Evidence of meeting #28 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was funding.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Colleen Swords  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Scott Stevenson  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Minister.

We'll turn now to Mr. Genest-Jourdain. Thank you for waiting.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Minister, do you think the $28-million transfer in supplementary estimates (B) for the assessment, management and remediation of federal contaminated sites will enable the department to achieve its remediation target of 40 contaminated sites by March 2015?

And when does your department anticipate that all contaminated sites within federal jurisdiction will be remediated?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

A total of $23 million of the $28 million will be earmarked for high-priority contaminated sites in the north. I am referring to the two abandoned mines, Giant and Faro. The remaining $5 million will be allocated to contaminated sites on reserves south of 60, in British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario. That is how the $28 million will be spent.

For 2014-15, the government will spend an estimated total of $184 million in the north alone and $31.9 million, so nearly $32 million, south of 60.

You asked me whether the department was on track to meet our objectives of remediating 40 contaminated sites by 2015, and the answer is yes. We do, in fact, anticipate completing these projects by 2015 because we are currently implementing our remediation strategy at each of the 40 targeted sites.

December 3rd, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Minister, the supplementary estimates earmark $10.5 million for the aboriginal economic development strategic partnerships initiative, aimed at increasing aboriginal participation in economic opportunities and, in particular, large resource development projects.

Minister, do you plan to allocate resources locally to engage Innu and seek the approval of the members of the Uashat and Maliotenam communities, as far as the Arnaud mine initiative is concerned? The project involves an open-pit mine, one of the largest in the country, if not North America. Do you plan to seek the approval of the members of the Uashat and Maliotenam communities?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Under the aboriginal economic development strategic partnerships initiative, stakeholders and first nations submit projects. If the group in question would like to take advantage of the strategy, it can do so, just like anyone else. So far, I have not heard anything about that group making such a submission.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Would you be able to check on that and get back to me with a written answer? I would very much appreciate it, minister.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Absolutely. We can check on that.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

I will be passing the information on to the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam band council.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Absolutely.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Now I would like to discuss the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Some $11.9 million has been allocated to the continued implementation of the agreement. How will the funding requested in the supplementary estimates be used in relation to the personal credits provided for under the settlement agreement? How many applications were received before the October 31 deadline?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Are you referring to the personal credits for education?

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Yes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As of September 30, 2014, a total of 7,252 personal credit applications had been received. They are currently being processed.

As I indicated in the House earlier, we are currently working with the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit representatives to request an extension of the deadline for personal credit applications.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Minister.

We'll turn to Mr. Dreeshen now for the last questions for the minister.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

First, Mr. Chair, if you will allow me,

I would like to make a small correction to the information I gave Mr. Genest-Jourdain, if I may.

I told you the figure for the month of September. By the October 31 deadline, a total of 24,624 personal credit applications had been received.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We'll move now to Mr. Dreeshen.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

It's great to have you here, Mr. Minister.

I'd like to speak to the 10b vote, as stated here, “Funding to support the implementation of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Agreement and Financial Arrangements Agreement”. You spoke in your presentation of a modernization of Canada's relationship with the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and providing the community with the tools and authority to build a more self-sufficient and prosperous future.

I understand that they became the first self-governing first nation in the Prairies when this governance agreement came into effect just on July 1 of this year. I'm wondering if you could comment on how the funding identified in these supplements that I mentioned will be allocated, as well as just some basic thoughts on the importance of this agreement.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As I indicated when we made the announcement, this is historic. In the Prairies, not only is it the first one, but it provides the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation with the tools and authority to build a more self-sufficient and prosperous future, bringing the community out of most of the provisions of the Indian Act.

The short experience we have in this country in regard to self-government agreements is positive. They give first nations greater control over their affairs, including in areas such as economic development, land management, and health. They also contribute to conditions that lead to healthier, more self-sufficient, and prosperous first nation communities, which are empowered and accountable to deliver programs and services to residents on reserve and to address their identified priorities.

The results are demonstrable all across the country. Where you have self-government agreements, there are much better results for education, employment, and skills development. It is positive.

In this case, the financial arrangements agreement between the nation and Canada sets out broadly how the money that the federal government transfers to the nation shall be allocated in accordance with the agreement. The nation must ensure that programs and services in relation to areas such as health, economic development, and minor capital are operating. However, the allocation of its funds among those programs is determined by them. That's what's right with this. As the chief said when we made the announcement—he put it simply—“we’ll be able to do the things that other people and governments take for granted.” Now they can do it themselves.

The financial arrangements agreement also includes an increase to governance funding to support the new responsibilities that they have assumed. Annual transfers for governance go toward carrying out government functions, such as conducting elections, the establishment and operation of boards or other entities, or the development of government policies. It's a tiny government but it is a government. That's what they do.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

What you're saying is that a lot of the funding we're speaking of here is going into that governance model, allowing them to set up the different regulations they would require in order to function properly.

You talk about results and being results-based. You talked about education, employment, skills development, and certainly increased results as far as health care is concerned.

I'm wondering if you could perhaps spend whatever time I may have left speaking to the committee about the benefits you see, and the things you've talked about in discussions with the leadership of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. What do they stand to gain from the increased autonomy that's going to come because of this funding we have put into it?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As I've mentioned, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act enshrined into law the self-government agreement that was negotiated with them. This law has granted the Sioux Valley Dakota government greater autonomy and freedom from the restraints of the Indian Act. Thanks to this legislation, laws enacted by the Sioux Valley Dakota first nation now operate concurrently with laws that are made by the federal government and the provincial government. This has given the first nation the ability to better meet the needs of its membership and plan for the community's bright and prosperous future.

For a smaller community, such as Sioux Valley Dakota first nation, finding and securing the right partnership is essential. Both the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and our government recognize that the self-government agreement is a tool that will enable this first nation to take advantage of business opportunities as they arise. Whether it is a greater autonomy from the Indian Act, the ability to create its own laws or conditions that will foster fruitful partnerships, all of these aim at one thing, and that is increasing economic opportunities, economic development, for the Sioux Valley Dakota first nation.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Minister.

Minister, I know you're out of time. We want to thank you for being here.

We will suspend, colleagues, for about three minutes, and then we'll return with the officials.

Meeting suspended.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

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

Colleagues, we already congratulated Ms. Swords on behalf of committee. I was beaten to those congratulations on your new role as deputy minister.

We want to thank you for coming back. We know that you've been here in other capacities and now you're here in this capacity. We know that you know what's in store so we appreciate that you've returned and that you've remained with us for the remainder of the meeting.

I'll now turn to the next round of questions. We're going to start with Ms. Hughes for the questions to our officials.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you very much.

Thank you for being here.

At this point I'm going to start my questioning with the flooding in Manitoba.

In 2011 we saw that there were 18 first nation communities that were evacuated. We see that there are about 1,300 people who have returned home, but there's still a disproportionate number that have not returned, which is 1,974. A lot of these people, to my understanding, are still living in hotel rooms. Maybe you could clarify that for me.

The federal government is currently negotiating settlement packages with affected first nations. We're aware of that. That would include flood mitigation measures, replacement lands from the province, and compensation for damages.

How much is it going to cost to rebuild the Manitoba communities? Has the department put a figure to that yet?