Evidence of meeting #103 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was peoples.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Fox  President of Indigenous Community Engagement Inc., Co-Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Committee, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Francyne Joe  President, Native Women's Association of Canada
Paul-Matthieu Grondin  President of the Quebec Bar, Barreau du Québec
Francis Walsh  Member, Comité sur le droit en regard des peuples autochtones, Barreau du Québec
Jennifer Preston  Program Coordinator, Canadian Friends Service Committee
Pat Van Horne  Legislative Representative, National Office, United Steelworkers
Paul Joffe  Lawyer, As an Individual

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I will start the meeting.

I want to recognize officially that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, an important fact and one that we try to remember and reflect on daily, as we're beginning a process of understanding the truth of our history of colonialism—apartheid here in Canada—and how we resolve the history through reconciliation.

We have a full agenda with two panels. We are talking about UNDRIP, the United Nations declaration and, of course, the provisions within it. It is a time for change in Canada, and I think that we're all privileged to be part of that positive change.

We are here pursuant to order of reference of Wednesday, February 7, 2018, studying Bill C-262, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As presenters, you'll have up to 10 minutes, and after all the presentations are done we'll go into a series of questions from the MPs.

It looks as though my friends from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada are first on the agenda.

Welcome, and we look forward to your presentation.

3:30 p.m.

Michael Fox President of Indigenous Community Engagement Inc., Co-Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Committee, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Meegwetch. Wachay.

Good afternoon, Chair and committee members.

I'd like to acknowledge that we are on the territory of the Algonquin Nation.

My name is Michael Fox. I'm from the Mushkegowuk Territory, from a community called Weenusk First Nation on Hudson Bay coast. I'm also an elected board member of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, PDAC.

I'm joined by my colleague Lesley Williams, the director of policy and programs of the PDAC.

The PDAC is a national voice of Canada's mineral exploration and development industry, representing over 7,500 members. We work to sustain a vibrant and responsible mineral industry and ensure that Canada is the top destination for mineral investment so we can continue to make new discoveries that will become tomorrow's mines and generate significant economic opportunities for Canadians.

Thank you for the opportunity for me to be here today to provide input on behalf of the mineral industry in relation to aspects of Bill C-262. Our comments will focus mainly on the evolution of the partnerships between the mineral industry and indigenous people in Canada. I particularly want to share the ways in which the on-the-ground activities of our sector demonstrate our leadership in indigenous engagement, which in our view are consistent with the spirit and principles of UNDRIP.

The mineral industry strongly supports the government's commitment to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples. However, discussion of the process around UNDRIP proposed by Bill C-262 cannot be separated from the broader questions, such as what mechanisms would be used to achieve UNDRIP implementation in Canada and what it would look like in practice. While we do not have amendments to propose to the bill, we hope that sharing the story of our industry will provide a practical example of the indigenous community partnerships that exist in practice and in parallel to frameworks such as UNDRIP.

The value of Canada's mineral industry cannot be overstated. The mineral exploration and mining industry makes vast contributions to our country from remote indigenous communities to rural areas to large cities. It generates significant economic and social benefits for Canadians.

The relationship between indigenous communities and businesses in the mineral industry in Canada is a shared success story to be proud of. Our industry has made many advancements in all areas, in health and safety, the environment, and community participation, but we are especially proud of our leadership working with indigenous partners on engagement and participation. For all parties involved this has not necessarily been an easy journey. It remains a work in progress.

In recent decades the relationship has gone through a significant transformation, particularly as the landscape has evolved. Some might argue that the legal framework in Canada was the sole catalyst for creating an environment for companies to engage with indigenous communities. However regulations do not create relationships. I'll say that again. Regulations do not create relationships.

Companies are, of course, responsible for abiding by what is legally required, but it is increasingly understood and accepted industry practice that regulatory requirements are the minimum standards for operation. While they are necessary, they do not exactly translate into the development of meaningful partnerships. Mineral industry leaders realize that building partnerships with communities is critical to the success of their project, not because it's the right thing to do or because the law requires something, but because good partners lead to successful projects that benefit everyone.

The evolution we have seen in the mineral industry is unparalleled. More so than any other Canadian industrial sector the mineral sector has a proven track record of effectively working toward maintaining a positive and respectful relationship with indigenous communities. More importantly the result has been positive mutual benefits.

Proportionally the mineral industry is the largest private sector employer of indigenous people in Canada. We have seen over the last couple of decades markedly increased community participation in projects on a number of different levels, from project design, environmental assessment, employment, etc. We have witnessed increased industry awareness about indigenous people in Canada, specifically the history and unique cultures of local communities.

Mineral exploration and mining companies are also embracing indigenous traditional knowledge and are incorporating it while they seek input on their projects. In addition to the benefits of direct involvement in the exploration and mining companies, there has also been a proliferation of indigenous businesses that provide an expanding number of services to the sector, such as drilling, heavy equipment, camp catering, to name a few. Economic opportunities generated by mineral development have contributed improvements to the socioeconomic conditions of a number of communities, including investments in training initiatives and community development.

A key mechanism through which relationships and economic opportunities have been formalized in Canada is through community-company agreements. These voluntary agreements are increasingly recognized internationally as a leading practice. A significant number of agreements have been signed between companies and indigenous communities, with over 500 agreements signed since 1974, the majority within the last decade.

These agreements include various commitments, such as training and skills development, employment targets, contracting, joint venture provisions, community investments and development, environmental monitoring, and financial considerations. These agreements are a testament to the strength of commitment by the industry in developing mutually beneficial partnerships and to the interests of many indigenous communities and the economic development opportunities generated by the minerals sector.

Overall, a long-lasting, trusting partnership has been developed between the minerals industry and indigenous communities all across Canada, from early exploration to mine developments enclosure. These are positive, mutually beneficial relationships. You need to look no further than the Éléonore project in Quebec, Ekati in the Northwest Territories, or New Afton in British Columbia.

Despite the significant positive outcomes of company-community partnerships, the narrative that is, unfortunately, most prevalent is that there is widespread discord, which generates the perception that the nature of company-community interactions is adversarial. As I have demonstrated, this is not typically the case.

Relationships are complex, comprehensive, and constantly evolving. Naturally, challenges will arise, but these are not insurmountable. That said, there are larger public policy issues that have an impact on industry-community relations.

Numerous unresolved issues exist across Canada related to jurisdiction and land claims. While matters of jurisdiction are strictly negotiated between the crown and indigenous people, these challenges can generate a sense of uncertainty. Often industry can be caught in the middle of jurisdictional issues that are not within its control.

Ongoing socio-economic conditions for many indigenous communities remain dire and we can all agree require immediate action. Foundational investments that contribute to the improved quality of life for communities are needed. Challenges related to health, education, housing, etc., can impact the ability of indigenous people to participate in mineral projects and to fully realize opportunities generated by the industry. Furthermore, ambiguity and complexity related to the crown's duty-to-consult processes has resulted in delayed projects, increased costs, investor uncertainty, and negative impacts on company-community relationships.

PDAC's cross-country research identified some key, overarching challenges with the way in which federal, provincial, and territorial governments implemented the duty to consult. Some of these include the trigger for consultation in its scope; the process for identifying impacted communities; roles and responsibilities, including delegation to proponents; the crown's role in consultation costs; the timeline for the process; and defining accommodation.

Government has committed to renewed relationship with indigenous people. This has encompassed a commitment to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a review of laws and policies, and the creation of a recognition and implementation of the rights framework. These actions are a positive step towards addressing some of the policy challenges I have raised.

These are not small tasks. There is a lot of work to be done. We applaud these efforts by the government in taking interest in how crown and indigenous relations will evolve. Meanwhile, the minerals industry will continue to be a leader. It will put into practice principles of engagement, and will reflect respect for indigenous rights, relationship building, and partnership development on the ground at exploration mining sites across Canada.

A strong, global, comparative Canadian exploration mining sector will be well positioned to deliver local, regional, and national benefits. As I have outlined here, it is the cornerstone of this strong, trusting relationship between companies and indigenous communities that results in mutual benefits.

Thank you. Meegwetch.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We'll move now to the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Francyne and Veronica, welcome. Francyne, you have up to 10 minutes.

3:40 p.m.

Francyne Joe President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Weyt-k, bonjour, and good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Algonquin and the Anishinaabeg peoples and thank them for allowing us on their unceded traditional territory, with special acknowledgement to the indigenous women and their families for whom NWAC exists.

Thank you for the invitation to share the Native Women's Association of Canada's perspectives on Bill C-262, which proposes an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. NWAC is in full support of this bill and all the implications that come with it.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not create new laws or rights. It enhances the existing rights of indigenous peoples and holds the Government of Canada accountable for ensuring respect to first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. It also emphasizes that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. What this bill sets out to do is implement the inherent human rights that indigenous peoples have and to enforce those rights within the Canadian legal system. Indigenous people should not only be consultants of the government but also participating members of all decision-making. This is not about saying yes or no; it's about creating equal and inclusionary negotiations.

At the end of my remarks, I will be making recommendations specific to the needs and issues of indigenous women, but overall, Bill C-262 is a good first step towards a better and stronger partnership between the federal government and indigenous authorities.

Indigenous women exist at the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination tied to gender, race, and colonialism. As a result, indigenous women face many barriers and obstacles to accessing their basic human rights. A fundamental human right is the right to education. We are seeing indigenous women and girls with lower levels of education than the rest of the Canadian population as well as with less access to adequate education. Often this can be attributed to poverty and discrimination based on geographic location.

There is a growing number of the indigenous population who identify as having a disability or functional limitation, especially first nations women living on reserves. As a triply marginalized group, indigenous women with disabilities face systemic and structural barriers that are not typically faced by non-indigenous and able-bodied Canadians.

There's a lack of culturally appropriate services available to indigenous women, whether they are health services or social services. Health care is a human right, and being culturally sensitive and trauma informed is crucial to delivering those services in a way that doesn't re-traumatize or cause further harm to our communities.

Social, political, and economic marginalization of indigenous women limits access to necessary and appropriate supports and services that reduce the impacts of poverty. Housing is a necessity, and indigenous women are more susceptible to homelessness, poverty, and violence. The most successful method of combatting poverty is empowering women through increased employment, access to education, access to health care, protection of cultural practices, and fostering socio-economic autonomy.

As activists and grassroots women have highlighted for decades, indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people continue to experience discrimination on multiple grounds and in various forms. In terms of violence, indigenous women and girls 15 years and older are three to five times more likely to experience violence. Indigenous women have reported fearing for their lives over the last few decades at a much higher percentage than non-indigenous women and are also more likely to be murdered by strangers than non-indigenous women.

Canada's national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is currently hearing first-hand accounts that provide a heartbreaking foundation to these statistics through the stories told by the families and loved ones of our murdered and missing sisters. I mention this to highlight that everyone in Canada has a charter-guaranteed right to life, liberty, and security of person, and we must do everything we can to ensure that this becomes a reality in the lives of indigenous women rather than remaining a mere paragraph in a government document.

In Canada, indigenous peoples continue to be overrepresented in the correctional system. According to Correctional Services Canada, indigenous women, who represent only 4% of the female population in Canada, make up to 41% of women in sentenced custody. This is a clear link to systemic discrimination based on racial, cultural, and colonial prejudices that need to be identified and scrubbed from our legal and judicial system. Everyone has the right to a fair trial and equal treatment under the law.

The correctional system isn't the only one that sees staggeringly high percentages of indigenous peoples. Child and family services is the other. Over 50% of children within the child welfare system are indigenous. Currently there are more indigenous children in care than at the height of residential schools.

As per article 2 of UNDRIP, indigenous women will be recognized as equal to all men and women. Article 22 builds on this, cementing that the government must ensure that all indigenous women and girls can access their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all political, social, economic, and cultural contexts.

Article 18 ensures that indigenous women have the freedom and right to participate in all decision-making matters that would affect their rights. As you can imagine, this is a particularly important article for NWAC because it reflects what we have been fighting for since our inception in 1974.

Articles 6 and 9 refer to the right to a nationality and the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation in accordance with their traditions and customs. As countless studies have found, and as indigenous peoples have been saying for as long as colonialism has existed, self-determination is a key part of empowering indigenous communities.

Finally, to ensure that Bill C-262 leads to the full and effective harmonization of Canadian law with UNDRIP, we recommend the following: one, development of a mechanism that will ensure accountability and consistency; two, a commitment to ensure that language is inclusive and will reflect the rights, respect, and co-operation of indigenous women and LGBTQ2S; three, the recognition of the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination tied to gender, race, and colonialism; four, going beyond UNDRIP by including the specific needs and issues of the diverse indigenous communities in Canada—this includes a specific distinctions-based approach that recognizes the diversity amongst and between first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

Thank you for your time. Kukwstsétsemc. Meegwetch.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Meegwetch.

Now we go to the Barreau du Québec for up to 10 minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Paul-Matthieu Grondin President of the Quebec Bar, Barreau du Québec

Madam Chair, I'll be doing this in French, if anyone needs the earpiece.

Members of the committee, I am joined today by Francis Walsh, a member of our committee on the law and indigenous peoples, as well as Julien Pelletier-David, our special adviser on access to justice.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to share our views on Bill C-262 with the committee.

The Barreau du Québec supports this important bill, which seeks to harmonize Canada's laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 and signed by Canada on November 12, 2010.

This international instrument is the result of a lengthy process that began in the 1970s. It provides guidelines to states, the UN, and other international organizations on how to build harmonious relations with indigenous peoples based on the principles of equality, partnership, good faith, and mutual respect.

However, it merely represents a political commitment on the part of the states who voted in its favour.

Given that the declaration, itself, is not legally binding, provisions outside the realm of customary international law must be incorporated into domestic law in order to take full effect. This requires legislative measures. What's more, given that we have two levels of government, each must implement the declaration in accordance with its constitutional authority. Co-operation is therefore essential to the declaration's successful implementation. Keep in mind that full implementation hinges not only on good faith and legislative measures, but also, and above all, on funding.

The Barreau du Québec has repeatedly expressed its support for the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we are here today to reiterate that support. Bill C-262 is hugely important to the advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and should provide the normative framework for the policies that the Canadian government needs to adopt swiftly in its efforts towards reconciliation.

We believe that respect for the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples is a priority. Crime, victimization, and incarceration rates among indigenous peoples are appalling; in Quebec, the communities in Nunavik are especially affected. When the number of criminal records in a community nears or exceeds the size of its population, the question we need to be asking is where and how has the justice system failed to bring that number down. The question is not how many additional resources the system needs to handle the cases.

The Barreau du Québec is of the view that the way in which the justice system treats indigenous peoples is untenable. Back in 2013, the Barreau was criticizing the glaring lack of resources in northern Quebec. Working in the region, the Barreau came to the unequivocal realization that the gap between the justice apparatus and the indigenous communities it was supposed to serve was ever-growing. We are fully aware that the problem is not limited to Quebec, with all provinces plagued by the same issues. Too little has changed thus far.

All too often, the justice system is used to deliver a front-line response, taking the place of basic services. The significant lack of social, medical, and prevention-based resources creates a void that is filled by the justice system. Courts are frequently called upon to address the socio-economic failings. What's more, all of these services must make up for decades of trauma inflicted on communities.

The Barreau du Québec recently appeared before Quebec's public inquiry commission on relations between indigenous peoples and certain public services, in Val-d'Or, and made 36 recommendations to improve the situation. One of those recommendations was that Quebec adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as Canada is currently doing. We also proposed ways that the justice system could meet the needs of indigenous people.

Daunting though the challenge may be, it is nevertheless clear that every effort must be made to give Canada's indigenous communities maximal autonomy over their system of justice. Part of that is creating indigenous law institutes, as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended in its report more than 20 years ago.

This endeavour requires far more than just cosmetic changes. A comprehensive reform is needed, and we are well aware that such a reform hinges on the clear political will of all stakeholders, not to mention adequate financial and human resources.

The Canadian government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, committing to its full implementation in Canadian law. To that end, it is time for the government to turn its attention to the urgently needed changes that the country's indigenous people are owed. The declaration requires states to recognize the right of indigenous peoples to maintain their traditions, their legal customs and, where they exist, their systems of justice. Every level of government must exercise their constitutional authority and take appropriate action.

Openness, vision, creativity, and humanity must guide the eventual process of establishing legal systems that are truly tailored to the needs of indigenous peoples.

Simply passing Bill C-262 is not enough. In order to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government needs to undertake a comprehensive review of Canadian laws and amend them accordingly. The Barreau du Québec applauds the creation of the working group of ministers on the review of laws and policies related to indigenous peoples and hopes that this long-awaited endeavour will bring real change. Still, there is no doubt that this bill is highly symbolic and meaningful, illustrating the government's commitment to implementing the declaration. Not only is it the first step towards implementation of the declaration, but it is also a step towards reconciliation.

In short, we urge the government to put the necessary measures in place to ensure harmony between Canada's laws and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This endeavour could ultimately lead to a more effective and equitable justice system for all Canadians. Bill C-262 is but the first step in the long road ahead.

I want to conclude by saying that the Barreau du Québec realizes just how much work lies ahead and extends its full co-operation in this essential effort towards reconciliation.

It is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to Mr. Walsh.

3:50 p.m.

Francis Walsh Member, Comité sur le droit en regard des peuples autochtones, Barreau du Québec

Given that the passage of Bill C-262 is but the first legislative step towards implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we will not comment on each of the articles in the declaration.

We do, however, wish to provide some practical advice on administering the future statute. Picking up on a recommendation put forward by the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Barreau proposes that the annual report prescribed in clause 6 of the bill be made publicly available. The report is an accountability tool that will serve to keep elected representatives apprised of how consistent measures in the area of indigenous law are with the purpose of the bill.

The Barreau also wishes to point out that the measures in the bill cannot be successfully implemented without the co-operation of indigenous peoples. Therefore, the government must do more than submit an annual report in order to achieve genuine and effective co-operation.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

Now we're going to questioning.

We will start with MP Will Amos.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair. I'd like to give two or three minutes of my time to my colleague Mr. Tootoo. Could you kindly let me know when I'm down to three minutes?

Thank you to our witnesses.

My questions are for the Barreau du Québec representatives.

I'd really like to know your view on something. You raised some very important issues, not the least of which being the importance of investing in indigenous communities in order to respect the principles set out in the declaration, for all of our sakes.

Now let's get to the elephant in the room as far as the crown's role is concerned. What kind of attitude and commitment do you think the provinces will put forward? I'd like you to be forthright and honest. In Quebec, how do you see the issue of the declaration playing out, not just politically speaking, on all sides, but also as regards the legislative and legal system? How do you see that unfolding?

3:55 p.m.

President of the Quebec Bar, Barreau du Québec

Paul-Matthieu Grondin

As we said in our statement, the road that lies ahead is very long indeed.

The Barreau du Québec has called on the provinces to adopt the declaration. That's a first step. I think we are still just waking up to this issue. The Barreau wants to be part of the solution. Internally, our committees are still trying to figure out what this will mean in tangible terms, time- and money-wise.

I know that's not quite the answer you are looking for, but we are at a point where we have to follow through on the declaration and fulfill our obligations. That will mean ongoing and extensive discussions. That's all I can say right now.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Would any of your colleagues care to comment?

We are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation, and I represent many members of that nation. They tell me they are glad that I am able to help them. The federal government has tremendous challenges to deal with, and we are working on them.

That said, we have a long way to go when it comes to the province of Quebec. Sometimes I get the feeling that there isn't any dialogue at all. It is true that a number of issues need to be dealt with, including funding support and consequences.

Do you think those are the right issues to address? Isn't the real issue for the federal and provincial governments figuring out how to initiate a genuine and constructive dialogue?

4 p.m.

President of the Quebec Bar, Barreau du Québec

Paul-Matthieu Grondin

I think it's an issue that needs to be dealt with. We'll have to see how that takes shape on a practical level. It is necessary, but I think we're really only at the beginning of this awakening. Our committees are very busy looking at the issue right now.

You're definitely asking the right questions. The Barreau du Québec is more concerned about the legal dimension and the technical work in that regard. Of course, we would always welcome better government relations. Our expertise, though, really applies to the legal aspects of the UN declaration. That, specifically, is our area of focus.

4 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you for your answers.

I was a member of the Barreau du Québec for about a decade, so I know just how important the work of your committees is, not to mention the political and legal influence the Barreau exerts. I hope that you will continue your work on this issue.

I will now turn the floor over to my colleague Mr. Tootoo.

4 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Mr. Amos.

Welcome to the witnesses. My question is for Ms. Joe and Mr. Grondin.

Francyne, you talked about self-determination, participating members, the overrepresentation, and all the social ills. I think, Mr. Grondin, you discussed that as well. It's no secret in my riding in Nunavut, and, I'm sure, in any indigenous community across the country.... A lot of these problems, I look at them as effects. To address the cause, I've always said that we need to make sure people's basic needs are met. I think for 150 years now that hasn't happened. We've been kind of choked off at the wallet. You talk about addressing some of these issues, obtaining self-determination, and ensuring that Canada is falling in line with the rights of indigenous people. I think, Mr. Grondin, you mentioned that we need not just cosmetic but deep changes, financial changes.

Do you think there needs to be a significant investment from Canada in all indigenous communities to make those changes? We hear all the time that we can't afford it, but my view is that we can't afford not to. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

4 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Francyne Joe

Merci.

You're exactly right in that our peoples have been overlooked. Our opinions have been respected but not implemented. It's very important for our communities, especially our indigenous women, to be part of the conversations when decisions are being made that affect their lives and their families. Their input is not being respected nor incorporated into the policies that are going to affect them.

I think it's very important, as we stated, to be working together in order to ensure that this bill makes Canada and the policies that affect our daily lives better. That's going to hopefully minimize the socio-economic gap that affects our indigenous peoples, especially our women and children.

I hope that answers your question.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you. Your time has run out.

We are moving now to questioning from MP Kevin Waugh.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you.

I'm going to pick up on this. In your view, does the declaration provide sufficient protection on violence and discrimination for indigenous women? Perhaps you could elaborate.

4 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Francyne Joe

I like the simplicity of the question. It's easier to answer.

It's a start. This bill will start to listen to the voices and concerns of indigenous women and the LGBTQ2S, our concerns about policies and legislation that affect our housing, our health, our business skills.

Every day, we're told by our peers sometimes and our federal government what we can and cannot do. We have an inherent right that has never been eliminated, that should recognize we're a part of our own future. We're a part of taking control of a community, locally, provincially, nationally, where we can make it better, where we should not have to worry about violence towards our sisters, our children, our own communities.

I think it's important. By empowering our communities, our women, our children, it's going to protect them. We can do it ourselves; we just need to be given the resources and have those inherent rights recognized and honoured.

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Okay, thank you.

Mr. Fox, you talked about relationships, partners and partnerships. We've seen that in the mineral and mining industry for decades, and that is certainly up north right now. Maybe you could expand on what this bill would do.

We've heard some industry concerns throughout the country, but are those concerns warranted? What's your view on this, if this is adopted?

4:05 p.m.

President of Indigenous Community Engagement Inc., Co-Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Committee, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Michael Fox

I think the practice of our members—the majority of our members—is in the spirit and the intent of this bill. I think the federal government's NRCan website actually tracks all the different agreements across Canada, and we're 500-plus to date.

The only challenge I see in the future, not particularly with this bill, is the clarity around the implementation, and that's for any legislative project that the federal government implements. The proposed impact assessment act is a prime example. It's a new bill. How it's going to be implemented is everybody's question. As practitioners around that, I think—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

How would your organization like to see it implemented?

4:05 p.m.

President of Indigenous Community Engagement Inc., Co-Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Committee, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Michael Fox

Every project is different. It's project-specific, community-specific, site-specific. There's a balance of interests for each of those projects and agreements. How that turns out is a process of dialogue, relationship building, as well as implementation.

It doesn't just stop when everybody signs the deal. The implementation is a process of ongoing dialogue as well, and I think it's going to be the same here. If this is implemented—when it's implemented—there's the practice of recognizing indigenous rights by our members, and assisting in whatever way the socio-economic conditions that the members soon face when they meet the community the first time and learn about how they can contribute to the overall quality of life, based on whatever framework they're operating in.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Good.

I'm going to move over to the Quebec bar association, if you don't mind.

Thank you for your presentation. You said that Bill C-262 is not a complete answer; it's symbolic. We have said all along that Justice needs to be at this committee. You mentioned that.

Can you elaborate a little more on this angle? I mean, you're just one province out of 10 and the territories. How would Justice be involved here, in your opinion?

April 24th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.

President of the Quebec Bar, Barreau du Québec

Paul-Matthieu Grondin

It is very clear to us that the justice system is failing, especially in northern Quebec. I'll give you a specific example involving the region's Inuit population. Given the vast distances covered, people who are supposed to appear in court often don't show up on time because of inadequate transportation. Those people end up facing continued detention.

We do not think that funding should be what underpins people's rights. In our view, people's rights are being violated in the north because of a choice not to put money into the justice system. What's more, instead of putting the appropriate socio-economic resources in place, the government is allowing the justice system to take the place of a front-line service. That is where people first come into contact with the government, and that's not how it should work.

That's why we believe the justice element is so vital, especially in northern Quebec. That is undeniable. In that part of the country, people's basic rights are being violated simply because resources are lacking. There should never be a choice between respecting people's rights and investing financial resources, especially when it affects a specific population.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have about 30 seconds.