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

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Let's go to other questions from the Liberal Party.

Mr. Russell.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We're glad to have you with us, Deputy Minister, Mr. Nadler, and Ms. MacGowan.

I want to follow up on a couple of questions I asked the minister relative to Labrador on the Innu Nation claim itself, but there are significant overlap issues. The minister indicated he'd had meetings with the former premier, the premier, and the leadership and negotiators of the Innu Nation. Can you give us a bit more detail on where we are with that? Do we have any sense of a timeframe? These negotiations bear significantly on the potential for the Lower Churchill hydro development at Muskrat Falls.

As well, I was very interested in your response to my question about the Nunatukavut Community Council, formerly the Labrador Métis Nation. They had submitted supplementary information in concert with the department, and the department had undertaken to look at this new information in an expeditious fashion and get back to the NCC. Of course, I believe there are some agreements around other processes that may occur if there is no agreement.

You indicated that the injunction that has now been laid with the court in Newfoundland regarding the EA process may have some impact upon the department's process itself regarding the claim.

10:15 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

No, I hope that wasn't the impression--

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Could you clarify those issues?

10:15 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We're at the table with the Innu and we're at the table with the Métis group, the NCC. I'll have to get back to you specifically on where the negotiators are at this point. I'm aware that the Métis group is in court trying to block the entire environmental assessment process around the project, and I'm sure that's where they're spending their time and energy.

Both the former premier and the current premier have said they won't go ahead with the project until they resolve the issues of the Labrador Innu. The province, in my understanding, has resolved essentially all the issues within provincial jurisdiction. That leaves the ball in our court to deal with the classic land claim issue. We are at the table and we hope to make progress, because it's a necessary condition for the project going forward, and both governments would like to see the project go forward, as I understand the Innu do, although I'm not going to speak for them.

It's a little bit of which thread you want to pull at. We are aiming to negotiate an agreement in principle on the claim within this calendar year. Whether that is going to be feasible or not will depend on the negotiating table.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Again, on the Nunatukavut claim, there is additional information that has been submitted in concert with the department, the historic claims and research branch. Can you tell me at what stage that process is? It was submitted, as I understand it, nearly a year ago, or close to a year ago. The department was supposed to get back in an expeditious fashion to respond to that new research, if it was in fact going to negotiate the claim out or if there would be other processes that would follow.

Where is the department in terms of its assessment of that information and getting the response back to NCC?

10:15 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

I don't have very current information for you, Mr. Russell. We'll have to get back to you through the clerk, if that's possible. I know that we have the material. It's under review by the lawyers and others. I know that it overlaps significantly with the Innu claim, and that is going to be an issue down the road. If you settle with the Innu, they'll have to do an overlap arrangement with the Métis; if you settle with the Métis, they'll have to do an overlap arrangement with the Innu.

I'm not aware of where we are at the table in terms of responding to the Métis group, but I will provide that information as soon as I can get it.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Okay.

Just very quickly, on the whole issue of first nations policing services, does that impact upon the Department of Indian Affairs at all? Do you guys have any mandate around those particular services? It is becoming a huge issue, with a potential 19% cut in first nations policing services. It is something that is so vital to the safety and security of first nations citizens, and not only first nations citizens but others. I'm just wondering what involvement INAC has in that.

10:15 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

It has none. It's delivered by the Department of Public Safety, so it's speculation about another department's program. I really shouldn't go there.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Okay.

How much more time do I have?

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You have 15 seconds.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

That's enough for two questions.

Thank you.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Russell.

We'll go back to Mr. Rickford.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to the witnesses.

You worked through a number of different files. We'll take this opportunity to talk about a few things.

Could you tell me a little bit about the state of Bill C-3 implementation? I want to get a firmer sense of how many applications will be received, some of the activities on your website, and a description of the team you have put together that's dedicated to this Bill C-3 process.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

The minister referred to the bill. It's a significant accomplishment. It's also going to be a significant piece of work to implement it. We have some resources in place for the registration process, and we've set up a dedicated unit to deal with Bill C-3 claims, some of which are going to be fairly straightforward and some of which are going to be complex because of family history, genealogy, and documentation.

The latest numbers I have show that a little less than 4,000 people sent in some kind of application or request, even before the bill got royal assent. We will handle them. We're not going to send them back.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

How many applicants are you anticipating?

10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Since January 31, we have received about another 4,000, so we're just under 8,000 applications in the door. The projections under the Clatworthy study and others were that we would get about 70,000 applications, of which about 45,000 would be successful. It's too early to know if we're on track or not.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

That's fair, yes.

10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

But we actually have registered our first, if you want to call them that, C-3 Indians. About 220 people have received registration.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

And the registration process, as I understand, has been amended to take into account the uniqueness of the cases, to ensure that we have an efficient service model. Is that true?

10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

That's right. Unlike all the other generic things, such as births and deaths and adoptions and marriages, this is a specific set of tests that are clear on the website. You start with who your grandmother was. It should be relatively straightforward to sort out whether applications are in the ballpark or not. We are developing a specialized team that really knows this subject area well, and we're sure that we'll get the processing times up as people adapt and learn how to handle the files. We think that will be an efficient approach.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

The Treasury Board had approved a specific number over a five-year period. Are you satisfied that those resources are appropriate for the scope of work?

10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes, it's about $20 million, give or take. What we're really trying to do is have an efficient process that deals with people coming into the registry for all kinds of reasons. We're going to handle the cases related to the Qalipu Nation in Newfoundland, we're going to handle the Bill C-3 surge, the normal life events I referred to, and we're trying as much as possible to compress the process of registering and getting a card into a single process, so that if you come in you'll get the card quickly, and if you apply for the card for other reasons, it helps us clean up the data in the registry. So we look at it as one project with two or three components.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Because we are televised today, I might take this opportunity to say that I understand there is a special application form for Bill C-3 now available on the INAC website. This is available through the regional offices, Service Canada centres, or call centres. Do you have any information you'd like to put out there right now?

10:20 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We're trying to bring together the card issuance with the registry process. Bill C-3 is an opportunity to try that out with a specific target population to perfect our business process. If we can do it well for the Bill C-3 intake, we'll be able to do it for everybody over the next few years.