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

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

I don't know if there were shovel-ready projects. One of the reasons I think we had some reprofiling—I may not be correct here—was we had a big project at Six Nations that ended up not being able to meet its deadline, so I think that's where that money probably came from.

9:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

The reprofiling is entirely about capital projects, and it's because of deadlines. It would have been a little irresponsible to try to force the Six Nations project. The bidding would have come in so high that we would have spent too much on the project. So we're simply going to do it through our regular program. They will get their project.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Sorry, sir. So the money that was allocated for Six Nations is still going to be available for them; it will just be in the next fiscal year.

9:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

That's right. And that's true of another project as well. We just didn't think forcing it before March would have been smart project management.

In the base of the department and the extra money that we got in previous budgets, there is money that goes for testing, monitoring, and inspection. I wouldn't claim it's perfect coverage, but we inspect about as aggressively as any province does. I think Environment Canada is drawing attention to a lot of groundwater issues, which of course affects wells. Most reserve systems are pipe systems, as you know. We'll never get to 100% coverage on reserve with pipe systems. That's not what happens in small communities across the country, as you know.

We're trying to focus on health and safety. The really clear benchmark is to know what's safe to drink, and that's why there's been such an emphasis on standards.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

On the pipe system, I know in my own riding there are a number of reserves that are on wells. They're not pipe systems; they're on wells.

9:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There are many small communities in Canada that are on wells and cisterns as well. Not everybody has—

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I'm in a fairly urban area. We've got reserves that are butting up against municipalities that are on wells and there is some suspicion. People can't afford to have them tested regularly, and there are some serious problems.

9:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We'll always have to take whatever money we have and divide it among training of operators, inspection and monitoring, and building facilities.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Do I have more time, Mr. Chair?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You have one minute left.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Quickly, Minister, I heard you say that $8.3 billion is the high-water mark. We know that since 1995-96 there has been roughly a 2% funding cap on first nations spending. We know the average population growth is 6%, and in some cases it's much higher than that.

We've seen first nations on reserve significantly falling behind. It's a major concern to hear we've hit the high-water mark when we know underfunding continues in health, education, and in many, many child and family services. How do you propose to close this funding gap, if this is the high-water mark?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

A lot of that money was increased spending. If you look at the number of schools we put in place during the economic action plan, for example, that was unprecedented. The housing moneys we put in were unprecedented.

We're committed to making child and family services work. We've signed agreements with the provinces. We've topped up moneys.

We're doing the same thing with education, but we're not going to do it until we know the money is going to results and not just adding to the current system. That's why the FNESC model is what we're following, and that's why we have the K-12 panel.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Ms. Crowder.

Now I will go to Mr. Rickford.

Yes, Minister.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

I have to be at cabinet. They want me there for 9:30. I know my colleagues would love to question me--

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You have to go now.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

--but I really have to go. I realize it's 45 minutes, not an hour, so I can come back after the break, if you choose.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

I think we do have something in the schedule for main estimates as well, which will be in the next series of weeks.

Thank you, Minister.

Members, we'll suspend momentarily and we'll resume shortly after.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We'll now resume our proceedings. We welcome Mr. Michael Wernick, who is deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and Ms. Susan MacGowan, who is chief financial officer. I would also like to welcome Mr. Michael Nadler, who is director general, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Members, we're going to continue at the same place we left off, so we have one question left in this round. That will go to Mr. Payne and then we'll come back and continue the regular order.

Mr. Wernick, you didn't have any opening remarks, did you?

9:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

No, I try not to talk out the clock.

I do have an answer to Ms. Crowder's question if we could just tack it on, at least as far as the north goes. Actually, it's timely, the money in these supplementary estimates for the general monitoring programs up north responds directly to some of the concerns of the sustainable development commissioner.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

All right, let's go to Mr. Payne.

March 10th, 2011 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome to the officials here today. I'm glad to see you could make it on this wonderfully snowy day.

Mr. Wernick, how accurate were the original projections for the common experience payment and the independent assessment process? If you could work me through that, it would be beneficial.

9:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There are two parts to that. The common experience payment simply goes to anyone who could demonstrate that they attended one of the eligible residential schools. There was a fair bit of work done before the government agreed to the settlement agreement.

The projection done about 2005-06 was that about 80,000 students would be eligible, and we've come in at 76,700. So it's turned out to be very accurate. There are still a few cases in appeals and reconsideration, but that's a small number now. So I would say this was quite an accurate forecast and there's no backlog in CEP at all. We're winding down that part of the overall settlement agreement.

The independent assessment process addresses the more serious cases of alleged physical and sexual abuse. It has turned out that a much higher rate of those cases has gone for adjudication at the IAP. I think the original forecast was in the 15,000 range, and we think we're going to be considerably higher than that. That indicates that a higher rate of abuse was going on in the schools than people knew. It's hard to have forecasted that, because we had no way to be sure how many people would come forward and be willing to tell their stories and enter into an adjudication process.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I want to go back to the common experience payment. That forecast you had was quite accurate. You said there was no backlog, but maybe you could tell us what kinds of payments were made through that process.

9:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There's a fair bit of detail on our website. In ballpark terms, if it's helpful to you, there was originally about $1.8 billion or $1.9 billion set aside in an account for this purpose. We'll have spent about $1.6 billion, I think, before we close, which leaves a remainder.

The average payment is running about $21,000 per claimant, and it's very formula-driven. There's a base payment plus an amount multiplied by the number of years that you can establish you were at the school. If there is any ambiguity about missing records, the benefit of the doubt is given to the claimant.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Let's step back to the independent assessment process. As of today, how many files have you had, and how far along are those files?