Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to thank the minister and his team for being here today.
Minister, I would like to begin by drawing your attention to the presence of Mr. Ghislain Picard, Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. He is accompanied by a number of young people, parents and children—not all of whom fit into this room—who are concerned about the education available to first nations people, particularly in Quebec. With your permission, this is a subject that I will return to in a few moments.
Minister, I have here a document. There is no way that you cannot be familiar with it, as it comes from your department. It is called "The Funding of Basic Services for First Nations: Cost Indicators, Annex F, Consolidation Report, November 2006".
The document states—and I will quote it to avoid any ambiguity—that even with budget 2007-2008, there would still be an annual shortfall of $938 million just in terms of what is needed to ensure equality of services. I will not go into all the details, I imagine that you are familiar with the document. I find this situation extremely worrying.
I read your presentation and was struck by a comment that you made on page 27. You said: "I have said before that simply continuing to fund existing programs without considering their validity or efficiency is not good enough."
As the presenter of a well-known Quebec television show would say, now for the killer question. Minister, are you freezing first nations funding while you study the validity and efficiency of existing programs? It seems to me that you are. I hope that you will tell me that I am mistaken. This is not about political point scoring, I am concerned about the education available to first nations people. How is it that since 1998—and here I point the finger of blame at those seated to my right—the first nations funding formula has never factored in the cost of equipping schools with IT resources? In plain English, there is not a computer to be seen. How is it that our young first nations students do not have computers in their schools?
There is also the matter of the cost of running school libraries—there's no money for libraries. I have seen that with my own eyes in Pikogan, in my riding, and in Timiskaming First Nation. I have seen for myself. Furthermore, no provision is made for professional development training. Why is that? There is no provision for extracurricular activities such as sport and recreation.