Evidence of meeting #74 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 s-8.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Graham Gagnon  Director, Dalhousie University, Centre for Water Resources Studies
Steve Hrudey  Former Panel Member, Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water, As an Individual
Ernie Daykin  Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver
Gary MacIsaac  Executive Director, Union of British Columbia Municipalities
Ralph Hildebrand  General Manager, Corporate Counsel, Corporate Services, Metro Vancouver
Dean Vicaire  Co-Chair, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat
John Paul  Executive Director, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat
Robert Howsam  Executive Director, Ontario First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group
Mathew Hoppe  Technical Manager, Ontario First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

When you're in a service relationship with the first nations in your region, what has the experience been?

Mr. MacIsaac may want to answer that, too, for outlying communities.

How is that relationship in terms of dealing with these escalating costs of providing service?

10:10 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

There are some very good relationships that are in place as we speak. In my own community, we are chatting with the first nations that are in Maple Ridge. There is that ongoing dialogue. I'm not sure there's a recognition at some level of the cost, the infrastructure cost, the capital cost, and the ongoing costs that go into the provision of water. But the fact that we do have a number of agreements in place I think tells me that it's working. Could it be better? I'm sure perhaps it could be.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. MacIsaac?

May 23rd, 2013 / 10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Union of British Columbia Municipalities

Gary MacIsaac

Yes, I would echo those comments. Generally the same situation would exist across the province, where you would see that there's a wide variation. But there are service agreements in place, and local governments and first nations do have a variety of relationships, not all identical. They would vary depending on local needs and issues.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Would you also say it's likely that the service agreements that you have are beneficial to the first nations? In other words, it's better that they're getting their water through the municipal services than trying to provide those themselves.

10:15 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

Yes, I would agree. With the approach that we take at our local table but also at the regional table there are a number of things, a number of services that are delivered, that the District of Maple Ridge can't do on its own. It's better to be part of a federation, to share those collective efforts. Again, we've provided a list of the local government servicing agreements with first nations in Metro. It goes from water and sanitary services to fire protection, and some of the communities have animal control, and dike maintenance. A range of services are provided, and again, as Mr. MacIsaac said, they're not all identical. But I think there's a critical mass of those services that the region can provide in a cost-effective way. Our concern is that—

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Basically you're an integral partner with these reserves; they're going to be part of what you're doing in the future. There's no question about that. There's not going to be division of service. So you're stuck with what happens here. You're stuck with this legislation and yet you're their best option.

Those terms make it vital for you to be at the table with this legislation.

10:15 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

Yes. We want to be willing partners. We want to provide our expertise, our experience, and be part of drafting whatever comes down the pipe.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

When it comes to more remote communities—remote first nations that are in service agreements with municipalities—where there are water delivery services, for example, where you're trucked water, where these services are more difficult, and where the standards are harder to maintain because they're such individual customers.... You're not putting it in a pipe and sending it across the border. You're putting it in a truck and delivering it to individual homes or you're picking up your sewage services.

Do you see this kind of relationship as requiring a great deal of integration with the standards and the regulations that might come out of this particular process?

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Union of British Columbia Municipalities

Gary MacIsaac

I think generally if the first nation reserve is experiencing that problem, the local government will have similar challenges. It certainly does speak to the need to look for local solutions and to work closely together.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

So what you're saying here basically is that you haven't had that opportunity yet to deal with this bill so that you can be assured that as time goes on, when these regulations are set, your essential role in dealing with water and sewer services on first nation communities will be recognized.

10:15 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

Yes, that's correct.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Quite clearly, your case is very strong. We'll look forward to seeing if you have some idea about amendments that could be made to the bill to enhance your and other municipality's roles in this across the country. If you're saying this, the same thing applies in many other areas across the country. Certainly we would want to know that there are amendments we can propose that would give you the kind of security you're looking for with this legislation.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

You've taken all the time, Mr. Bevington, but if there is a short answer, we can hear it from you folks.

10:20 a.m.

Ralph Hildebrand General Manager, Corporate Counsel, Corporate Services, Metro Vancouver

I'll try a short answer, Mr. Chair.

I think one of the issues of concern is the lack of consultation so far. That's clear in both presentations. If we look at, for instance, the definition section about a drinking water system, a system includes the whole system, which would mean the system on first nation lands and the local government system.

If that section, for instance, included the same provision as in section 4.3 that specifically references first nation lands, it would mean that before you could move forward with regulations, there would have to be that consultation with the local governments. That would give us some assurance.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

We're going to turn to Mr. Clarke instead.

Mr. Clarke, seven minutes.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming.

I've got a couple of questions. It's actually pretty straightforward.

My home first nation is Muskeg Lake first nation in Saskatchewan. I was in the RCMP stationed all over northern Saskatchewan, including at the Red Earth reserve, a remote community located about 150 kilometres northeast of Nipawin. In that time—back in 1995 until probably about 1997—being stationed on that first nation reserve, there was a brand new water treatment plant that was built under the federal government at that time. That was great. The local community had nice potable water. Water sewage was great, but there was one problem and I'd like to get your point of view on it.

This is why the government is trying to introduce the current legislation. Do you feel it's fair for a community to go without water for three to seven days, despite having a brand new state-of-the-art facility, because of an individual going out for personal reasons, either for hunting or for personal reasons? This has happened quite a few times. There are no regulations in place or no back-up systems for extra people to look at. Yes or no?

10:20 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

No, it's not fair.

Having said that, we're not saying there's a silver bullet or a fix-all piece for the equation. There are different challenges that we have in an urban setting than in a situation like you're suggesting or describing. We're not here to say that people don't have that right. That's a given. Through consultation with local governments, we can together come up with a framework that will ensure that this doesn't happen in your community, and doesn't happen in my community, which is significantly larger. What we're asking for is the desire and the willingness to be at the table, to be part of the conversation.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

You mentioned consultation with local governments and first nation governments.

I'm just wondering if you clearly understand that there are over 633 first nations across Canada. Did you know the legal definition of the duty to consult with first nations, when you mentioned it in your speech?

10:20 a.m.

Director and Chair, Aboriginal Relations Committee, Metro Vancouver

Ernie Daykin

I'm going to defer to my legal colleague.

10:20 a.m.

General Manager, Corporate Counsel, Corporate Services, Metro Vancouver

Ralph Hildebrand

It's an interesting area of developing law, isn't it? I think that would be the appropriate response.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I'd like to hear your legal definition of the “duty to consult”.

10:20 a.m.

General Manager, Corporate Counsel, Corporate Services, Metro Vancouver

Ralph Hildebrand

The duty to consult varies, of course, depending on the nature of the interests that are stake in any particular first nation's circumstance. It's not something I could give a black and white answer to, as we heard from the previous one.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

It was clearly defined with the Haida versus B.C. forestry case in British Columbia.

10:20 a.m.

General Manager, Corporate Counsel, Corporate Services, Metro Vancouver

Ralph Hildebrand

That would depend on whom you talk to.