lands. Although we like to think they're ours, legally they're not.

That's just one little case of how, by not having access to our traditional lands, we are affected. It is affecting what we can generate to create a better Kahnawake for our people.

We're also looking, because of the new Quebec Autoroute 30, at having a truck stop/hotel—the whole nine yards. That's what we're trying to work with Quebec on right now, to get the process out of Quebec's hands into the feds' hands.

They're saying they're ready to do it—it's a goal—but the problem is the feds. This is the part that can last for five or ten years. What we would like and what we were hoping is that we can get the green light from the feds to go ahead and start using the land immediately. If it's coming back to us—it's been designated, and both governments say it's coming back—why can't we use it yesterday?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

That probably spins into my next question, which is, what do you consider some of the main challenges when it comes to the current addition-to-land process?

4:10 p.m.

Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Debbie Morris

It's the length of time, obviously. It's quite a lengthy process for the lands to be eventually returned to us.

In the example Chief Phillips was just alluding to, the truck stop, there's a very small window of opportunity for this to become a success. Once that highway goes through and everything is up and running, somebody else is going to take that economic opportunity away from us.

Currently we have a high rate of unemployment in Kahnawake. We don't have the resources our brothers have. They have diamonds; they have all of the land they were talking about earlier. We don't; we have this little, square piece of land, and we have people who would love to work, but there are no opportunities.

I know of a mother who will not have dinner so that her children will eat. This lady wants to work. What can we offer to them? There's only so much employment that we have right now. Something along these lines or all of the other economic development plans that people have in store are opportunities for people to be employed.

I see that you're running out of time.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

Particularly I understand that there's an issue with regard to the Highway 30 lands, and your community has encountered the issue of third-party encumbrances with that. I'm wondering if you can explain how this has affected negotiating your agreement.

4:10 p.m.

Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Debbie Morris

In order for us to move forward, the third parties would have to be satisfied, or their leases would have to be finished, or the farmers—because it is an agricultural area that we're talking about right now.... Until these pieces are gone and moved out of the way, we can't move forward.

Again, I have to refer to that small window of opportunity that we have. We're really hoping that this could be a success and that we could have employment for our people. As was mentioned earlier, we have some people who still do ironwork, and that is how income is brought into the community, but it's not the same as it used to be. My father was an ironworker, as was Clinton's and our grandfathers before them. But not as many people are able to do that type of work today.

4:10 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

I'm sure everybody is aware that Kahnawake just went through a referendum last week in regard to a casino, a yes or no vote. Unfortunately, it was a no, as I'm sure you're all aware, and that's difficult for me.

I've been involved in social services for 18 years as a board member of our social service organization. It's difficult for me to say, “I'm promoting a casino. I'm promoting addictions.” That's not the thing here. I was looking at economic prosperity for Kahnawake.

We had studies done because of our location, and it would have been on the ATR lands, on the outskirts, directly off Autoroute 30, because of the amount of traffic that flows through. Conservative studies came back of it being a $50-million profit in year one, and creating 900 jobs around the clock. We would have had to hire outside the reserve to facilitate all these positions.

So that $50 million plus was conservative. We were told that was very conservative. It was more like $80 million. And to know that's not coming through is difficult. It's a huge loss: the jobs; the revenue to the community, to the collective.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Chief.

Thank you, Mr. Wilks.

We'll turn to Ms. Bennett for seven minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Thanks very much.

Maybe I'll just continue there because I think some of these ATR issues are so difficult to understand. Talk to me about the truck stop or hotel, or whatever that might be. What would it take for you to be able to bid? Right now the land is in an ATR process. Have you bought the land? Or are you asking for it to be returned to you?