Evidence of meeting #53 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Michael Nadler  Director General, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Is the Department of the Environment involved?

10:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes. A lot of departments are involved in the permitting and licensing associated with the pipeline project--Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, Transport, and others--so we coordinate all of that. There was and is a Mackenzie gas pipeline project management office and we are bringing that into the department smoothly. I'm not aware of any glitches or issues in terms of that hand-off.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

All right. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Weston.

We'll now go to Ms. Crowder.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I just want this on record. It's not my question, but I found the numbers out of the environment commissioner's report. The report says that the freshwater quality monitoring program is not monitoring on most federal lands. On first nations reserves, the number of federal lands is 3,000, and the number monitored for our freshwater quality monitoring program is 12. So I think there's a bit of a gap there.

The question I wanted to ask was on the First Nations Land Management Act. I'm asking in the context of the supplementary estimates because $24.1 million is the allocation on an annual basis. I'm sure that changes from year to year. Typically, over the last few years only $13 million to $16 million have been used. I know there's a significant list of first nations that are wanting to be on the program. I think it's about 80. There are ones that are in development and then there are 80 waiting to even get to the development stage.

The other thing is that KPMG has done a study on the economic benefits of the FNLMA and it has demonstrated that there are economic benefits to the first nations on reserves: it adds to self-sufficiency, it speeds up a number of other processes, and so on. It seems like it's a win-win-win. My understanding is that the department and the government is very supportive of FNLMA.

I have a couple of questions about this. Why the delay in bringing new people onto the program? You've demonstrated with the supplementary estimates that you can roll money over. I know it's capital versus operating, but you've demonstrated that money can be rolled over. So why hasn't the money in the past been rolled over into a program that seems to be working quite successfully for first nations and presumably for the government, because it is contributing to economic self-sufficiency? Can you comment on that?

10:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Thank you for the question.

And yes, we're very positive about this new tool. It gets reserve communities out of the worst parts of the Indian Act, and it gives them a lot of control over local land management decisions and so on.

We are not the gatekeeper as to who gets in and who doesn't. This was set up very much as a collaborative process with first nations, so the lands advisory board actually is the gatekeeper in recommending--

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Wernick, I met with the chair of the board, and he indicated that the block isn't with the board. They're ready to go. They are supportive and want to see this happen.

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes. Well, we're all waiting to see the federal budget in a couple of weeks, and perhaps I can give you a more definitive answer in April, when we come back for main estimates. We've made a pitch for additional resources. We'll see what happens, and if we don't get additional resources we may have to reallocate within the department and find some money. But we'd like to--

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

But retrospectively, there is money there that hasn't been used, sometimes up to $11 million, so--

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

When you actually look at the cases, they're not as ready as they may look. Lots of people would like to be ready, but there are a number of things that have to be ticked off in terms of environmental assessments and regulations being in place, and so on. We will move as many first nations through as we can over the coming year or two. I can't give you a precise number.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Just so I'm clear--because this is a public record--what I'm hearing you say is that the department is ready to go; it's the first nations who aren't ready.

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

It's a combination. We need to allocate resources for this activity, and you have to have proposals that are good to go. And I think we'll be able to move a significant number of nations through next year.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So when you say you have to allocate the resources to it, are there resources that you require in order to expedite the process?

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We'll either obtain additional resources in the budget or move vote 10 resources or vote 1 resources from other uses to FNLMA. But it's always the same issue: If you want to put more resources into one thing, something else has to give.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Again, forgive me: you've had money, and it hasn't been spent, so that tells me the resources are there.

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

But the projects weren't ready.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So in those cases you're saying the department had the resources but the projects weren't ready. I think that's an important message.

We'll talk to the chair of the board and relay that back to him so that he can work with those nations that thought they were ready but you're saying they weren't.

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

It's a very linear process, and we are working with the board. We would like to unclog it and move as many nations through next year as we can. I won't know how many that's going to be until I know a bit more about the resourcing of the department. But we would like to squeeze through as many as possible, because the economic benefits to the communities are very clear.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Just on the gender--

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You're actually just out of time there. You have maybe ten seconds, Ms. Crowder.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I can't do that.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We'll probably have time if you need to come back.

Let's go to Mr. Payne.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Wernick, you did talk a bit about the additions to reserve, so I just had a sort of supplementary thought as you were talking about the ATRs, and particularly about how the land was to be set aside for each man, woman, and child. Maybe you could help me to understand. In terms of that, was that already in the original treaties, or is it based on the population at that time, or is it based on current population? How does that whole process work?

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There are two acronyms, which you have probably heard being thrown around: one is ATR, and the other is TLE. The two kind of overlap. A treaty land entitlement is exactly what it sounds like. In the prairie treaties there was an entitlement to land. What was promised would vary slightly from treaty to treaty, and it was based on so many acres. I stand to be corrected, but it was based on the population at the time. And there is an unfulfilled sort of debt to be paid in fully meeting those treaty obligations.

An addition to reserve is any generic transaction that adds land to an Indian Act reserve.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Chair.