Evidence of meeting #33 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was conservation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
  • Julia Ricottone  Regional Certification Coordinator, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association
  • Mary Simon  President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
  • William David  Senior Policy Analyst, Environmental Stewardship, Assembly of First Nations

May 3rd, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for your testimony. It's very helpful.

My first question is actually going to pick up on the questioning by Mr. Lunney.

National Chief Atleo, you were talking about this example of clear-cutting, and having that local knowledge, and understanding how this could be done better, or what the impacts would be. With that kind of consultation, would it be sufficient for first nations to be consulted by industry? Is that sufficient consultation when it's industry?

4:20 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

Common law has developed to the extent that we even use the word “consultation”, because the courts have instructed governments that first nations must be consulted and accommodated when it comes to our aboriginal title and rights. Over 40 court cases have affirmed what the Constitution.... We are now at the 30-year anniversary of the affirmation of aboriginal title and rights, and treaty rights. What we have yet to do is to give effect to that constitutional recognition.

What's more helpful, to answer your question, is to use what is universally now, among indigenous peoples—I can say with great confidence—a newly recognized minimum acceptable standard in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of the right to free, prior, informed consent over what takes place in our territories. But it extends beyond that to policies that we discussed at the recent crown and first nations gathering.

We have the right to have an education, particularly when we were subject to one that sought to pull out all of the knowledge we're talking about—the traditional knowledge of our people, and the language by which we would express it—and sought to attempt to take it away over seven generations in the residential schools. Now we enter a time of reconciliation when we put that back. We give effect to it by supporting indigenous young people to learn about who they are, learn about the stories, such as the one I shared about the bear and the weir on a river in my territories. We give effect to it by being able to understand how other policies, whether it's clear-cutting or other people's practices on the lands and use of resources, impact first nations.

The key here is what the declaration makes very clear, and it's what former Auditor General Sheila Fraser said after ten years and over 30 audits. The only way forward is for first nations and governments to jointly design the way forward. That means making sure that treaty rights and aboriginal title and rights are central to policies and legislation that are developed. Going forward, it must reflect, respect, and support that, and first nations must be fully engaged in that effort.

In short, it wouldn't be acceptable that just one segment is consulted, just as it's not okay for just one department of the federal government to be involved. This is really government-wide.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Thanks very much.

My next question is for Ms. Simon.

You talked about a collaborative approach and some good examples of collaborative approaches with regard to species at risk. I think species at risk should be a part of a larger conservation plan.

Should a conservation plan include the ability for the minister to grant permits that would negatively impact a species at risk, without having a review process? We have a situation of allowing perpetual granting of this permit, such as what's in the Budget Implementation Act right now. Would you consider that to be a part of the collaborative approach you're talking about?

4:20 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

I'm sorry, but my audio isn't working for some reason.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Oh, okay. Shall I give you a moment?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

We'll pause for a moment, and make sure we have the sound system working.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Does that work now?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Could you repeat that? I'll just hold off on the timer.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Thank you.

You talked about the collaborative approach with species at risk, and I think species at risk should be a large part of a conservation plan.

Should a conservation plan give the ability to the minister to grant permits for development that could negatively impact a species at risk? These permits would be given without a review process, which could maybe lead to perpetual permits. Is that something you would consider to be part of a collaborative approach to conservation, and what you were talking about?

4:25 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

Thank you very much for your question.

When we talk about a collaborative approach, it goes back to what Chief Atleo was saying about informed and prior consent. The collaboration has to be based on the proposition we need to be informed about. Species at risk is a good example of that. We collaborate in the species at risk on many issues, including different species that are related to the Arctic.

As an Inuit representative, I don't believe that permits should be given without collaboration or be regranted without a review process. The position of ITK would not be that there would be no review process after that. It would be more in terms of collaborating and consulting, as Mr. Atleo said, before such action is taken.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Thank you.

Mr. Farrant, I have in front of me an article from 2005, when you had presented the then Liberal Minister of Fisheries a letter from OFAH talking about the shock of your membership to government budget cuts that would compromise habitat research and protection and enforcement. When it comes to marine conservation, don't you think that it should be habitat that's protected, and not simply a species like fish—that protecting fish habitat would be a really important part of any conservation plan?

4:25 p.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Thank you for the question, Ms. Leslie.

Yes, we do. We've had a number of consultations recently and several face-to-face meetings with the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Ashfield, over proposed changes to the Fisheries Act in the budget implementation bill, and we are extremely concerned about any cuts that would impact on the ability to protect habitat. Thus far I have to say to you that we are generally pleased with the response of the minister and the government in terms of the fact that they will continue to protect those habitats.

I know some quarters of Saskatchewan and Alberta have some concerns that Ontario does not because some of the reservoirs in those provinces contain a recreational sport fishery. Some of the so-called ditches or drainage canals that feed into those contain spawning habitat, and I know they are very concerned about that. They have had an opportunity and continue to have an opportunity through consultation with the minister's office and the minister himself on habitat protection. I think we're starting to get some answers that are giving us a reasonable level of confidence that it's going to continue.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Time has expired; I'm sorry.

Ms. Rempell, you have seven minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you.

I actually wanted to echo all of my colleagues' comments on the depth and richness of the presentations that were made today by all the groups. We really thank you for coming out today.

I wanted to start with Chief Atleo, being respectful of your time. You mentioned two pillars: the application of traditional knowledge, and recognition of first nation rights that need to be embedded within the NCP. I wanted to tease out that first principle a little bit for some of us who perhaps aren't entirely familiar with that concept, just so we make sure we've got some of those key principles in the document.

I'll ask you a question you could probably speak to for a week. If you could perhaps talk about the key principles of traditional knowledge as they would apply to a national conservation plan, what would those be?

4:25 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations