Evidence of meeting #35 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 kahnawake.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bartholomew J. Tsannie  Chief, Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation
Anne Robillard  General Manager, Hatchet Lake Development Limited Partnership
Clinton Phillips  Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake
Debbie Morris  Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake
Diane McDonald  Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council
Paul Denechezhe  Councillor, Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We'll turn to Ms. Crowder.

You had a short question.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Yes. I just wanted to come back to the environment for a second, because it's something that Chief Phillips, Chief Tsannie, and Diane McDonald have identified.

Diane, I just want to go back to the statement you made. You've said that there are 43 abandoned sites in your traditional territories. I know that not all of them are on reserve, but we all know that water and air know no boundaries, so it doesn't matter whether it's on reserve or off reserve. It can affect groundwater and it can affect all kinds of other things.

I have a motion before the committee such that hopefully at some point we'll get to call witnesses around the proposed changes to the Fisheries Act, and about the regulations around them, but that's for another discussion. Are you provided with any tools or resources to assist you with the ongoing monitoring of the water and air quality in your traditional territories?

5:10 p.m.

Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So is anybody doing that? I mean, 43 abandoned sites is a lot.

5:10 p.m.

Land-Use Coordinator, Prince Albert Grand Council

Diane McDonald

It is, and some of them are satellite sites, smaller sites. The only moneys that are made available are the millions of dollars in the agreement between the federal government and the provincial government, you know, where the Saskatchewan Research Council has taken the lead role in doing the assessment of those sites.

But our communities are not involved at any level in the monitoring of those sites. We know that we're seeing changes, and we do have high cancer rates in our communities. We have infants who have died of cancer. Our former chief died of cancer. We have high levels of cancer, and we're assuming that maybe it's coming from the fish we eat.

So there are no tools or financials or capacity being provided to us to deal with this—even with the environmental assessment process.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Many of us would argue that when you're talking about economic development, you can't talk about economic development in isolation. You have to include the environmental and social aspects of economic development, because in isolation you have the kinds of results you're talking about.

I know I'm going to run out of time, so I just want to turn to Chief Phillips.

Does your nation have any resources around environmental monitoring? You talked about the group that you have in place, and about this other organization, but does the federal government actually help provide money? Because for the contaminated sites, some of them are based on leases the federal government signed on your behalf.

5:10 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

Not to my knowledge.

5:10 p.m.

Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Debbie Morris

No, it's only the groundwater monitoring program, and then the environmental group develops proposals and gets funding that way. But other than that, no, there are no dollars.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So on the 25-year extension on the lease on the golf course, which at some point in time had contaminants on it, whether it's the current owner or not is not the point. Were you involved in any discussions on the extension of that lease? So the government negotiated the lease on your nation's behalf...?

5:10 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

There was the band council of the day. I believe it was 1972.

But you have to keep in mind that Kahnawake was a totally different place in 1972. I mean, back in '72, kids were still walking around barefoot because people didn't have things—you know what I mean? It was a different mindset. When you waved $200 in front of somebody who likely didn't have two nickels to rub together, that was a lot of money.

Decisions were made based on issues at the time and life on a reserve at the time. It's not the same today.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Are you cutting me off?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Well, it's turning into a longer question than a short question. Certainly if there are answers.... I mean, we're not pressed for time, Ms. Crowder.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I just have a yes or no question on the renegotiation of the extension of the lease on the golf course: was an environmental assessment done at that time?

5:10 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

On the extension of the lease on the golf course, was an environmental assessment done at that time? Just yes or not.

5:10 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

There's a lack of dollars. We're talking of a lot of money to have an assessment done. We're hoping that maybe Ottawa will kick in dollars, because as I said, the minister is a signatory of the lease, and I guess that would be part of the problem in terms of environmental accountability. We'll exhaust every avenue to get the testing done and to get things right that were done wrong to us and our lands. I'll stop at nothing.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

Chief, I have just a follow-up question.

Obviously, we're setting land use and economic development, and really the two mechanisms that communities have right now to undertake legislation or regulation with regards to land management are either through the Indian Act, which you're currently under, or else the provisions under the First Nations Land Management Act, which are also there

I read somewhere, Chief, that your community considered in 2005 the possibilities of what the First Nations Land Management Act might provide for your community. I know that you weren't chief at that point in time, but I'm curious if you have any insight as to maybe why the community felt they should reject that provision within law to get outside of the Indian Act. My understanding was that at that point there had been an alternative legislative framework that the Kahnawake community had proposed, something that would have been tailored to the community. I'm wondering if that was something that was written and there's something in place that we could actually review, or if that was more just a suggestion at that point in time.

5:15 p.m.

Council Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Chief Clinton Phillips

I'll hand it off to my technician. She's been involved with the land unit for a lot longer than I have.

May 15th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Debbie Morris

I believe you're referring to the Canada-Kahnawake relationship.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Yes, I've forgotten the title, but I understand there was provision where the community suggested an alternative to those two options.

5:15 p.m.

Associate Director, Lands Unit, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Debbie Morris

I remember the presentation that was made to the chief and council at that time for the process. However, at that time there were concerns with the environmental requirements that were in there and the liabilities that would have fallen onto Kahnawake—and, of course, we didn't have the funding to be able to carry forth what needed to be done. So that played a big role in why it was not followed up.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

I appreciate that. Thank you.

Not seeing any additional intervenors, we'll suspend and just give an opportunity to our witnesses to leave.

But we do want to thank you first before we do let you go. We know that you are all very busy people and you've given your time to be here today. I certainly want to thank you on behalf of the entire committee. Thank you so much.

We'll suspend.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Colleagues, we'll call this meeting back to order.

I want to make colleagues aware of a couple of things. On Thursday we will only have one witness. There was an appetite, it seemed, for a subcommittee meeting. So we're going to try to organize one, if subcommittee members could let me know if it would be workable. We would take part of what would otherwise be allocated for the committee, and then maybe continue for a short time after that 5:30 mark on Thursday, for those who are on the subcommittee.

I'm getting a sense that might not be the best day. I understand people are racing back to their constituencies. Could subcommittee members let me know after this meeting what might work better? We don't need to get into a long dialogue. I'll just make sure we find a time that accommodates everyone's schedules.

In terms of other committee business, I'm not certain that anything else is pressing, other than.... No, I think everything can be handled at the subcommittee. We'll get together and find a time that's suitable for everybody.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

What about Ms. Crowder's motion?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Yes. We'll turn to Ms. Crowder, if you want to do that.