Evidence of meeting #52 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 million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Stephen Traynor  Director, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Natural Resources and Environment Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Janice Traynor  Environmental Policy Analyst, Environmental Policies and Studies, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Camille Vézina  Manager, Legislation and Policy, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Colleagues, I call this meeting to order.

This is the 52nd meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Colleagues, today we have the opportunity to hear from officials with regard to Bill C-47 for the first hour of discussion. Because of the truncated timeframes today, we have three opening statements, all of which are comprehensive, as is the nature of this bill. We will hear the opening statements, and then I believe these officials will return with the minister at our next meeting when the minister comes with regard to the bill because the minister is on deck for the next hour for supplementary estimates (B).

That's the way we'll operate, so we won't be asking questions. We will simply hear the opening statements and then we'll proceed in that way to keep us on track with our timeframe.

Today, colleagues, we have four officials: Ms. Vézina from Indian Affairs and Northern Development, as well as Janice Traynor and Stephen Traynor, and we have Tom Isaac from the Department of Justice.

We'll turn it over to you.

Stephen, we'll begin with you. As I said, you're off the hook in terms of questions today, but we'll have a couple of days to consider what we want to ask before we have you back, so it's a blessing and a curse.

I'll turn it over to you, Mr. Traynor.

4:05 p.m.

Stephen Traynor Director, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Natural Resources and Environment Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Good afternoon.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.

My name is Stephen Traynor, and I'm the director of resource policy and programs with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I had the distinct pleasure of directing the teams that put Bill C-47 together.

As you already know, Bill C-47, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, has two parts. Part 1 is the proposed Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which responds to the government's obligations under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act of 1993. Part 2 is the proposed Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and fulfills Canada's obligations under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement in the Northwest Territories. Both of these acts were developed in consultation with the relevant aboriginal groups and governments in accordance with our legal obligations.

I have with me today the team leaders in charge of the preparation of these bills, Ms. Janice Traynor and Ms. Camille Vézina. Also accompanying us today is Mr. Tom Isaac, legal counsel.

With the committee's indulgence, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask each in turn to provide an overview of the operation of each part of the bill, an undertaking that might take about 10 minutes each.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

We'll now turn to Ms. Traynor for her opening statement.

4:05 p.m.

Janice Traynor Environmental Policy Analyst, Environmental Policies and Studies, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to provide an overview of part 1 of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act today, the proposed Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act. This part sets out in federal statutes the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board and formally defines the powers, duties, and functions of these two boards. As Mr. Traynor pointed out, this bill meets a legislative obligation of the Government of Canada under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

You'll recall that this historic agreement, signed nearly 20 years ago between the federal government and the Inuit of the Nunavut settlement area, enabled Parliament to create Nunavut as an official territory in 1999. The Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board have operated under the provisions of the agreement since 1996. What Bill C-47 does is provide greater detail and therefore increased certainty about the functions of these two bodies. Most notably, the bill provides for a one-window entry point for development projects in Nunavut.

Here's how the two boards under Bill C-47 work.

The Nunavut Planning Commission prepares land use plans that are to guide and direct resource use and development and provide for both the conservation and use of lands in the Nunavut settlement area. The commission consults on the development of the draft plan, reviews it with the public, and then submits it for approval to the governments of Canada and Nunavut and the Inuit. The plan is in effect once it has the approval of all three parties.

With respect to individual project proposals, all prospective resource development projects in Nunavut will enter the planning and review process through the Nunavut Planning Commission. Project proponents are responsible for determining whether their project's activity meets the definition of a project under the act. If proponents deem their projects to be subject to the act, the proponents submit their project proposals to the Nunavut Planning Commission. The commission then determines if a land use plan applies to the area in which the project is located. If so, the commission judges whether the project conforms to the plan. All project proposals prepared by proponents such as mining companies must conform to their respective land use plans before they can go any further in the review and approval process.

As long as the project conforms to any applicable land use plan, the commission verifies whether it is on a schedule of projects exempt from screening by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. If the project is exempt, the commission judges whether it has concerns about the project's cumulative effects in the region. The commission sends the project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for screening if the commission has concerns about cumulative impacts or if the project is not exempt from screening. The commission can grant minor variances to projects that do not conform to land use plans, or proponents can seek a ministerial exemption from conforming to a land use plan.

The commission must complete its work on each project within 45 days. The 45-day clock begins, once again, once the Nunavut Impact Review Board begins its work to screen a project proposal. The Nunavut Impact Review Board screens project proposals to determine if a project requires a review due to potential adverse impacts caused by the proposed development or because of public concern. If the board deems that a public review is required, the relevant ministers must decide within 90 days if the review should be conducted by the board or by a federal panel chosen by the Minister of Environment. All federal panels include members nominated by Inuit and the Government of Nunavut.

After the Nunavut Impact Review Board conducts a public review and prepares the review report for a project, the relevant ministers must decide within 150 days whether a project should proceed and whether to accept, reject, or vary any terms and conditions recommended in the report. The relevant ministers, however, must decide within 90 days if a report is deficient and must go back to the board for further consideration.

If a federal panel conducts a review, the relevant ministers must decide within 240 days whether a project should proceed and whether to accept, reject, or vary any terms and conditions recommended in the report. Within this time period, the ministers must seek the approval of their decision from the Governor in Council if the project was sent to the federal panel because it involved a matter of national interest.

If the responsible minister's decision is positive, the boards must prepare, within 30 days, a project certificate that sets out the terms and conditions of the project. Federal and territorial regulators must then make sure the terms and conditions described in the certificate are implemented in permits and licences. Enforcement provisions help ensure these terms and conditions are respected, especially as they apply to protecting the environment.

As I pointed out, Mr. Chairman, several timelines exist at key decision points in the process. These timelines help speed the consideration of projects and improve predictability and certainty for investors without jeopardizing environmental protection. In addition, federal panels and institutions of neighbouring jurisdictions may jointly review projects that cross territorial boundaries.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board can also review projects situated outside the territory if these projects might have adverse effects within the Nunavut settlement area.

With respect to resource developments that are now under way, Bill C-47 ensures that these projects can transition seamlessly to this new process by empowering the Nunavut Planning Commission to use existing land use plans and take into consideration existing rights, and by the Nunavut Impact Review Board continuing its assessment of projects that are in the process when the act comes into force under the rules that were in place when the project proposal was submitted.

In walking the committee through the process, I hope I've shed some light on how Bill C-47 enshrines in law a transparent process that is easily understood by all participants, sets out fair rules for developers, and establishes timelines for our environmental assessment decisions that will result in the process not exceeding 24 months for the board and the relevant ministers to make their decisions.

To recap, the bill establishes a single-entry, one-project—one-assessment method that simplifies the regulatory process, improves the likelihood that reviews will be carried out expeditiously and transparently, and, we believe, makes it possible for Inuit, the territorial government, and the federal government to cooperate to manage resources and lands in Nunavut in a clear and predictable manner.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

We'll turn now to Ms. Vézina for an opening statement as well.

4:10 p.m.

Camille Vézina Manager, Legislation and Policy, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm pleased to provide an overview of the operation of part 2 of Bill C-47, the proposed Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act. This part is as important for what it doesn't do as for what it does, as we'll see.

As Mr. Traynor noted, establishing the board fulfills the Government of Canada's obligations under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board.

The establishment of the board is also consistent with the terms and the spirit of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement, the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit Final Agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit lands to reach adjacent lands will be replaced when a law of general application, such as this act, is enacted.

Once established, the surface rights board will provide a single mechanism to resolve access disputes for the entire Northwest Territories.

It must be iterated that the surface rights board is being established as a tool of last resort. Its real efficacy stems from its mere presence, which provides the impetus for parties to negotiate agreements themselves.

As stated in proposed section 9 of the act, the board will consist of no fewer than five and no more than nine members, plus five alternates, and all members and alternates will be appointed by the minister. There is no nomination process contemplated in the bill, as there is no requirement for nominations in the land claims agreements; however, that does not preclude the minister from making a call for nominations or individuals from writing to the minister suggesting a candidate for board membership.

In accordance with proposed section 13, while appointing members and alternate members, the minister is required to appoint members who are residents of the Northwest Territories. Also in accordance with that same section, when dealing with a dispute related to a specific settlement area, the panel hearing the dispute will be composed of a panel of three, at least one of whom will be a resident of the particular settlement area, as is required in the land claims agreements.

Further, when appointing members for particular settlement areas, the minister must appoint members who have considerable knowledge in respect of the lands, the environment, or aboriginal traditional knowledge relating to the settlement area, a requirement which was added as an accommodation measure.

What specifically will the new Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board do, Mr. Chairman? The board is authorized to resolve disputes between holders of surface or subsurface rights and the owner or occupant of surface lands when agreement on terms, conditions, and compensation for access cannot be reached by the parties in question. The board will have jurisdiction to resolve access disputes throughout the Northwest Territories.

In accordance with proposed sections 56 and 71, when setting out the terms and conditions, the board would consider matters such as times when the right of access may be exercised, the location and route of access, the number of individuals who may exercise the right of access, activities that may be carried out, and equipment that may be used. The board also has the power to determine compensation for unforeseen damages that result from access, to award costs, and to periodically review or terminate access orders.

As indicated, the board will have jurisdiction over disputes that involve surface and subsurface rights. Surface rights are rights associated with land that relate to the ability of the owner or occupant to use and enjoy the land. Subsurface rights are typically mineral or oil and gas rights, often held by the crown, which are granted to third parties through other acts of Parliament.

Usually landowners enjoy surface rights but do not own subsurface rights. Landowners or third parties can obtain mineral rights or oil and gas rights from the crown through an act of Parliament, such as the Territorial Lands Act or the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. When the crown grants subsurface rights to a mining company, for instance, these rights include a right of access to the land to exercise the mineral rights.

In some cases, however, land claim agreements establish ownership of surface and subsurface rights. In these cases, aboriginal groups with settled claims may have full ownership, both surface and subsurface, of specific portions of land in their settlement areas.

The board has no jurisdiction in cases in which aboriginal groups enjoy ownership of surface and subsurface rights, except to resolve disputes related to access across those lands for commercial purposes. The board does, however, have jurisdiction in cases in which an aboriginal group has ownership of surface rights but the crown holds the rights to the subsurface. In these cases, the board replaces the interim arbitration measures related to access in the four land claim agreements.

I want to ensure that I have been very clear and that there is no confusion: the board has no power to grant rights, whether mineral, oil, or gas rights.

The Canada Petroleum Resources Act sets out the process for issuing oil and gas rights throughout Canada, including the north.

Mining regulations in the Territorial Lands Act outline the process for staking mineral claims and establishing mineral rights. Regulations in that act also establish the Mining Recorder's Office, the body responsible for recording claims and issuing prospecting licences and permits.

The Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board will make access orders related only to terms, conditions, and compensation only after such rights have been issued, and only after an access agreement cannot be negotiated by the parties and one or both have made proper application to the board.

This leads me to how the board will deal with the applications it receives. As l've stated already, a proponent of resource development would have a right of access granted under an act of Parliament, such as the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. If the right of access is subject to consent of a landowner, such as a designated organization on aboriginal-owned land, the proponent must negotiate for access with the landowner as holder of surface rights.

If the two parties cannot reach an agreement after negotiations, either of them may apply to the board for an access order. The board will review the application to ensure that in accordance with board rules, the parties have attempted to resolve the matter in dispute by negotiation in good faith, and the application is within its jurisdiction. If the application is within its jurisdiction and negotiations between the two parties have been conducted or attempted in good faith, the board will be required to accept the application.

In accordance with proposed section 42, the board will convene a panel of three members to hear the application, unless the parties consent to a one-member panel. A one-member panel could be requested by the parties if an accelerated process is desired.

The panel will conduct a hearing and then issue an access order. The panel is required to take into account any factors and materials it considers relevant when it sets out terms, conditions, and compensation. When determining terms and conditions, the panel may include any that are appropriate to minimize damage to or the peaceful enjoyment of land.

With respect to compensation, the panel considers factors such as market value, loss of use, cultural attachment, effects on wildlife harvesting, damage, nuisance, and inconvenience.

After receiving an order, a proponent is able to exercise its right of access in a manner consistent with the terms and conditions set out in the order and any other requirements set out in other acts of Parliament or land claim agreements.

A party to an order is also permitted to apply to the board for a review. During the review, the board has the authority to amend an order in an appropriate manner if it determines that a material change in the facts or circumstances relating to the order has occurred.

Keep in mind that the board is the final decision-maker. No mechanism exists to enable parties to appeal an order. However, orders of the board may always be judicially reviewed by a court.

An order of the board may also be made an order of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories once a certified copy of it is filed with the court, making it enforceable in the same way an order of the court is.

That's how the specific provisions of Bill C-47 will apply in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Chairman.

I want to conclude by emphasizing that Bill C-47 will not create or take away any rights or create an additional arbitration process. It will simply replace arbitration measures related to access that were intended as interim measures in land claim agreements. It will provide a single board and a well-defined process for resolving access disputes in the Northwest Territories. Bill C-47 is consistent with the applicable land claim agreements, and the process it establishes will be, and will be perceived as, fair and equitable.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

I want to thank all four of you for coming and all three of you for your opening statements. We will welcome you back at our next meeting. I'm hopeful that you'd be able to attend with the minister so that we might be able to ask for any clarifications that the committee members would wish.

Committee members, we have just a few minutes before the minister will be showing up, so we'll suspend the meeting for the next five minutes and then return when the minister arrives.

The meeting is suspended.

4:33 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Colleagues, I call this meeting back to order.

For our second order of business today, colleagues, we have the minister here and we want to thank him for joining us today.

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), under supplementary estimates (B), we are today considering votes 1b, 10b, and 25b under Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and under Health we are considering vote 35b.

Minister , we'll turn it over to you for your opening statement and, as is our custom here, we will then begin our rounds of questioning.

Thanks again for being with us. We appreciate it.

We turn the meeting over to you.

4:33 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Chair. I'm happy to speak to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada supplementary estimates (B) for fiscal year 2012-13. The investments included in the supplementary estimates are part of the Government of Canada's overall strategy to address the needs of first nations, northerners, Métis, and non-status Indians. Essentially they reflect decisions taken in the March budget that could not be reflected in the main estimates.

I'd like to share with you details about a very few items listed in the supplementary estimates (B).

Overall, they provide the department with an additional $468.9 million. Safe and clean drinking water is vital to the health and safety of every Canadian, and that is why improving access to safe drinking water on-reserve is a priority for our government.

Through these estimates we are investing an additional $136.5 million this year to continue to support the implementation of the first nations water and waste water action plan, as announced in Budget 2012.

These funds are part of our government's comprehensive long-term plan to improve on-reserve water and waste water systems. This plan is based on three pillars: enhanced capacity building and operator training, enforceable standards and protocols, and infrastructure investments. These funds contribute directly to this long-term plan by reducing risk levels and improving access to safe, clean water on reserve.

More specifically, these funds will go towards operations and maintenance of water and waste water systems, training of first nations water and waste water operators, water and waste water infrastructure projects, and program operations.

The second-largest item included in these estimates, $125.6 million, will support the continued implementation of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. This agreement is a court-administered settlement agreed to by multiple parties, including legal counsel for former residential school students and the Assembly of First Nations. It is intending to bring a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian residential schools.

These funds were used to address the higher than anticipated number of applications and the complexity of cases. This money was used to process applications for both the common experience payment and claims for the independent assessment process.

An additional $124 million will be invested this year for the Indian residential schools settlement allotment for independent assessment process compensation payments. This was largely due to our very successful outreach effort, through which 98% of former residential school survivors, including individuals in remote communities, were contacted about this settlement process. The government will continue to honour its obligations under this historic agreement.

These estimates also include $7.4 million to support commemoration initiatives under the agreement.

I was honoured to dedicate a stained glass window in the Centre Block just last week, here on Parliament Hill, above the House of Commons members' entrance. The window is a visible reminder of the legacy of Indian residential schools. It's also a window to a future founded on reconciliation and respect.

In the past few months, by working in partnership with first nations, we have made significant investments and progress on policy and legislative initiatives that clearly demonstrate this government's commitment to making real progress on issues that matter to aboriginal peoples and northerners.

One of these issues is education. Budget 2012 committed to fund, over three years, $100 million for early literacy programming and other education supports and services, and $175 million to build and renovate on-reserve schools.

Building on these commitments, a total of $45 million for 2012-13 is included in supplementary estimates (B) and is allocated towards the development of systems and supports to ensure readiness for first nation education legislation and the construction or renovation of schools on-reserve.

Of this amount, $20 million went towards the 2012-13 call for proposals for the first nation student success program and the education partnerships program. The first nation student success program funds special projects for schools that enhance first nations students' K-12 education on-reserve. Special projects can include funding for early literacy programming, special math training, and so on.

The education partnership program supports tripartite partnerships between the province, first nation schools, and educational organizations.

Another $25 million will be applied to accelerate the construction and renovation of schools on-reserve, including funds for the feasibility study for new schools in Fort Severn, Pikangikum, and Tl'etinqox-t'in first nations.

Turning to the north, meeting the needs of northerners remains a high priority for this government and that is why with these estimates we are investing $5.9 million to continue the diamond valuation and royalty assessment program. It ensures northerners continue to benefit from the royalties associated with diamond production in their region.

Recently we launched the Nutrition North Canada food retail subsidy program on April 1, 2011, which is intended to improve access to healthy, perishable foods for the residents of eligible northern communities. Subsequently northerners asked for changes to be made to the non-perishable list so that this subsidy could go directly toward perishable items such as fresh bread, vegetables, milk, and meat. We responded to these requests, and in October of 2012 the final list of commodities eligible for subsidies was fully implemented.

We've also implemented accountability measures for retailers and suppliers, and audits confirm that they are complying with the program. Data gathered from retailers registered with the program shows that prices have dropped by as much as 37% on some products, and there's been an 8% drop in the cost of the northern food basket.

Ongoing communication, outreach, and nutrition education activities are key components of the program, and through the Nutrition North Canada advisory board we are continuing to engage with northerners in an ongoing dialogue about Nutrition North Canada. The supplementary estimates (B) includes $2.5 million to support the operations of the Nutrition North Canada program. These funds will be used in 2012-13 to meet the demand for subsidized healthy foods.

These initiatives are but a few examples of the concrete actions that support the government's goal of improving the quality of life for aboriginal peoples and northerners. I am confident that the investments included in the supplementary estimates (B) will lead to further progress for aboriginal people, northerners, and all Canadians.

Thank you, chair, and with that I'll do my best to answer any questions on the supplementary estimates that members of the committee might have.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much, minister.

Colleagues, I just wanted to point out that the Library of Parliament has provided us with a comprehensive document through our analysts that may be of some assistance in keeping colleagues' questions to the material at hand.

We'll begin now with Ms. Crowder, for up to seven minutes.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you.

I want to thank the minister for coming before the committee today, and I also want to acknowledge the very good document that was presented to us. It would actually be really nice if the minister would answer every question that is in that document.

Since the minister is only here for one hour and we have limited time, I'm going to pose four questions to the minister and I would appreciate it if answers to whatever questions the minister can't answer today could be supplied to the committee in writing.

First, on the first nations water and waste water, I noted in the research document supplied to us that the first nations water and waste water action plan, which ended on March 31, 2012, was actually not formally renewed, even though there is additional investment. In light of the national assessment report, is the department considering comprehensive additional investments, aside from what is allocated annually for increased capital expenditures, for on-reserve water and waste water, and if so, how much? If not, why not?

The second question I have has to do with the specific claims. I know the minister is well aware that there is a review process coming up next year. I know there is additional money under vote 10, but could the minister indicate what the difference is between a concluded claim and a settled claim?

On page 85 in the supplementary estimates (B) there is an indication of readiness for first nations education legislation. We know we already have one piece of first nations education legislation in British Columbia, and I wonder if any of that allocated money will be going toward funding the B.C. First Nations Education Act, because I understand that negotiations are still lagging.

My final question is the one that it would be useful for the minister to respond to today. I understand that on the disclosure of documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, currently $2.38 million in the budget is going in the supplementary estimates (B) from the department to the RCMP. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada interim report indicated there are various concerns around the delays, and I understand the commission has to finish its task by June 30, 2014. The minister in question period today indicated that these documents will be provided in 2013, but it wasn't clear on what date in 2013.

The commission has indicated that in order for them to meet their mandated obligations and enforce compliance of the parties' obligations to produce relevant documents, it's unlikely this document completion process will be completed without a significant shift in attitude on the part of Canada, and those parties have been reluctant to cooperate.

Minister, I wonder if you could start with the issue around the document release and perhaps tell us exactly and what efforts will be made, and when, in 2013 to accommodate the commission being able to meet its mandate by June of 2014.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Thank you very much.

Question 4 is the one you would like me to address first. I'm not trying to avoid your question, but I do have sitting beside me my representative on the truth and reconciliation all-party group that deals with this whole issue, so if you wouldn't mind, I'd like Deputy Minister Wernick to address this issue because he can do it much more comprehensively than I can.

4:45 p.m.

Michael Wernick Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Minister.

I'll try to be very short about it. We are providing documents as they are ready, in batches. Our undertaking to the commission is no later than next July, and we've offered many mechanisms for them to come over with researcher status and access documents they feel they need in order to do the report writing between now and the end of June.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Wernick, I understand there are some challenges with the digitization and all of that. Does that include that assistance?

4:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

No. Every document we turn over to them is digitized and tagged in a way that is conducive to search. I don't know if the churches are doing the same, but every federal document goes over digitized and tagged for searchability.

The question before the court is of the relevant scope of documents and what is appropriate to turn over to the commission in order for it to meet its mandate. We have, I think, a legitimate disagreement with them about the relevance of documents from the 2005 negotiations. We simply disagree with them that they need to see all the applications and decisions coming out of the adjudications that are now under way. There is no question that everything that's relevant up to the closing of the last school in 1996 they will get, and even everything up to the conclusion of the agreement in 2005 they will get.

We have tried to scrape some money together to help the other departments, as you see in these estimates. The other large document holders, because of the residential schools experience, were the RCMP and Health Canada. We are acting as the sort of orchestra leader to make sure all federal documents are turned over.

We've turned over a million documents already, and we will certainly be complete by next spring.