Evidence of meeting #36 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 shanks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:05 p.m.

As an Individual

Gordon Shanks

As I said earlier, that's absolutely critical. It's critical that people be given the opportunity for education. It's critical that communities, though, support the young people who want to get an education, so that they actually use it in the communities.

Unfortunately, sometimes—and this is not unique to first nations, but in many parts of the world—those who become more educated move to better opportunities rather than staying home and fixing the issues there. So you need to make sure you have an education strategy whereby students are doing things to benefit their community as well as themselves. Both are possible, and neither is a negative thing.

Without it, there's little chance. Without education, economic development is not really going to take hold. Any employment, particularly in the resource extraction business, now requires a high degree of education. This is not manual labour.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

We'll turn to Mr. Clarke now, for five minutes.

May 17th, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Shanks, for coming in today to testify.

One of the things we really noticed during our study and when we went on committee travel.... My portion of the travel was through Muskeg Lake, Whitecap, going to Westbank First Nation, Penticton, and then over to Osoyoos. And one of the main conclusions....

The theme of your paper is economic development. Chief Clarence Louie's main theme—and he was a strong proponent—was jobs, jobs, jobs, and keep people working, get them working, get them off the social assistance, and get them out of the Indian Act. He was quite passionate about that.

I'm reading your conclusion here on page 20. You indicated in one comment that “Serious effort should be undertaken to engage First Nations in defining success.” You point out—and other first nations leaders have stated this throughout at least 50 or 60 years—that the smothering culture of dependency to a positive, future-oriented culture of self-sufficiency.... You also indicated that “Governments at all levels must resist the long-standing urges to impose paternalistic solutions. Governments must find ways to break the ‘fiduciary grid-lock' to constructively engage and share risks with First Nations as partners.”

We're seeing a lot of that, such as in Westbank, where they're doing the box stores. We're seeing one first nation in Penticton just beginning the process of development. You see that in Osoyoos, where they have a very strong leader. You mentioned that one of the main principles for economic development is to have a strong governance. We see a strong leader and a governance of Westbank in place. They are becoming more economically independent. We heard witness testimony of $1.4 billion worth of assets in Westbank First Nations. That's a huge benefit to first nations.

We're seeing that mentality or that desire of other first nations to come through. We're seeing that testimony here today, or last week when we had first nations from northern Saskatchewan. They're purchasing TLE land. They're finding resources for development in the urban centres of Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Yorkton, throughout Saskatchewan. Some of them are actually partnering in other provinces as economic development.

What are first nations looking for in economic development, and how do they envision their success?

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Gordon Shanks

There's great variety in the answer to that question. Some first nations would see mainstream economic development as the ultimate solution to everything. There are other instances, though, in which first nations are not going to be having box stores and are not going to be leasing out subdivisions; they're just not located in places where that's going to happen.

But there are lots of opportunities still. You can imagine people getting into ecotourism or tourism in places where that's viable; you can imagine traditional building of various artifacts that can be developed. But in some instances, communities may decide that their future is really in urban centres, and if the people are educated and trained, and such, they may in fact decide that they're going to relocate over time. We shouldn't consider that a negative thing either.

I don't know whether there are any members here from Saskatchewan, but having grown up there, I know that we went through this: everybody left and went to other places. The regions are stronger as a result of it, and nobody lost.

So I think first nations may well take that on as well.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I'm just wondering what types of questions government should be asking first nations communities in order to support emerging first nations economies.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Gordon Shanks

I guess what first nations leaders would tell you is “Ask us. Don't decide on your own and then come and tell us what you've decided is your policy.” That tends still to be the way it works, rather than what you're doing, which may be the right thing. You're actually talking to the first nations and asking, what is it you need; what's going to work for you?

Very often, if you're not living the day-to-day circumstances, you don't really have the key insights. You can come up with some broad-brush types of things, but it's the leadership that is going to be able to say what they actually need and what's going to work. You're talking to the people who have succeeded, and they're going to give you some good insights, I'm sure.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Chair, I still have one question, if you don't mind.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You're out of time; you're over by a minute now.

If there are additional questions, we have time, but I know that some of you are trying to get out to flights, so I'm getting a sense that people want to get moving.

Mr. Shanks, we thank you so much for being here today. We certainly appreciate your testimony and your insight. This will be a complement to the report we read that you wrote, and this certainly is supplementary to what we've heard from previous delegations, so thanks very much.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Gordon Shanks

Thank you very much.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

The meeting is adjourned.