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Evidence of meeting #34 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 lands.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

James Cada  Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation
Keith Sayers  Lands and Resources Manager, Mississauga First Nation
Julie Pellerin  Manager, Support Services, First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-Marie David

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So for the 700-plus people who are living off reserve, it would have been an opportunity to come home. That's one of the things that would have happened, I would presume.

3:50 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Keith talked about some of the other opportunities that went amiss. We did a couple of small sawmill studies about how we'd utilize the hardwoods. We haven't even taken it to the extreme of looking at the loss of jobs and so on. But the biggest problem, and why people are leaving the community, is employment. If we could provide them with stable employment, I'm sure we'd have a lot coming back home.

3:55 p.m.

Lands and Resources Manager, Mississauga First Nation

Keith Sayers

To add to that, we have some individuals who want to come back home because they know what is available to us once we have our plans in place and everything fits with our long-term planning goals of creating those economic opportunities. Again, we do have some individuals going to universities and colleges, with the intent of coming home to work for the community, once we can get all our plans in place and things are running smoothly.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

As you rightly pointed out, the delays are costing you money, because you have to redo plans. You were talking about your forestry management plan. You've had to redo it because you weren't able to move forward on it. So it's not only the lost opportunities for people in employment and generating revenue for the nation; it's also a cost to you in terms of having to redo work that's already been done. Is that correct?

3:55 p.m.

Lands and Resources Manager, Mississauga First Nation

Keith Sayers

Yes, and we're going to face the same situation again, because our forestry management plan should probably be reviewed again, to update it and make sure the economics are appropriate based on today's forest industry and the direction that's going in. In addition to that, we have to update our land-use plant. Again, those are all costs that will be borne by the first nation in implementing all our planning and other strategies to create economic opportunities.

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Right now, I do believe we're up to five buildings that have to be demolished, torn down, due to the inability to provide a long-term lease or rental agreement to individuals, not only first nations members but to the mainstream. We've always complied with the request of the department not to quote any long-term interests on those private properties until the lands are transferred and so on. Because we're tied to that commitment, we're losing out. The losses are continually mounting because of the maintenance. If you don't have people living in those units, those losses are going to continue to grow. Basically, if this continues, we'll have no other option but to seek damages for that delay.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Do I have time?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

One minute.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

If you were to make two or three recommendations to us as to how things need to be improved, what would they be?

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

For me, it's the management or implementation of the ATR. Here in Ontario, I know for a fact that the lands unit is not fully staffed. I'm also aware of personal issues with management. There's a structure in place there that basically says, here's a work plan, or here's our business plan, and this is what we're going to get off the table. It seems as if they're doing more negotiating than implementing.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Implementation of land claims agreements is a criticism across the country. People sign agreements, but the implementation process drags on forever. Is there an adequate dispute resolution process, in your view?

3:55 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Under the ATR, no. I think the only dispute resolution—because we signed a settlement agreement—is to take it to court. The court's bottom line is going to be, “Here, you've got to go and do this under your ATR policy.” So you're back in the same boat.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thanks, Mr. Cada.

Mr. Rickford for seven minutes.

May 3rd, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to the witnesses.

I thank my colleague who has brought forward a discussion I'd like to develop a little further with respect to additions to reserves. There is another subject that perhaps I'll get to later.

First of all, I want you folks to understand that you're exactly the kinds of witnesses we want to hear from at this committee—the perspective of the economic development people who have spoken to things like FNLM, first nations land management, and the board itself. Other witnesses, specifically from communities, have added their positive and critical impressions and experiences with respect to a number of activities and exercises that are involved in first nations land management, or, in a broader sense, land-use planning.

Keith, land management, as you rightly pointed out, represents significant economic benefits to a community. In your case, your concern is loss of opportunity, just as one example.

It benefits us all when we have a frank discussion about these matters, because these are long-standing structural challenges of a decade or two that we must overcome. The important work the committee is doing here is to break some of this down.

I just want to ask a couple of questions.

You've identified that each parcel of land may have unique considerations to be resolved before adding to the reserve. What do you think is a reasonable timeframe?

This isn't an easy question because we've heard from the chief of Kitigan Zibi, for example, who said that some of the smallest parcels of land represent some of the biggest challenges to actually go through that process. Then others, without explanation, tend not to take as long, but represent larger pieces of land.

Generally speaking, James, can you comment on that?

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

In all honesty, I can't speak for the department. I've seen a number of issues, or, to me, excuses on delays, such as changes in the formatting of OICs, orders in council, and so on and so forth.

These lands have been studied to death in regard to title and environment. There have been three studies on them. There are no impediments. The only impediment is to get the offers signed, the lands transferred to Canada, and the order in council completed. There is nothing else that's impeding that process.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

There are some administrative or bureaucratic issues, in this case at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. You feel we should be able to be more responsive. There are some complexities.

I'm going to move on to my question about third-party encumbrances. I understand that at least in one instance there was a nearby first nation that had some kind of dispute. Sometimes it's where the timelines get extended as you resolve these situations.

Could you speak to any specific third-party encumbrances and/or any lingering disagreements, if you will, with nearby communities, be they municipalities or a first nation, and what your experience was in that regard?

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

For us, we've had basically no encumbrances. In the land claim consultation process there was a lot of uproar and so on, but I think a lot of that was dealt with through amendments or through the negotiations. We provided assurances for a lot of the hunters, the cottagers, and so on. We continued to do that as custodians, to allow that access, when the lands were still under federal status.

To me, there are no impediments. Union Gas and hydro, and Ontario, with its private right-of-ways and whatnot, are the only ones there. We've had no problems with them at all.

Right now, as I said, Union Gas is prepared to enter into an agreement under the land code and easement agreement. The turnaround time would probably be six months. That includes one month to allow for a vote.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

They're a business moving at the speed—

4 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

They always have been cooperative. Hydro One is interested. I think basically they're going to get tired of the issues they're dealing with, with the department, because their timelines continue to drag on.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

James, I can appreciate that.

This time goes by so quickly, so I'm having to go over some stuff here more rapidly than I want to.

I know that in September 2000, the department released a final report, “Impact Evaluation of Contributions to Indian Bands for Land Management on Reserve”. It's kind of a long title. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the report. But importantly, this final report recommended that the department “work towards national ATR legislation that incorporates process and approval improvements to streamline the process and increase efficiency”.

Perhaps you would like to take this last minute or two to expound on that recommendation, based on a very experienced community in this regard.

4:05 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

If there's legislation and there are timelines that go with that legislation, I would be all for it. We've discussed doing timelines in the settlement agreement. We've always gotten resistance—no, they can't commit to that.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

It's a critical element, James.

I know that my time is set to expire, if you could answer briefly.

4:05 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

That basically is it, in a nutshell. We've asked for a commitment. We were looking at that in the two other negotiations we're into. We want some type of commitment from the department that, yes, these are the timelines they can live up to, because we realize that for our lands, there is no encumbrance.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

I appreciate, then, that this would be a fully integrated discussion between other levels of government implicated in this process, and perhaps even private sector stakeholders, such as Hydro One and Union Gas. Would that streamline it and make it more efficient? It would be consistent, I would think.

4:05 p.m.

Director of Operations, Mississauga First Nation

James Cada

Yes, it would. Because I can tell you, I know two corporations that are not happy with the process or with what they're being fed now by the department.