Evidence of meeting #12 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 money.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hélène Laurendeau  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

On Project Venture, ever since I was in La Loche I've heard very strongly from the community that Project Venture was something that had been working there, so we came back and spoke to Minister Goodale. We're working hard to make sure we can.... We want to fund programs that work, and that's very well received on the ground. We're going to figure this out.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

To be frank, the directors of the successful programs that I'm aware of are very, very concerned that they are not going to be funded again, because they have had no indication. Of course, once you're into a new fiscal year—and I think it goes back to what Mike talked about at the beginning—you might be giving a four-year program but you're not giving them four-year funding, so it's a big concern.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes. Was the Project Venture that you knew of in the summer, or was it delivered all year round or just during the school year?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I believe it was a year-round one.

5 p.m.

An hon. member

Year-round.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yours was year-round as well? Okay. I'll want to know a little more about that.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

To go back to my favourite...I truly believe we are doing an incredible disservice to band members.

Again, I'll use my Kamloops/Kelowna citizen. There is a basic level of transparency, accountability, and the ability to compare, and I think we've done a huge disservice to band members when we have backed away, or when we start to talk about needing a pass key to get into the information, or say that maybe the business information shouldn't be there. I would argue the band members should have robust information about band business, because they are shareholders.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes, and I would agree with you that the objective is for the chief and council to be accountable to their members. That's where you and I disagree: this is about first nations control over first nations. Some put that up on a website that's accessible to everybody, but some want it...and are accountable just to their members.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I'm sorry, Minister, but I think we do them a disservice.

Again, it's for the band members. How can you hold your chief and council accountable? You might say that something sounds outrageous, but then you go and look at what another band is perhaps doing and say that it's the norm and that's okay.

You do that with councils. They compare themselves all the time. That is basic transparency and accountability, and it is truly a shame that community members will not have that information and that the targets are 70%...you're talking about 25% of communities.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Cathy, I'm sorry, but we're out of time.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Really?

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

On the upside, you got the last word, so that was good for you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Charlie Angus, please.

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to do some wrap-up in terms of what we've already discussed.

In terms of the question on is there a funding gap between what is given to students in the provincial system and the federal system, that was the question that was asked at the Thunder Bay inquiry. You said that your opinion is that there is a funding gap. Is that the position of the department?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes, and again, the funding gaps are different depending on where you are, like even if you talk to the first nations education steering committee in British Columbia. The funding gap depends on a population, too: on how many special ed children there are and how remote the community is. If you were able to match a school on reserve with the same population and the same opportunities for the students, just meeting the gap may not be enough in certain ones. In some places, we should be giving more, because the kids have greater needs. We should be able to offer extra things like homework clubs or the kinds of things that are really essential to the students' success.

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I certainly agree. I guess my concern is coming out of having been a provincial school trustee. The funding formula is how everything is done in education. No offence to the department, but it seems to be almost a secret society. You can't seem to ever figure out.... I could never get a straight answer as to how the funding is done. It should be something such that if you can look at it then you know where the gaps are. Without knowing that, how do you do that?

Would it be possible for you to supply our committee with an overall view? I'm hearing that even within the region of Treaty 9 we seem to have differences between what one school region is getting and what another is getting. Like I said, the difference between Attawapiskat and the Timmins provincial board is $8,000 to $16,000. In other areas, I hear it's more like $10,000 or $11,000 to $14,000. Without those markers, we can't judge anything. Would it be possible to get that? You don't have to give it to us now, and I'm not asking for you to—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

But what I am happy to share with you—and we'll do it differently—is that when you look at the percentage finishing high school, I count it at 38% on reserve nationally, while non-indigenous is at 86.8%. These results are unacceptable—

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I agree.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

—and we have to do whatever we can to close the gaps in the outcomes. It's going to mean spending the money wisely on the things that matter.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

You're preaching to the choir there, Madam Minister, but this is why we need the data.

You cannot do anything without the data, so I would like to ask you a question. What I see in the priorities and planning is that they talk about incremental improvements year after year. I've have asked the department how they base that, and they say, well, incremental improvements.... In the Ontario region in 2013 we had numeracy rates and literacy rates down at 18% and 21%. You don't have anything that low anywhere in the world except maybe sub-Saharan Africa.

That is probably our students in Treaty 9 who are not getting the support. What are the markers, then, that we are going to identify, other than hope, that change is going to happen? Is it possible to see how we're going to get these things? What are the standards you're going to use to make sure that we increase these abysmal rates?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

It's also even before school, right, Charlie? It's even the readiness to learn when you hit the school system, so early learning and child care also become part of student success.

The place that I am really interested in is making the jump from learning to read to reading to learn between grades 3 and 4. This we know: the kids who don't make that jump will fake it until grade 8, grade 9, or grade 10, when they drop out. We do need evidence-based approaches to finding the kids who are struggling and being able to wrap around the services to help them be successful.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay, so that's why I want to ask you about the legislative approach. In 2004 the Auditor General said that Indian Affairs had done a brutally bad job. In 2011, it was even worse. How is it possible, if you spend that much money, that you could have worse outcomes?

They said that we need a legislative approach. The government has committed to it through the TRC, but when we talked earlier, you said well, you're going to talk to the educators and see what they want. How do we get legislation if there is an isolated one-off school over here and then a proper big board down there that is already doing its own thing? Without legislation, we don't have any way of establishing these markers. How are we going to get that in a timely way so that we don't lose another generation?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

There are two kinds of legislation.... Would the legislation be around the funding formulas, Charlie, or would it be around measuring and achieving outcomes?

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Well, you need them both, right?