Evidence of meeting #26 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was online.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Louie  Chairman, First Nations Lands Advisory Board
Austin Bear  Chair, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Graham Powell  Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Elizabeth Childs  Advisor, Capacity Building, Training and Professional Development, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Patti Wight  Advisor, Capacity Building, Training and Professional Development, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Ruth Nahanee  Senior Advisor, Capacity Building, Training and Professional Development, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Daniel Millette  Manager, Strategic Planning, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As I understand it, there's a growing interest in first nations joining the land management regime. There are some 56 first nations that have joined or are about to join. In the previous testimony before this committee, the regional chief from Ontario made the point that it's almost like being a victim of your own success. As more join, this places existing pressures on those that are in it in terms of their capacity to engage in the proper training.

Do you find there are more pressures with respect to being able to provide appropriate capacity training as more and more first nations join? Are there enough resources for that purpose?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

As far as the training is concerned, once the land governance courses are designed, or the courselets, or the meeting place, it wouldn't matter if there were just the current 58 signatories, or the next 18, or the next 100. They would still access the same material.

Where the strain would be on resources would be with our staff going out and helping 100 new first nations through the community voting process. The strain would be there, and not so much on capacity-building. They would all get access to the capacity-building strategy sites.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

I'm just referencing some of the testimony that came from Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse, who made some reference to the fact that the existing communities that are part of the regime have greater stress to maintain their capacity needs, because the regime is becoming more and more extended by reason of the fact that more and more communities are joining it and the resources available are more strained.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

I guess one way of answering this would be that perhaps he was thinking less along the lines of capacity, and more on how the government would deal with operational funding and developmental funding.

There once was a concern that as more first nations were added the funding level to the successful ones would be reduced, but we're not encountering that. Chief Louie and Chief Bear signed a memorandum of understanding with the minister back in October that identified what the operational and the developmental funding would be, and that is fixed. So it's not going to be going down just because a first nation is successful in economic development. They're not going to be penalized for being successful in creating jobs and revenues for their members—

4:20 p.m.

Chair, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Chief Austin Bear

Or the number of new entrants.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

Or the number of new entrants, as Chief Bear said.

I'm just wondering, Mr. Cotler, if perhaps that's what the chief from Ontario was referencing.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Cotler,

Mr. Rickford for seven minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, and thank you to the witnesses.

It's nice to see Chief Louie here again. I hope we have the opportunity to visit your community.

This is an outstanding deck, by the way. My questions are going to focus almost pre-entry here, because I want some of this information not just for myself but I think for the benefit of the committee. I've got a really recent example that will help me go through this.

We're focusing on development, and I think, as the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board has said, building opportunity-ready communities. The context in which you're here, and so many other witnesses, is this idea of land use and land-use planning, and the focus in terms of one of its ultimate or superordinate goals would, of course, be economic development. They don't just cross-fertilize. They're essential, not just to what we're studying but to what we hear from the communities.

I had a meeting last week in Sioux Lookout with the Lac Seul First Nation, and this is a wonderful, progressive community that has embarked on a number of initiatives, moving ever more closely to working with, and needing, the capacity around land-use planning. So I wonder if you would take me through this, because there's a lot of literature on the framework agreement signatories, but there's not enough messaging out there, and perhaps it's a question of resources as well, about getting these communities in position to actually be entrants.

I want to have that frank discussion because I've got a community that I think is ready, certainly in terms of my own preliminary analysis in the work that I've done in my role as parliamentary secretary in understanding this, Chief Bear. This is a chief coming to me and saying, Greg, I think we're ready to embark on this. What are the steps to be one of these opportunity-ready communities? What, if any, resources are available?

So much of what we have here in the literature talks about the signatories. Can you take me through those steps and make comments along the way?

I'm turning the rest of my time over to you folks in the hope that you'll do that.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

There was a letter that just recently went out from the ADM to the unsuccessful first nations at this point in time. The minister wrote to the 18 that were admitted, and the ADM of lands and environment wrote to the others. In that letter the indication was to contact the regional departmental officials, and they would work through with each of the first nations what it would take for those first nations to become ready.

Part of the department's analysis of the applications was on the readiness of the first nation. That was a process done entirely by the department. In fact, they're meeting nationally right now out in Winnipeg, as you know, to discuss how to organize for each of the first nations coming to the regions asking the question, how do I get ready? Each of the regions will be identifying the contact person to respond to that.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Is there, Graham, a mentoring process here, best-practice communities that are signatories? I realize the resources to a certain extent guide or direct your mandate for actual signatories to the framework agreement, but I'm concerned about the department being the only place available for the communities to become entrants.

Elizabeth, you look like you're ready. Go for it. This is exciting. I need to help this community.

4:25 p.m.

Advisor, Capacity Building, Training and Professional Development, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Elizabeth Childs

I'm bursting at the seams.

It is exciting. It is exciting in terms of the mentoring piece. Currently, the mentoring is done very much in a face-to-face setting, and the resource centre staff provide support for people who are coming in. One of our colleagues, Meko Nicholas, who is not here, has a very clear chart that shows, if you would like, here are the steps to go through. But moving into our online community space, that's the place where we're hoping to be able to partner and pair operational first nations, who may have a similar context or close enough that they would be willing to share and mentor, and groups that are coming in that are new.

Then, of course, people who are able to come in, as these new 18 are, they have access to all of these resources. So there's a courselet that's an introduction to the framework agreement, what it is, why it exists, and what it means for individuals. There's a courselet on the developmental process and all of the steps in the developmental process to get to a land code and get to operational first nation status.

They have access to all of those resources, and right now the blend is—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Sorry, how do they have access to them?

4:25 p.m.

Advisor, Capacity Building, Training and Professional Development, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Elizabeth Childs

As soon as they're part.... The 18 that are new, for example, we find out from them who their lands manager or governance director designate is, and they're issued a user name and password.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

So I guess my question, Elizabeth, is this. How does a community—I hate to use this word but—“cold call” this process? We want to find out about this. There's some lead-in time. I understand all of that and the department is committed to looking at who's entry-ready and whatnot.

As well, Graham, what are the typical timelines? The capacity for entrants notwithstanding, just in terms of plain readiness to do this, what do you typically find? Sorry, that's a couple of questions.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

I'm just going to come back to an earlier question and just finish that. In Chief Louie's letter to Minister Duncan, with respect to the signing ceremony of the 18 so that they could sign the adhesion document to the framework agreement, Chief Louie suggested that on this occasion if we had a two-day session, we would be able to sit down with the 18 new first nations and run them through the whole developmental process, all of the 45 steps roughly that are in the community voting procedure requirement. We would show them what we've shown you here and identify how to access it. We would use that as a learning opportunity for those that would be new, rather than just signing the adhesion document and sending them back out.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

I'm talking more about potential entrants than I am the actual entrants. I know I haven't got much—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

You don't have any time unfortunately, but we will get back.

Absolutely, you may complete the answer.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

Just to finish that answer, and Chief Louie and Chief Bear will step in, the position of the Lands Advisory Board and the resource centre is that any first nation is ready right now the minute it wants to come in. We're not gatekeepers. The regional LAB directors are always recommending first nations that have come to them to say they want in. We recognize that it's their inherent right to manage their lands.

From the department's perspective, because of limited resources, the department has had to apply a readiness test. Obviously you can't be in third-party management or co-management, but every first nation is ready, if it says it wants to manage its lands and get out of the Indian Act.

So that's how we term readiness. It's the first nation's wish.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you for that. Thank you very much.

Mr. Genest-Jourdain for five minutes.

March 1st, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Good afternoon, everyone.

I familiarized myself with the document that came with your appearance today. Under the framework agreement, Canada seems to have obligations and responsibilities.

Is it possible to do an overview and point out the enforcement power in the framework agreement, the power that binds the parties, by which I mean the communities and the government?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre

Dr. Graham Powell

I'm just trying to determine what the constraints might be.

4:30 p.m.

Chairman, First Nations Lands Advisory Board

Chief Robert Louie

I'm not sure I completely understand the question. If I understand it correctly, the question focuses in on what Canada's obligations to assist first nations to proceed are.

It falls back to our framework agreement that was signed back in 1996. That has been supported and ratified by the 1999 First Nations Land Management Act legislation. The principles are basically there. Canada's real responsibilities are to assist by adequately resourcing the framework agreement signatories. That's the main objective, and of course, getting the orders in council in place to allow the first nations in.

You've heard our perspective. We would open the doors willingly to all the first nations in Canada if they wished to join, and many do. One out of five first nations in Canada wish to participate or are participating. Our problem, of course, is finding the resources, and that is Canada's responsibility. Canada's main responsibility is to allocate resources so that we can have those first nations in the developmental, and subsequently, the operational phases.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Your remarks raised several issues of a legal nature. You are talking to a lawyer at the moment. Among other things, I was wondering about the legislative drafting; in terms of land administration and management, what is the actual nature of the information given to the members of the community, legally speaking?

It's just that you need a three-year law degree, plus another year before being called to the bar, in order to be able to handle concepts of land management. It takes specialized, in-depth knowledge, you see.

What is the actual nature of the information given to the members of the community, legally speaking?

4:30 p.m.

Chairman, First Nations Lands Advisory Board

Chief Robert Louie

We have resource personnel, who are the legal people, if you will, and we are supported by them at both the developmental and the operational levels. So if a question arises from a legal point of view—legalities of environment, legalities of law-making, or how one goes about that—we are assisted by the professional legal people, who will answer those questions. It's monitored.

When a first nation goes through the voting process, we have a verifier, who represents both Canada and the first nation, to ensure that the proper protocols and procedures outlined in the framework agreement are followed. That's very carefully done to avoid appeals by any members from a first nation community who might vote.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

In terms of the legislative drafting, whether it be about the land code or the regulations that might apply in a community, do your member organizations have the ability to manage everything in the drafting from a to z or will you contract it out? Is there someone in your organization who will ultimately take care of everything related to the drafting of the official and legal documents?