Evidence of meeting #9 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 treaties.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patrick Borbey  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Jim Barkwell  Associate Director General, Negotiations - West, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Perry Billingsley  Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Stephen Gagnon  Director General, Implementation Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

Mr. Payne, for five minutes.

October 27th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for my questions and comments through you to the witnesses.

First of all, I'd like to welcome all of you here today.

It's nice to see you again, Patrick.

I was quite interested in page 10 of your presentation to us. You talked about emerging evidence on aboriginal groups and self-government, and particularly the outcomes, more so in terms of the impact assessment on aboriginal self-government. You talked about first nations having better education and better employment and labour force outcomes, and certainly that's all part of the economic piece that I think most of our committee is very interested in moving forward with.

Could you give us a little more detail on how you see the differences in education, labour, and those kinds of outcomes?

12:40 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

Thank you for that question. It's certainly exciting for us to see this kind of emerging evidence, because it does take some time. We're starting to see it through the combination of evaluation work done by the department and work done in Perry's shop on the impact assessment. I'm going to turn to him in a second.

I'll just let you know that we need a few more months to be able to ensure that all of that work is finalized and translated. Our intention, really, is to share it as broadly as possible and make it available to the committee and to the public at large, because I think it's important evidence to put out there. It's not yet conclusive evidence but it certainly gives you those kinds of key indicators.

I'll turn to Perry.

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Perry Billingsley

What we try to do with the impact assessment is look at something that is similar to the United Nations human development index. We looked at education and a number of indicators on labour force participation rates, on unemployment and employment, because those two differ, and we did find and have found on a couple of occasions significant improvements and significant differences between self-governing first nations and, essentially, status Indians residing on reserve.

We used Statistics Canada data. Our objective is to have this as publicly available as possible. In fact, we would like a university to pick up this exercise so that we can get more solid understanding of what's going on.

So these are the indicators, but I'm always very cautious. What's the old expression? Correlation isn't causation.

But one of the things, if we think about what's going on, is that it has to do with communities making decisions for themselves, combined with.... Communities that have self-government agreements have a greater voice in terms of cooperation with the communities that surround them and in their relationships with provincial and territorial governments and the federal government.

It's not always easy. It doesn't always go well. We've had some pretty tough negotiations with self-governing communities, but they get to make decisions at their own pace in respect to their own priorities, building on and aiming towards their own goals. We think that's what makes the difference. It's not our policy: it's the communities making the decisions.

12:40 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

Some of it is also qualitative. I was talking to Chief Kim Baird earlier this week and I asked her about post-secondary education. She was very proud to report that they had 15 or 16 applicants this year for funding for post-secondary and they could fund almost all of them. I asked her what the situation was before the treaty and she said they were lucky if they ever had three on an annual basis. It doesn't sound like a lot, but for a community like that to have three times the number of people going through post-secondary education and hopefully coming back to their community to contribute and build capacity, it's huge for her. She's very proud of that ,and we're proud of it as well.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

It sounds very positive. Do you have any data that you could share with us about the economic outputs? That would certainly be beneficial for me and for the other members of the committee.

12:45 p.m.

Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Perry Billingsley

We're in the process of translating our latest impact assessment, so once that's accomplished, we'd be happy to share it with as many people as possible. We'll be posting it on our website as well.

12:45 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

In fact, we'd like to see if we could have a symposium of some sort to bring people from various universities, first nations, and aboriginal groups together to talk about it and interpret and debate it, to have not just us as public servants, who are probably a little bit biased, debate it, but to have other people debate it, come to certain conclusions, and do further work and further research.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

I think those are very important steps you're taking. They will certainly be beneficial to all those who are intending to go into that process.

Do I have any time left?

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

No. I was just going to cut you off.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Chair.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

That's great. These questions are always longer than we expect. It's problematic when the member spends half their time asking the question. We understand that this is our own problem. This is not a dig at any member. I know it's a challenge to keep the question short so the answer can fit into the time allotted.

Mr. Bevington, for five minutes.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Another issue that keeps coming back to me from land claims groups is this issue of mandate with regard to the negotiators. People are sitting around a table trying to come up with some answers to these particular issues at the table, and they do, and then somebody doesn't have the mandate to complete that answer. Is there some work being done to ensure that we get a little more orderly progress in terms of those mandates?

12:45 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

It's a good question and it does come up a lot. Sophie Pierre's report certainly does allude to this.

It's important to understand that our overall mandates are guided by the policies. The comprehensive claims policy, the B.C. treaty process, which has its own legislation, and the inherent right policy. That's the overall framework we have to operate in. We have to ensure a certain amount of consistency across the country in the application of that framework.

But the actual mandates are approved by cabinet. These are provided by cabinet to the negotiator. These are cabinet confidence documents. I know that people have suggested that we should be transparent in sharing our mandates. It's not a good recipe for negotiations when your cards are on the table, so we can't do that. Our negotiators have their mandate, they know what their marching orders are, and they know they can go this far but not beyond that.

That does create that kind of dynamic at the negotiating table, but the first nations in the province or territory also have their mandates provided by their authorities, and they also have to stay within them. So finding that right point of fulcrum between our mandates is not always easy. In some cases, what comes back to the table is slightly different, and we need to have some interpretations and adjustments. I agree that sometimes this takes too long in terms of our consultations.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Is it a practice of the department to reduce the land and money quantum after an offer has been made?