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

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Because the problem is that in the provincial systems, we have ring-fencing, so the department can't move money from a school to fix a bridge. That's one of the reasons we have such great public education, but that doesn't exist in the department. Without legislation, without ring-fencing, when you leave this department and we get the next indigenous affairs minister who may be further down the rung in terms of quality, who knows what is going to happen with the money? That's why you need a legislative ring-fencing approach: so that what you leave here is something that cannot be touched.

You know, Carolyn, that the money is taken all the time and moved elsewhere and not spent, and that's where these outcomes are failing. Is there going to be a legislative response so that this money is going where it's needed, that it's going to the classroom, to textbooks, to buildings, and to outcomes?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think the Auditor General was also pretty clear that it was a lack of money too. We're very keen to be accountable for the results as we go forward. We need to have these kids doing better, and we're interested in looking at how we can ensure that.

As you know, as we move to getting people out from under the Indian Act to self-government or to school systems that are accountable for results, then I think we can figure out what that looks like and we will be able to shape it, if there is a need for legislation, around that kind of flexibility and understanding that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to first nations.

Some of these kids are in the provincial school system. How can I control whether they are getting language and culture properly when we know that's part of their success? If they are in a provincial system.... I want to make sure the money is in the system with great teachers, as in Finland. I want kids to grow up and want to be a teacher, and then we're going to win.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thank you, Minister.

Thanks to both of you.

We're going to have our final question before we move to the votes, but I want to let the committee members know that I have business in the House that I have to leave the committee early for, but not just yet, Charlie, although we all appreciate your enthusiasm.

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

I'll be leaving after Michael finishes his questions, and Charlie will take over the chair.

Michael, please.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to say that I for one applaud the fact that the transparency act is gone, as do I think a lot of aboriginal people in the north for sure, and probably aboriginal populations across Canada. I've worked with many companies in the Northwest Territories, companies that aboriginal band councils had shares in, and this act tripped us up non-stop. Every affiliate that the council had a share in had to disclose its revenues, so the competition saw that and the potential partners walked away because they didn't want to be involved with companies or band council projects that also had to disclose.

It was not a good act. It went against the principle of own-source revenue generation. We're trying to create healthy communities. We're trying to create independent communities. This didn't help that. It flies in the face of the nation-to-nation concept, and I'm glad it's gone.

On the nutrition north program review, I'm hoping that we're taking a holistic approach on how we move forward on that front. I still think— and I've mentioned this before, so it's not going to be a surprise—that we need to pull in the Department of Transportation to take a look at the size of the runways in our smaller aboriginal communities. We have runways that are just short of the length that is needed to allow the larger cargo planes to land, so we have planes landing with half a load. We have planes landing with half the seats filled. In my campaign, I witnessed some communities where people had to wait: a plane landed with 18 seats and only nine people could get on.

I think that if we're going to make a change, then we have to include looking at other things, not only the subsidy. The $60-million subsidy is one thing that's going to be ongoing forever, but if we change the length of runways and we start building roads, we're going to eliminate that subsidy. We also have to include community gardens and local wild foods. Those things should be part of the review or part of the consideration as we move forward.

Maybe I could ask you to talk to those points, if you would.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

I hear you about the runways. I think it's something that we need to look at, absolutely, and again, I think country food is something that I've heard about in the north. People want to be able to feed their families, but with climate change, it's just more expensive to get out to where they can hunt, and more expensive in so many ways. With the abundance of the fish up north, there's no excuse for kids to be hungry. It's going to be an ongoing conversation about how we really fix this program so that there are no hungry kids, and how hunters and fishermen can actually be proud again of feeding their families.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I also want to talk quickly about where you're going with some of the support for the programs that are aboriginal based. In the north, we have Dechinta that offers education programs to youth, and we also have Foxy, which is a health program for young females. On the environmental side, we have the indigenous boreal guardian program so they can provide monitoring in that area.

We have the aboriginal head start program, and I don't know, I don't think you can speak to it, but why is it in health and not in your department? It doesn't make sense.

Why do we still have aboriginal programs such as CanNor that don't cater to certain populations of aboriginal people? More specifically, the Métis are not allowed to apply. Maybe you could talk quickly about some of these things.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think this is a reason for why members of Parliament and committees can really have their ears to the ground. They hear about the programs that work and find out about the ones that really don't. We want that kind of feedback. If there are good programs where you think we can work with colleagues in other departments or other levels of government, then we should do that.

The aboriginal head start program almost came to our department when I was Minister of State for Public Health. It was about to be moved when our government fell. That was a tough conversation 10 years ago. It's an interesting question. I sort of remain a minister of social determinants of health, but I am interested in your observations. That aboriginal head start program in Yellowknife is one I'll never forget. I'll never forget that visit in terms of what they do with those children with such challenges.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

My final question is on the opportunities for jobs in our communities. I come from a community that has a little over 60% unemployment, and we've been in that situation for many years. That's just for the adults. For youth, the percentage is even higher.

As we move forward and try to encourage youth to stay in school and do a lot of things on their own, I think it's our responsibility to first of all provide opportunity, as political people who make these decisions, but it's also our responsibility to make sure they learn how to work. Summer jobs are a really important part of growing up. We don't have a whole lot of opportunities on that front. I'm hoping the labour market opportunities you talked about are also going to be delivered in the Northwest Territories in our communities.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, and I think Minister Mihychuk is also very interested in this. We do really believe that the summer jobs program is a tremendous experience in terms of contacts, confidence, and leadership. Yes, I'd love to work with you on that.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

There are 20 seconds left if you can make use of them. Okay? I think we're good.

Thank you very much for the questions.

Minister, thank you very much to you and your colleagues for the testimony today and for the wonderful information.

I'm going to step out of the Chair's seat. Charlie Angus will step in and run the vote. Thank you.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thanks very much. We'll get back to you on the things the committee asked for, Mr. Chair.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thank you so much.

Don't get us in trouble, Charlie.

5:15 p.m.

The Vice-Chair Mr. Charlie Angus

You're letting an anarchist have the chair?

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Charlie Angus

We are still in session, so please take your seats. We're on camera, not in camera.

Our job right now, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), is to dispose of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, minus the interim estimates that the House agreed to on March 21, 2016.

Do we have unanimous consent to deal with all the votes in one motion?

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Charlie Angus

Shall all the votes under Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station of the main estimates 2016-17 carry?

CANADIAN HIGH ARCTIC RESEARCH STATION Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$18,853,197

(Vote 1 agreed to on division)

INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$658,200,538 Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$41,432,179 Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........$6,652,765,968

(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to on division)

Shall I report these votes, less the amount voted in interim supply, to the House?

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Charlie Angus

Thank you very much.

That's it? Okay. We're adjourned.