Evidence of meeting #37 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 first.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michael Anderson  Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

The ministerial order is a step that removes a considerable period of time consideration. I repeat again that most of the acres that have moved are ready to move. They're remote, there are no mining claims, and there are no hydro easements. You basically send a survey crew out, survey them, and get the survey photo mosaics authorized by the first nation. You get it named by the first nation, and then it goes through the process to be set aside. For those sites the change in statute to ministerial order has sped up the conversion to reserve, but for the ones that are hung up, it's not having the same kind of effect.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

You're talking about some land with difficulties, but what would you say the challenges are right now?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

I think reasoned minds getting together to methodically go through the parcels that are in limbo would be of some value right now. That might need some senior policy assistance to say, “This is the decision we're going to take, this is the decision we're going to live with, and let's move on”.

Brokenhead First Nation had several sites that Hydro claimed were affected by hydro development on the Winnipeg River. They were a considerable distance away, and they eventually got Hydro to drop that claim, and so forth. Try to speed up getting those blockages, where reasonable persons acting with information can actually make some decisions and ask whether we can move on.

That was the intent of the TLE working group that the late Minister Lathlin had established in response to the joint commitment of the two ministers. That working group didn't continue the sort of energetic engagement in identifying parcels and concerns, figuring out who was responsible for the concern, who had the concern, who could resolve the concern, and how we could get there. So that site-by-site process has sort of unravelled. I would strongly suggest that it be reinvigorated. I thought it was doing some good work.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

At what stage do you find these things mostly take place—these challenges or things that are slowing down the process?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

Interestingly, in many cases with the sites that are the most troublesome the issues arose at a very early stage after selection in the various correspondence back and forth, including from the province. Some of them, for example the departmental concerns regarding the pre-transferred use of lands, arose considerably afterwards.

As far as one of the issues, under the TLE framework agreement a very important provision is that the 1991 additions to reserve policy are grandfathered, so there's an agreement that Canada will not change the ATR after entering into the May 29, 1997, TLE framework agreement. So the rules then will continue going forward.

A considerable amount of time and effort has been invested in resolving concerns that both government parties have come up with after signing the framework agreement. Pre-transfer uses of lands is one big one that Canada came up with. Then this new set of rules for easement lands that Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro are pressing have taken up a considerable amount of time.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Pardon me. I hate to interrupt.

Thank you, Mr. Seeback.

We'll turn to Mr. Genest-Jourdain, for five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Good afternoon, Mr. Anderson.

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

I was particularly interested in the part of your statement where you spoke about...

Can you hear me well?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

I was particularly interested in your statement that the members of aboriginal communities are not included in decision-making bodies and the upper echelons of industry, especially in relation to the development of industry and of resources on traditional lands.

I am a native of a northern Quebec community on the 52nd parallel. Over the years, I have also observed that the deterioration of the social fabric was related to the encroachment of industry on our territory. I would like to know your position on that and in particular, I would like you to give us some idea of the situation in Manitoba.

5:05 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

The legacy issues related to large-scale developments and first nations land are deep and profound. There are elders in some of our communities who have not gone back to their traditional territories where their former homes were because it would literally break their hearts.

I know that companies have some difficulty in understanding how this could persist for more than one generation, but the elders and community members feel that many of the legacy issues are not resolved because they're not resolvable. There's an irreversible adverse effect to changing river systems, water regimes. The seasonal flow of water has been completely reversed. The water is high in the winter when it used to be low, and so forth.

However, having said that, the first nations are insisting, even those who are partners in new development.... For example, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation is a 33% equity owner of Wuskwatim, and the Cree Nation partners are collectively a 25% equity owner of the new Keeyask generating station.

There's actually an interesting tension between even their partner, Hydro, and the first nations. There's this thought that when you're a partner in a project you move on; you've accepted what's happened before. But the elders and the community members are insisting on keeping the current impacts and those legacy concerns as equally front and centre as their partnership in building the project. Every step that's taken has to reconcile, to heal, those past impacts.

In Stoney Cree, it would be, Kwayaskonikiwin—to achieve balance. So the elders are insisting that ceremonies be done, that recognition be done, to not forget what happened and move forward.

The impacts of the past developments are around everyone every day. The communities insist that be recognized.

May 29th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

What is the turnover like? If I understood what you said correctly, training is given to members of the communities. That also goes on in the communities. ERAs, impact and benefits agreements are concluded with the companies. Training is planned, and a percentage of jobs have to be set aside for the communities.

However, the fact remains that there is quite a high turnover rate among the employees from the communities. That phenomenon is linked among other things to the deterioration of the fabric, that is to say that the company managers claim that the employees are not reliable. They claim that Indians from the community do not turn up once the cheque has been issued. Are the same claims made in your area? Does industry put these things out there in order to justify a constant turnover among the aboriginal workers?

5:10 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

There are circumstances that are very similar in our communities, partly because of isolation, lack of support for workers when they're in camps, and so on. The agreements are attempting to provide support for workers and to adapt their work schedules so their lives and their communities, including their harvesting activity, can be accommodated in their employment on the projects. It still has a long way to go.

On the Wuskwatim project, there was what was described as cross-cultural training, which the first nation was responsible for. Interestingly, when you took a tour of the Wuskwatim project and you came through the plant gate, you would be handed a list of the customary law principles of the Cree Nation as they would apply to the construction of a hydro station. Then, if you were working in that plant, all of this would be explained to you—how the project was inherently inconsistent with the customary law but that all of these other activities would be undertaken to try to reconcile it.

In terms of our workers, it's very important that there be support for them—for counselling, for assistance with their communities. If people are at a distance for long periods of time from their families, particularly if they're from remote communities, it is apparent to employers that those persons are less reliable than others. But they have a different cultural outlook on time and seasons and community needs, and their families' needs. We're trying to grow the resource industry to match the expectations of our citizens.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

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