Evidence of meeting #26 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was issues.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claudette Dumont-Smith  Acting Executive Director, Native Women's Association of Canada
Rosemarie McPherson  Spokesperson for Women of the Métis Nation, Métis National Council
Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald  Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations
Peter Dinsdale  Executive Director, National Association of Friendship Centres

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Any other witness want to add to that?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Ms. McPherson.

4:55 p.m.

Spokesperson for Women of the Métis Nation, Métis National Council

Rosemarie McPherson

I think that women across the country, whether they're first nations, Inuit, or Métis, when there is a common goal tend to work together. I get into a lot of trouble because I call a spade a spade. I have to say I hope NAWS 2 will recognize the Métis women a little bit more than they did in NAWS 1. I hope we do play a better and stronger role. I know we will in Manitoba when it comes there.

We do sit on committees, but most of us have other jobs. The Métis women are unique. Not one of us gets paid for sitting as Women of the Métis Nation. So when they have meetings in Ottawa, it's very difficult to attend. We don't have any money. And when we go on a conference call--the girl who sits on the committee that was meeting this morning had to be on a conference call at seven o'clock this morning. So it's a little different when we talk about unity and being one voice. That's a whole different ball of wax in my playground. But one of the things NAWS does is definitely open the doors for the Métis, and I think that NAWS 3 will be an exciting one.

The other ones about the bill and the matrimonial property rights and what not, as I said, don't really affect the Métis. It's best that we don't even try to go there with that one.

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Just to go in order, Deputy Grand Chief Archibald, you had a comment to make first, and then Mr. Dinsdale.

5 p.m.

Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald

Thank you very much. I have a couple of comments on the issue of unity and whether we talk in between NAWS summits.

The AFN has an MOU with friendship centres, and as a part of our “Make Poverty History” campaign we're able to work with the Canadian Auto Workers Union, which made some repairs to a friendship centre in Toronto. So we are doing some urban work. We have also been working closely with NWAC on both NAWS summits, and we're deeply grateful for the work they're doing on raising the level of awareness on the “Sisters in Spirit” campaign. We discuss issues like the MRP with them on a regular basis. So there are bridges being built, for certain.

I think it's important to note that there's a difference between a first nation government and a friendship centre, for example. We have to be cognizant to not take a pan-aboriginal approach and say you are all lumped into this one little box, because first nations women off reserve are allowed, under law, to vote in their community elections, and our off-reserve members also vote in elections. So we do have that connection with people off the reserve. First nations are nevertheless governments, and we look at our relationship with Canada as being a nation-to-nation relationship, with the signing of our treaties.

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you.

Mr. Dinsdale.

5 p.m.

Executive Director, National Association of Friendship Centres

Peter Dinsdale

To echo some of the comments--absolutely. I think most recently the level of that unity has been deepening a little. There was a recent Gull Bay decision around the election of a councillor who lived off reserve at the time. The Department of Indian Affairs tried to nullify the election. They lost, of course, in the Supreme Court.

AFN received funding for 30 people across the country to come together and think about a response. They gave friendship centres five of those delegates in an internal meeting to talk about election, citizenship, and leadership. So it was probably the first real significant demonstration of our MOU and how we're starting to work together. We were really encouraged by that moving forward. We've extended relationships with both NWAC and MNC, and we certainly talk to them on an ongoing basis about the collaboration.

We were surprised at the political discipline that was shown in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. We had some experience in the Kelowna process and others, where we brought forward recommendations that were specific to this type of thing and they came out at the other end of the sausage grinder looking quite different. All of a sudden there was a distinction-based approach that was different, and all the kinds of things we wanted to talk about were completely wiped out.

The kind of accommodation that was provided at NAWS was fantastic. I think it was because of the reasonable women you had there, as opposed to the sometimes unreasonable men in some of the other sessions. So it was a remarkable process, and I think the political discipline really helped facilitate that.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you, Mr. Dinsdale.

Before I go to Mr. Albrecht, some of the committee members have noted that I'm being a little liberal with the clock today and not cutting things off. My colleagues have learned that they ought to have a long preamble, ask two questions, and lay it before the entire panel, which inevitably means we go over their time limit. I won't tighten the reins too much today. We seem to have a little bit of extra time.

I'll continue in the same management style for Mr. Albrecht. You have five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Speaking of unreasonable men, maybe you should correct a statement that was made a little earlier by Mr. Russell. He referred to the reduction in Status of Women funding, when in fact the amount of funding to local groups was actually increased.

Thank you to each of the witnesses for being here today. Looking at your 137 recommendations, which were then whittled down to 59, with 29 highlighted by theme, I'd like to move to the third theme that deals with strength, balance, and honour. In that section you have 11 recommendations, and you frequently--as well as in your testimony today--use the term “culturally relevant gender-based analysis”, or in some cases “gender-balanced analysis”. How do we define culturally relevant gender-based analysis? Is this something that can be done in a uniform way for all aboriginal groups across Canada, considering the rich diversity among aboriginal groups? What kind of method are we using to identify that?

5:05 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Native Women's Association of Canada

Claudette Dumont-Smith

Right now we're calling ours “culturally relevant gender-based analysis”. It may change, but right now that's what it is. It's built on principles.

To respond to your question, it's in compliance with the laws of the Creator. Our CRGBA will capture the diversity and different circumstances of aboriginal women, so it responds to the different nations--the Métis, the 52 different first nations, and the Inuit. It will be a tool that can be used by these different groups to respond to their specific cultures.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Just to follow that up, has this tool been tested by the various aboriginal groups? Has it been validated by a number of aboriginal groups, or is it still in the early planning stages?

5:05 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Native Women's Association of Canada

Claudette Dumont-Smith

As I was telling you earlier, it's about 85% or 95% complete. We are going to be presenting it to Health Canada, and we will be using it on their programs. But we will be fanning it out to our provincial-territorial member associations that are found right across Canada, and they'll be using it with their provincial-territorial governments.

No, it hasn't been tested. It's new. We just received funding for it in the last fiscal year. That's what we want this tool to do, and we're confident it will do that. We're hoping the governments will use it when they present initiatives or develop programs and services for aboriginal women, because that's what it's all about.

Thanks.

5:05 p.m.

Spokesperson for Women of the Métis Nation, Métis National Council

Rosemarie McPherson

We just found out about this gender-based information. We attended a meeting. We're in the process right now of trying to go into the regions in each province to start doing some work on it. We haven't done anything so far, but the plans are out there.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Chair, I'm satisfied on that question. Perhaps I'll add a second question to my time.

In relation to the statement that possibly not too much follow-up or response has been initiated on the part of the government, I would just observe that there may not be direct response to specific recommendations, but our government has in fact started a number of initiatives as they relate to, for example, tackling violent crime. It's more of an umbrella approach--it's not just for aboriginal peoples--but I think it will be very effective.

Also, Bill C-31, dealing with human rights, Bill C-30, and Bill C-47 actually address a number of the issues that are in this. For example, under your section on economic development--and I'd like your response--will Bill C-30, as it deals with specific land claims and getting rid of that huge backlog, create economic opportunities for all aboriginal people, and specifically aboriginal women? Will that be a positive step?

That's recommendation six under your second theme.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Deputy Grand Chief Archibald, do you want to go first?

5:10 p.m.

Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald

Yes. I want to address the first part of your question, which is on the gender-balanced analysis and what it means to be culturally relevant.

In terms of relevancy, we're also talking about the realities of first nations women. Remoteness is a reality. The economic status of the community is a reality. Take for example Bill C-47, which is MRP. When we talk about housing, for example, the property rights are of little value if your home is not safe for your children, if it doesn't have safe drinking water. And approximately 100 first nations communities are under “boil water” advisories today.

To me, that is relevant when you're looking at the development of legislation. How can the government go ahead and say it's going to deal with matrimonial real property, yet not deal with the core issue of what's happening to housing in communities? Increasing the housing and increasing the quality of that housing are the underlying issues that we really want to have addressed first, before we look at the value of those assets.

In terms of cultural relevancy, when you're a non-native woman living in Toronto and you're looking at how a piece of legislation affects you, you look through a different lens from the lens that you have to look through as an aboriginal woman living in Wunnummin Lake in northern Ontario.

So that's what we're talking about--that lens. How do we begin to look at these particular pieces of legislation through that particular lens? That's what we mean by cultural relevancy.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I think that was the basis of my question, that with the multiple number of different aboriginal situations there will be culturally sensitive approaches that differ from point A to point B to point C, all across Canada. That was really my point.

How do we identify and deal with the large diversity of what might be considered culturally relevant in one community and not necessarily culturally relevant in another aboriginal community? That was the basis of my question.

5:10 p.m.

Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald

I think you're ultimately looking for uniformity in first nations, and you won't find it.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

No, I'm not.

5:10 p.m.

Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald

If your question is whether we can find one lens to look through, the answer is no. We have to respect the different realities of first nations, the realities of urban first nation people, the realities of the Métis.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Right.

5:10 p.m.

Ontario Regional Representative, AFN Women's Council, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Assembly of First Nations

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald

That's how I interpreted your question.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I think, Mr. Chair, the point has been made clear that there needs to be a tool developed, tested, and validated by multiple groups of aboriginal people across Canada. If this is just defined today on paper, the job is far from done; in fact, it's just started.

That was really the basis of my question.

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you, Mr. Albrecht.

Next we go to the Bloc.

Mr. Lévesque, for five minutes.

April 28th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome.

Ms. Archibald touched on an important point earlier when she spoke of the government's duty to recognize native women's associations. Her comment called to mind Bill C-44. The Assembly of First Nations gave its opinion of this bill and of native women, while the Native Women's Council of the AFN issued a different opinion of the bill. We also saw how opinions differed in the course of the debate on the sharing of matrimonial interests. We also hear talk of aboriginal gender equality.

Do you not get the sense that we are stuck in the mud, spinning our wheels? Canada has not even acknowledged the equality of first nations and non-natives. How do you expect it to recognize gender equality? It defies logic, to my way of thinking. I think first nations have to start by recognizing gender equality in the context of self-government. If Canada is incapable of recognizing that first nations have the same rights as non-natives, then how do you expect to make any headway at all?

I will turn the floor over to you for a response.