Evidence of meeting #15 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was trail.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Peter Dinsdale  Chief Operating Officer, Assembly of First Nations
  • David MacKenzie  Deputy Minister, Department of Tourism and Culture with Senior Responsibility for Prince Edward Island's 150th Anniversary, Government of Prince Edward Island
  • Deborah Apps  President and Chief Executive Officer, Trans Canada Trail
  • Paul LaBarge  Chair, Trans Canada Trail

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

As we continue our study on Canada's 150th birthday, we're very pleased to have a panel that I think will bring a lot to the table when it comes to our discussion.

We welcome Peter Dinsdale, who is the chief operating officer for the Assembly of First Nations.

We have with us David MacKenzie, who is the deputy minister, Department of Tourism and Culture, with senior responsibility for Prince Edward Island's 150th anniversary. That's certainly a perspective we're interested in hearing about.

Thank you for being here, David.

We have with us Deborah Apps, president and chief executive officer of the Trans Canada Trail, and Paul LaBarge, chair of the Trans Canada Trail. Paul has some experiences that we know will be relevant to our study that we were just discussing.

Welcome to our panel. You will each be given 10 minutes for your opening remarks,. Then we'll go into a question and answer period. We'll go in the order that appears on our agenda and start with Peter Dinsdale, from the Assembly of First Nations.

Go ahead, Peter.

8:50 a.m.

Peter Dinsdale Chief Operating Officer, Assembly of First Nations

Thank you very much.

Thank you to all the committee members for inviting the Assembly of First Nations to present today on behalf of the national chief, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, and the entire executive. Again, we are very honoured to be here and to have the opportunity to share some perspectives.

As you know, hopefully, the Assembly of First Nations is the national and political representative of first nations governments and citizens across the country. Our role is not to act as a government; we're clearly not a government. We're an advocacy body on behalf of first nations and are directed by them as to what areas they want us to be responsible for. We try to harmonize and coordinate as best as we can. There is a wide range of diversity across the country, as I'm sure you can appreciate.

This conversation on Canada's 150th anniversary comes at an important time, I think, with respect to our position, the first nations position in Canada. It has been around seven generations since Confederation started, and in many aboriginal cultures, including mine--I'm from Curve Lake First Nation--seven generations is an important cultural touchstone. We try to think seven generations into the future in all the decisions we make and in regard to what impact we'll have on those generations, and we try to guide our planning and priorities appropriately.

So it has been seven generations since Confederation began and, as you know, our collective joint histories have taken many turns throughout this history. Really, it started off as an economic relationship. By no means were there embassies of peace and friendship sent across the ocean: they were looking for trade missions and wealth to bring back. Our first relationship was very much an economic one.

Quickly, as our history unfolded, it turned into a military relationship, where there was some antagonism and some support. Without the first nations in the War of 1812, we probably would be American right now. We probably would not be Canadian, in all honesty. So I think there's an important joint history there that we've shared in developing this country together.

Then we have this idea of treaties, of treaty building and nation building across the country. Some would argue that it was to open up more economic development and westward expansion, and some would argue that it was a broader vision. I think that's a part of our reflection upon 150 years of Canada as a country.

Then we move to darker times of assimilation, where first nations were no longer needed economically. They were no longer needed militarily. They were no longer needed as joint partners in Confederation; now they were challenge and a burden to the rest of the country. The famous Duncan Campbell Scott killed “the Indian in the child”. Residential schools, the banning of ceremonies of potlatch, and determining who was an Indian through federal legislation, which still exists today, are all part of the first 150 years.

It really seems that why it's important that this conversation is happening today is that we're starting to have a bit of a switch into maybe more of a recovery aspect. We had an historic apology in the House of Commons on the residential school issue. Canada has recently endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out a pretty broad framework with respect to how to partner with first nations, with indigenous peoples around the world and, in particular, the first nations here in Canada.

This conversation today also comes on the heels of The National's lead story last night about Attawapiskat and the horrific infrastructure that exists there today. This committee is not struck to get to the bottom of Attawapiskat or any of those infrastructure issues on first nations, but you need to reflect that it's a part of the legacy of 150 years of partnership in Canada. If we do nothing else here today, it would be wonderful to be able to set in force some kind of movement so that 150 years from now, at some committee celebrating the 300th anniversary of Canada, we're not reflecting upon shameful conditions in first nations communities across the country.

To contextualize this existing relationship, it is all based, in our view, on treaties. They really were, in our view, the fundamental principles of a nation-to-nation relationship between original peoples in this country and the crown. The early treaty-making of course is characterized by shared and clear objectives around coordination and today I think we should try to find mechanisms that actively reflect that nature and spirit of cooperation and working together.

We've talked a little about our long history of interference in this trust with each other, and how I think this comes at an important time, because we may be turning the corner on that. There are unique opportunities for this committee and the Department of Canadian Heritage, frankly, in the short term, and to maybe set a tone in the long term for how we work together.

We've always had an ambitious agenda for change, particularly always in self-determination and wanting to govern our own communities and affairs, but our self-determination is firmly grounded in language, culture, and traditional decision-making processes, all of which are mandates of Canadian Heritage outside of this particular study you're doing today.

There are things we can do in a more immediate sense. We can support first nation languages. You know, we spend more in Canada supporting primarily European art forms of ballet, dance, and things of that nature than we do on supporting and maintaining the first languages of this continent, which are going to be lost forever if they disappear. That's something important to reflect upon on Canada's 150th birthday, and something this department can do.

We can look at developing curricula for all schools that provide full and clear histories of first nations with respect to treaties and those relationships that we have.

We can have sustained support for first nation artists and the kind of work they do to help tell those stories, to help believe in the revival in communities and really to help be that first wave of change.

You can support full recognition and commemoration of first nations in this country in Canada's 150th anniversary. One of our leading elders all across the nation, Elder William Commanda from Kitigan Zibi, passed away recently. He had a real vision for Victoria Island being a gathering place in the nation's capital, an important touchstone, ceremonially and also in the commemoration aspect, which is something that this committee could get behind as well.

We could create a hall of leaders to recognize the contribution of first nation leaders across this country.

There could be an indigenous peoples library, both real and virtual, to catalogue and consolidate historical contributions that indigenous peoples have made to this country moving forward.

So Canada at 150 is an opportunity to share and fully support first nation peoples and an understanding of their histories and supports of this country. I think that through supporting those histories, perspectives, and aspirations we can support the way forward to ensure that the next seven generations have a much better path than the previous generations.

Thank you very much

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Peter, for your presentation.

Next is David MacKenzie.

Go ahead, David.

8:55 a.m.

David MacKenzie Deputy Minister, Department of Tourism and Culture with Senior Responsibility for Prince Edward Island's 150th Anniversary, Government of Prince Edward Island

On September 1, 1996, Parliament declared Charlottetown the birthplace of Confederation, and if Parliament said it, it must be true.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's really a pleasure to be here in front of this committee. I've had some counterparts speak to you over the last month or so and I was very envious of their ability to get in, so thanks very much.

I'd also like to thank you for bringing this group together at the table, because Peter, Deborah, Paul, and I have had a chance to connect, and we're also exploring ways to work together as we think about 2014 and how it connects to 2017.

Prince Edward Island is extremely proud of the fact that Charlottetown was declared the birthplace of Confederation, so much so that we have a lot of “Confederations”. We have the Confederation Centre of the Arts, the Confederation Trail, the Confederation Bridge, the Confederation Centre Children's Choir, Confederation Lincoln Mercury, and Confederation Realty. You name it, we have Confederation on it.

In fact, as many of you know, the Confederation Centre of the Arts was opened on September 1, 1964. It was Canada's national gift for the meeting of Confederation 100 years before in Charlottetown. I am honoured to have been the centre's CEO for the last 10 years.

Fifty years later, plans are afoot in P.E.I. to showcase the role that Prince Edward Island played in nation building, and I'd like to share a little bit about that with you.

In August of this year, the provincial and federal governments agreed to form a company called Prince Edward Island 2014 Inc., of which I was president and CEO for about three months before I moved into the deputy minister role. However, I retain some of my responsibilities.

The vision of that organization and the partners is to create an unforgettable 150th anniversary year in 2014 that will serve as the catalyst for the sesquicentennial of Confederation in 2017. It will unify, inspire, and serve as a source of pride for Prince Edward Island and for the country.

There are five pillars of activity that have been outlined in the draft plan being presented through a series of public engagement pieces, starting on Thursday. They include celebration, which is the party side of any anniversary. That's really important for people. I know that you've talked to Peter Aykroyd and Helen Davies, and they both talked about the importance of celebrations to the public.

There's also commemoration: creating stamps and coins for 2014, public awards, and public recognition.

Hosting is an important element. The first ministers conference will be held in September 2014 in P.E.I. We've challenged every organization, every group, every minister, and all federal counterparts to bring their conferences and meetings to P.E.I. in 2014. We also met just last week with people from the Juno Awards, the Canadian Country Music Awards, and the Gemini Awards. We're negotiating with the East Coast Music Awards about being in Prince Edward Island that year. That's the hosting side of things.

There'll be a large marketing piece, which will be national in its scope. We'll be working closely with the 2017 organizers across the country to connect the Charlottetown conference and the values that shape it with the rest of Canada. That marketing program will be very much national in scope, as will all the elements.

The last piece is legacy. We often talk about legacy in relation to creating new buildings and leaving behind that type of infrastructure. We're not so sold on that in this case.

We think that an idea was created in Charlottetown and later in Quebec City in 1864, and that this idea ultimately became Confederation in 1867. We're challenging ourselves and you and folks across the country to think about ideas that could change the country, the world. What kinds of things can we do in 2014 to connect with 2017?

The other piece is public engagement. We have a couple of pieces planned for public engagement. On Thursday, we are hosting about 100 people from across P.E.I., from all walks of life, to come and look at a draft strategic plan designed to help us shape the vision for 2014. We're fortunate that Deborah is going to join us, because we've been in talks with the Trans Canada Trail about possible partnerships for 2014 and 2017.

We also have, in February and March, a national forum planned under the leadership of Peter MacLeod, who spoke to you from Toronto. Peter has been engaged by us to bring together national leaders to talk about 2017 in Charlottetown and how we can connect the fact that it has been 150 years since the Charlottetown conference.

I'll speak briefly about the governance. We're proposing a national advisory trust to lead the 2014 celebrations, with a board of directors and a project review committee that would be made up of Canadian Heritage, which has been designated the department responsible for 2014, ACOA, the provincial government, and P.E.I. 2014. We work very closely with ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, in the region on the tourism and economic objectives the celebrations will have.

Turning to money, we've developed a budget. It's kind of been an interesting process, because we've been asked to think about what it would take to do that, so of course it's a chicken-and-egg process when we don't have the programming solidified, which we do not want to have until we have public engagement. But we have developed a budget, and the Province of P.E.I. has stepped up to the plate and committed to a total of $40 million over the next four years, both from provincial coffers and also from the municipal and private sectors. So that's an objective. We also have a request in to the federal government for $30 million, to be started next fiscal year, and we've been in discussions with Canadian Heritage folks on that.

The biggest objective of the funding would be to develop what's called a P.E.I. 150 fund, which we would develop criteria for and groups would apply for. We've looked at examples like Vancouver's 125 and the Quebec 400, which groups and communities and citizens are eligible to apply to in order to develop their dreams. Again, getting back to the philosophy, we're not necessarily about creating new buildings and infrastructure. We're about supporting and strengthening the existing, from coast to coast to coast, as part of 2014.

I understand that you've had a large number of witnesses here. I was looking at the list of some of them. Colin Jackson is a predecessor of mine at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, and we've talked about the work he's doing in Calgary. As well, you've had Peter Aykroyd and Helen Davies.

The year 2017 will be and should be a very, very special year in this country. The vision we have for 2014 and the 150th Charlottetown Conference is no less ambitious and should serve, as it did in 1864, as the catalyst for 2017, a celebration of Canada evolving as a nation, of considering all things possible as we reach for 2017, and it should serve as a time to reflect on the values that were shaped in Charlottetown in 1864.

Thanks for your attention. I look forward to your questions and comments.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, David.

We'll move on to Deborah.

9 a.m.

Deborah Apps President and Chief Executive Officer, Trans Canada Trail

Good morning, Minister Moore and committee members.

It's a pleasure for us to be here with you this morning. I'd like to thank all of you for inviting us to share with you what we believe is going to be one of the centrepiece opportunities for celebration in 2017 as we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary. The year 2017 will be memorable for Canadians, but the years leading up to 2017 will be equally as memorable and exciting for the Trans Canada Trail as we work towards the completion of the trail, which, as we speak, is about 73% completed across the country.

I'd like to hand this over to Paul LaBarge, who was involved in the celebrations for Canada 125. Paul is the new chair of our board. He will walk you through where we are today and describe our vision for the future.

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Paul LaBarge Chair, Trans Canada Trail

Thank you, Deborah.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Members of the committee, it is a real pleasure to be here today.

You have in front of you a summary of our notes. You also have a book that gives you some idea of the majesty of the Trans Canada Trail, an article from the Globe and Mail, and as well, a package that is the case for support, which has been developed as part of the fundraising.

Canada 125 was the entity created by the federal government for the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. There were a broad range of events and projects but the most successful were those that brought Canadians together as Canadians, as participants, and not as spectators.

So the success of Canada 125 was focused on events that were initiated by the people, with Canada 125 being an enabler. We see Canada as a community of communities, caring, sharing, and cooperating. These are the best values of Canadians. You see that right across the country.

We have been a nation of trails and travellers since the earliest fur traders and voyageurs. To me, it is a history that dates back to the coureurs des bois and the adventures of La Vérendrye and des Groseillers. It encompasses all the adventures in our history. There is enormous pride for our vast spaces and the splendour of our magnificent country.

The Trans Canada Trail is a legacy project from Canada 125. It was actually founded--again--in P.E.I., in Summerside, in September of 1992, and was the brainchild of two individuals, Bill Pratt from Calgary and Pierre Camu from Ottawa. It was seen as a way of creating a permanent recognition for Canada in the day-to-day life of Canadians and it has been an enormous success.

Why did they think that was the case? Because the single most successful event that was planned by Canada 125 was something called the block party. That doesn't refer to the Bloc Québécois, but actually to a block in a city. That initiative came from a woman in Winnipeg who had sent in the idea.

What happened was that Canada 125 created a bucket, effectively, and in that bucket were streamers, logos, flags, ideas--initiatives for a party. Those parties all took place on the same day, July 1, 1992, and it was an enormous success. The amount of correspondence and reaction we had from the public with respect to that one event.... The reason was that it allowed people to share Canada. It allowed them to meet their neighbours as new friends. Also, it allowed everybody in Canada to celebrate their differences and our common values.

Like the railway and the Trans-Canada Highway, the Trans Canada Trail links Canadians to one another, but it does so at human speed. It's a huge success. It has been driven by local communities as part of a coordinated plan that is owned by all Canadians. It has been built by thousands of donors and volunteers in every part of Canada.

The trail enjoys the tangible support of every province and territory as well as 400 local trade groups. We have been fortunate to receive non-partisan support from all governments. We can say that every prime minister who governed since the start of the Trans Canada Trail has given it its support. The same goes for governors general.

The trail was one of the two entities recognized by the federal government in its original legislation as a qualified entity for the donation of environmentally sensitive lands.

Today, the trail is close to 75% complete. There are 400 community-based trails, each with distinct features and unique and diverse landscapes. In fact, Peter noted that every time he travels in Canada, he tries to find a piece of the trail to exercise on. I do the same thing. So does Deborah. So do many, many Canadians. It is within 30 minutes of 80% of Canadians. When it's complete, it will extend 22,500 kilometres, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans, and will link over 1,000 communities and all Canadians.

The names of the trail sections evoke a sense of place in history: the Waterfront Trail, the Niagara River Recreational Trail, the Voyageur trail, the Confederation Trail, the Lachine Canal trail, the Grand Concourse, and the Fundy trail. All of them represent parts of our history.

Across the country, there are many important trail projects in progress and we definitely have momentum. There are 200 identified gaps in the trail, totalling approximately 600 kilometres.

We must establish links between wilderness trails and urban areas. Some require major engineering and construction to overcome rugged terrain, while others require thoughtful design to protect environmentally sensitive areas. We know exactly what needs to be done and we have a strategy in place.

The Trans Canada Trail has recently established a foundation—and you have the package in front of you—for a $150-million fundraising campaign. The national leadership consists of Hartley Richardson and Valerie Pringle, so we don't lack for spokespeople or enthusiasm.

We want to create opportunities to engage every Canadian in connecting with this national legacy project. The trail is a collective endeavour. It is a tangible and symbolic tie that brings us altogether, and we believe is a source of national pride.

One of the things about the trail is that it really speaks to our history as Canadians. It speaks to us with respect to our character as Canadians.

This country started with trails, followed by a railway, and then, in 1963, that was followed with a highway. Now we're going back to the future. We've created a trail that is a pedestrian trail, a ski trail, a biking trail, an equestrian trail, and, in some places, a water trail. Why have we done it? Because there's a strong sense in our public, a strong demand in the public, for preservation of our natural environment and, also, an opportunity to share this country in a human way.

I think the trail demonstrates some of the best characteristics that define us as a people. The determination of and the effort made by the individual volunteers who build and maintain this trail are truly astounding.

It helps us celebrate the best of ourselves — the places, the stories and the experiences that make us who we are. It celebrates Canadian values.

By generating passion and commitment among Canadians for our country, the trail makes Canada strong. It inspires us — emotionally, intellectually and spiritually — and gives us hope. I would say that the human aspect of the Trans Canada Trail is extremely important for our families and our country.

The trail is one of the largest volunteer projects ever undertaken in Canada. More than 100,000 people have contributed time, energy, and resources, and most of them tell us that they're motivated, not by their own self-interest, but by a desire to make a difference and leave a legacy for their children and their grandchildren.

I have to tell you that it's inspiring to me to meet these people, it's inspiring to see their efforts, and it's inspiring to be part of this whole exercise.

The Trans Canada Trail board, partners, local trail groups and volunteers are committed to fully connecting the trail by 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The connection of the trail will be a historic milestone for Canada and Canadians. Indeed, it will be the culmination of two and a half decades of work by volunteers. These are not only individuals, but also community organizations, corporate partners and governments.

We see the trail as a lasting gift from Canadians to Canadians. There is a French expression that says “ce n'est pas un cadeau”, meaning this is not a gift.

This is not a Trojan Horse; this is a real gift. This is something that is truly grassroots. It's a huge success because it is an initiative of individuals from all across Canada. This is not a top-down exercise.

I noticed that in the testimony from Mr. Aykroyd he indicated that, in his experience, the most significant factor was that the initiatives came from the local groups. That was our experience at Canada 125, and I believe it is something that you should keep as a fundamental consideration in anything you recommend. The initiatives have to be initiatives that come from the wellspring of creativity that Canadians have to offer, because their ideas will be driven by genuine emotion. This is the energy that you will need to harness in order to make the 150th anniversary celebrations successful.

As we mentioned, we are linking the celebrations on the Trans Canada trail to other events: the war of 1812 Bicentennial, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding fathers of Confederation and the Charlottetown and Quebec City conferences in 2014. There are many other opportunities to be explored.

This opportunity touches Canadians in so many ways. I think if you start to do the analysis, you will see that it speaks to Canadians' health and fitness. I'm sure you've all seen the reports about the difference that getting up off the couch and getting onto the trail means for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.

A half an hour a day on the trail can save lives. It can join families. It is a strong, significant element of culture and history. It is a strong educational force and reinforces our commitment to the environment. Most importantly, it is unity of purpose and unity of people.

In 2017 the Trans Canada Trail, when complete, will be the longest and grandest recreational trail in the world. It joins, as we said, all Canadians, 1,000 communities, and three oceans, and it represents a huge opportunity as the venue for the 150th anniversary celebrations.

Thank you.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Paul.

Thanks to all of you for your presentations.

Now we'll begin our question and answer period. The time for questions and answers is seven minutes per questioner. Each member is responsible for their time, so we'll try to keep it to seven minutes.

We'll start with Mr. Armstrong.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciated all the submissions today.

Mr. LaBarge, the Trans Canada Trail in Atlantic Canada is basically complete, is it not? You can probably travel from one end to the other, almost, other than through Newfoundland on it—

9:15 a.m.

Chair, Trans Canada Trail

Paul LaBarge

Well, certainly the Trans Canada Trail is all dedicated, but we have 144 bridges to build in Newfoundland, if you actually want to make it right across.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Right.

9:15 a.m.

Chair, Trans Canada Trail

Paul LaBarge

So if you're part amphibian, you can do the whole thing, but otherwise you'll need to have other equipment.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I admit that the bridges over the water are needed, but having travelled a lot of it myself, I know you can get through it.

Across the country, however, you're not in that situation. You have about what...600 kilometres left to complete?

9:20 a.m.

Chair, Trans Canada Trail

Paul LaBarge

It's 6,000.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

So 6,000 kilometres left to complete. What's the timeline for that?