Thank you very much, Chair. I'm pleased to be here today in this committee room, which I think I've spent a little bit of time in before.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the supplementary spending estimates of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. I appreciate the role that the committee plays in reviewing the department's expenditures.
The investments included in supplementary estimates (B) support the Government of Canada's plan to improve the quality of life of aboriginal peoples and northerners across Canada. As members of this committee recognize, this plan includes strategic and important investments in infrastructure, funding for programs and initiatives, and the implementation of agreements such as the Indian residential schools settlement agreement.
I'll do my best to answer your questions in a few minutes. First, though, I'd like to provide details about a few key items listed in supplementary estimates (B). The allotment of $179.4 million to the independent assessment process for the residential schools settlement is the largest single item on the list. This amount includes $136 million in new funding, and $43.4 million reprofiled from last year.
This investment supports the Government of Canada's commitment to respect the terms of the court-ordered Indian residential schools settlement that was agreed by all parties. The additional funding will respond to the increased application levels to the independent assessment process.
The Government of Canada remains committed to concluding agreements with former students and their families. Continuing the implementation of the settlement agreement builds on our government's commitment to moving towards healing, reconciliation, and resolution between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.
The second largest item in the supplementary estimates is $109.1 million for the assessment, management, and remediation of federal contaminated sites. The Government of Canada is committed to the health and safety of all Canadians. This money will support our government's ongoing efforts for safe and timely environmental cleanup. Our government continues to work closely with first nations, Inuit, and northern communities to remediate contaminated sites. Budget 2011 allocated $68 million over two years to the federal contaminated sites action plan. Most of this investment focuses on priority sites in the north such as the Giant Mine in Yellowknife and the Faro mine. In the past two years, the Government of Canada has committed more than $330 million to projects at hundreds of sites in the north and on reserves across the country.
Mr. Chairman, I'd also like to highlight a few other items listed in the supplementary estimates and explain how they relate to this government's broader goals. Improving the quality and availability of first nations child and family services is a case in point. Significant improvements have been made in recent years as a result of a series of tripartite agreements between Canada, first nations, and provincial governments. The services delivered under these agreements focus on prevention and early intervention, leading to better outcomes for first nations children, youth, and families.
Two items in the estimates support this goal. There is $6 million to fund an agreement in Manitoba, and $1.2 million for a dedicated database to track results. Agreements are already in place in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island. This means that nearly 70% of all first nations children who live on reserve have access to services delivered under the new model. We hope to complete agreements with other jurisdictions in the next few years.
Mr. Chairman, I'd also like to highlight a few other items that are listed. Bill C-22, for instance, which I'm happy to note just received royal assent yesterday, completes an agreement to establish the Eeyou Marine Region and authorizes first nation groups to co-manage and protect islands in James Bay and southeastern Hudson Bay. Bill S-2 proposes to close the legal gap that exists in matrimonial rights and interests on reserve. And Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, is part of the government's commitment in the 2011 Speech from the Throne to support democratic, transparent, and accountable first nation governments by requiring that chiefs and councillors publish their salaries and expenses and audited consolidated financial statements.
I'm also committed to reintroducing a bill that will propose a mechanism to set standards to safeguard the quality of drinking water in first nation communities.
A goal of these and other legislative initiatives is to create the accountability mechanisms needed to foster economic and social development. This committee will have an important role in moving the agenda forward. I believe the study currently under way on sustainable economic development will be valuable and pertinent.
In June, the Auditor General's status report analyzed why so many Government of Canada programs fail to deliver the intended benefits to first nation communities. The key factor cited in the report is that many programs have no legislative base. Should a program fail, no one can be held accountable. To ensure that programs and investments achieve their goals, this government will continue to develop and implement appropriate legislative remedies in collaboration with our stakeholders.
Another element of the Government of Canada's strategy to promote economic and social development among northern and aboriginal communities is working with willing partners. I'm proud to note that this past June, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and I announced the Canada-first nations joint action plan to improve the lives of first nation people across Canada. The action plan expresses our joint commitment to work together to improve the long-term prosperity of first nation people and all Canadians.
Strategic partnerships with provincial and aboriginal groups that continue to improve education outcomes in a growing number of first nation schools are another instance of the work that we do with willing partners. Collaborative initiatives to improve the educational outcomes of first nation students are now under way in seven provinces. Engagement sessions were held last year, helping to inform improvements to aboriginal economic development programs, including efficiencies in program delivery. Strategic partnerships have also inspired significant progress on specific claims and first nation access to safe drinking water.
The Beaufort regional environmental assessment is another example of a strategic partnership, among Inuvialuit, the oil and gas industry, territorial and federal governments, regulators, and academia, to prepare for oil and gas activity in the Beaufort Sea. Together they have supported research and actions that will provide information and data in support of efficient and effective regulatory decisions.
The larger goal of the government's plan is to ensure that all citizens, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, can share in and contribute to Canada's prosperity. The investments included in the supplementary estimates are designed to complement existing programs, partnerships, and legislative initiatives. I'm confident that the items under review will lead to further progress for aboriginal peoples, northerners, and all Canadians.
Thank you very much. I'll do my best to answer any questions the members of the committee may have about supplementary estimates (B).