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

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Hélène Laurendeau

You are talking about people who live on reserves, right?

Thank you for raising this point.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thank you.

The final question in the order for now is from Charlie Angus.

It's a three-minute question, Charlie, please.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Madam Minister. Of course you know I'll be talking to you about education. It's a very important issue.

Two weeks ago, at the Thunder Bay inquiry, Indigenous Affairs spokesmen spoke under oath and said that there was no way to compare the federal and provincial per capita funding, and that there was essentially no funding gap between what students on reserve receive and what students in the provincial system receive. Is that the position of the department?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

It's not mine.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I appreciate that.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

No, I mean, we.... There was a way of averaging things, of adding things—i.e., some of the first nations children go to the provincial school, and therefore we pay that amount. You average it all together.

But what I'm interested in is the per-child investment, on reserve and off reserve, and how we get that equal without adding in what my department is paying to send kids to provincial school, paying that fee.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Shannen Koostachin left home at 13, and if she'd stayed, she would have gotten $8,000 in funding. She had to live with my family, and Indian Affairs paid $16,000 in the provincial system. The gap was enormous.

I want to stick with these numbers. Again, excuse me with my grade 10 math. The Prime Minister promised $2.6 billion in core K-to-12 funding over four years. In the budget it's over five years. So the next government actually delivers $800 million of that. If we look at a four-year number, we drop off $800 million. That puts us at about $1.8 billion over that four years.

I'm interested that $800 million is described as transformative, and that includes money to the Paul Martin foundation. I have great respect for Paul Martin, but I don't know of any other provincial system that pays outside agencies when it's supposed to be core funding.

I have two quick questions. One, are we going to have a legislative framework, as the TRC has asked for with education and as the Auditor General has, so that we can set some standards? Two, if this transformative money is not core funding, then what is it?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

The educators, I think, as they come together, are going to determine whether they themselves think a legislative framework would be helpful in terms of indicators/markers. It may well be that it will be the the educational school systems themselves that will sort out and codify the standards.

With the Paul Martin initiative, I think the reason the AFN asked for money to go there is that it has been transformative in those schools. If you go to Hillside and see the teachers who say, “I used to think I was a good teacher. I now know I'm a terrific teacher”, and to be able see those kids do so well in very short order, that is like the Lighthouse schools, where you end up with principals sharing across jurisdictions their best practices. On the results that have been demonstrated by the initiative, we want that to, what, be replicated in many more communities, now that we have proven it works.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thank you very much, Minister.

We've come to the end of the first round of questions. I do have interest registered by a number of members for carrying on with the questioning. What I would like to propose is that we continue the rotation. We will start with the seven-minute questions again. Looking at the clock, we have room for four seven-minute questions, which will take us to 5:15, and then I think we should turn our minds to the vote at that point.

Just to give a heads-up to the committee members, the order will be Mike Bossio, Cathy McLeod.... I'm sorry. Yes, we switched: Gary Anandasangaree, Cathy McLeod, Charlie Angus, and then a Liberal to be named. That's Michael McLeod. Thank you.

Let's leap right into that with Gary Anandasangaree, please.

May 5th, 2016 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Minister. I sincerely apologize for being late. I had another engagement to attend.

I want to pick up on what our friend was talking about.

Can you outline what kind of transformational change, at least in attitude and work plan, that you have implemented as the head of the department, as the minister, in the last six months since taking office in November?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Obviously, the first thing we were able to do was launch the pre-inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. I think that in itself, although maybe “transformational” would be too strong.... I think that what we felt was that after a decade of asking for an inquiry, for the ministers to be listening to those families, coast to coast to coast, and for them knowing that they have been heard, was really important in resetting our relationship, and for us to be clear that there is an uneven application of justice, that the link between residential schools and child abuse, addictions, and violence that has resulted in this....

I think for us to have worked as hard as we did with all of our colleagues and with the finance minister to be able to do the kind of work it takes to get this kind of money in a budget...that is what our department really worked hard for. Because you can't fund a dream. You actually have to fund a plan. I can't thank the department enough for all the work they did and to have these persuasive ways of getting money that would be acceptable to the finance department for it to be able to fund it.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Minister.

Several weeks ago, we had the Office of the Correctional Investigator here, who shared with us some startling numbers with respect to incarceration.

How do you feel that this budget will assist in addressing some of the structural challenges? For example, Canada has now surpassed 25% in terms of incarceration rates in prisons, and it's 36% for women. How does this budget help us in addressing some of those criminal justice issues and the inequitable numbers that we see in the criminal justice system?

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

This budget is very important, particularly in terms of the money around education and child welfare. There are some really significant things that will make a difference.

We know that if people are successful, finish high school, and go on to post-secondary education, they are much less represented in prison. When kids drop out because they didn't learn to read properly, they get into trouble.

My experience in prisons is that there are way too many indigenous people there who shouldn't be there, and that this comes to the uneven application of justice or things like breaching conditions. I was at Headingley prison for women. I asked what most of those people had done. All they had done was breach their conditions. They hadn't been sentenced to jail in the first place, yet the prison was full of people who had breached their conditions, gone to administrative.... Now, not only are they in prison, but they're no longer with their children, and it begets, begets, begets this generational thing. I think the correctional investigator has done a really important job.

It's also no place for people with mental health problems. We have to help people get healthy again, and I think that with some of the drug courts, the indigenous courts, and some of the things that aren't in my ministry but that I am very keen on, and with the kind of money that is going to be required with the health accord on healing and wellness, that's the way we're going to get there.

The money I am most proud of is the money for secure personal cultural identity. Investing in language and culture in these schools is how these kids feel good about themselves as proud indigenous people in this country. That is how they make healthy choices—good health, education, economic outcomes. That's what all the kids have said to me: they want to be on the land and they want to know their language and culture. It cannot be funded anymore as some fluffy extra if you have time or money for it. It really is a core service that this government is committed to doing.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Minister.

I know that Mr. Rusnak spoke about how we were in the north last week. One of the places that we visited was the courthouse in Thunder Bay, which is I believe the first one in Ontario that has a room for resolving conflicts relating to indigenous populations.

What kinds of programs or incentives are required so that the justice system itself as a whole systematically and completely relooks at how we prosecute, how we sentence, and how we investigate? I suspect that if you look at the U.S. court system the numbers are very similar. The underlying discrimination that we've seen in many of the U.S. courts I think is very similar and can be transposed to our indigenous populations. What can we do to ensure that we start to make some structural changes within our system?

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for the question.

I was so inspired in British Columbia to meet Chief Belleau from the Esk'etemc first nation, who is doing restorative justice right in her own community in terms of people coming together through facilitation to say to someone, “You were harmed, I harmed you, and what are we going to do, what would it take, to make this right?”

In the indigenous court in New Westminster, Judge Buller Bennett, is very clear about how so many of the people who come before her were harmed as children, and they didn't deserve to be harmed. She is then able to help them get on a good path by making sure they have a family doctor and making sure they can speak five words in their own language. These are the ways that we're going to get people back on a good path. Coast to coast to coast on missing and murdered women, we heard that the criminal justice system is just not shaped to do this right now. We have to make a big change.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thanks to both of you.

The next questioner is Cathy McLeod.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

I have three questions that I really hope to get answers for, so I'm going to give you all three, and hopefully we can work our way through them.

I wasn't going to go here, but I have to go back to the first nations transparency act. I'm going to use two examples.

If I'm a citizen of Kamloops, there's nothing that prevents me from looking at Kelowna's audited statements and vice versa, or looking at those for Timmins, for example. I heard you talk about a pass key, so do you believe that a first nations Osoyoos band member shouldn't have access to Kamloops statements? Integrated with that is this: Bell Canada posts its shares report online and so does TELUS. I went through a number of the statements that had been posted, and there is nowhere that I believe it would ever erode business interests. I am hearing from band members who are writing me and saying that they are very uncomfortable that you have moved away from the first nations transparency act. Again, this is a basic level of transparency, whether it's Kelowna, Kamloops, Bell, or TELUS in terms of what is available. Truly, for a band member, sometimes the ability to make comparisons is important. That's number one.

Number two, I'm glad to hear you talk about Project Venture. I've had calls from the directors. It's been a very successful criminal prevention program. They are very, very concerned right now. Normally they have had operating money that's moved forward to them, and they're thinking that they're going to have to collapse the program. I know it's not yours, but I just wanted to share that.

My third area is that when we supported murdered and missing indigenous women we also were very concerned that it would impact the delivery and support for on-the-ground prevention programs, so I want you to reassure me, because it appears that there's a decrease in the funding for the family violence prevention program. When I take the budget, the estimates, and everything into account, the former government gave approximately $12 million to support the work of the family violence prevention program. We were hoping that it would be matched or increased. The new budget is fairly murky in this area. There's $6.7 million per year over the next five years, and $3.5 million to better support shelters, so it's very murky. Perhaps your officials might be wanting to look—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, and we'll—

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

—at that piece, but most importantly, the first two.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes. Again, this is one of the ones where, even though it looks like.... It's actually in the major increase column for me, because budget 2016 has another $73.6 million and $24.8 million in this year, but it is about extra money for shelters, and that's $33.6 million over five years. It is increasing, but we can get you the details on the breakdown, if you like.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

As I say, we did the estimates, the budget, and we broke it down.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

To me it looked like a decrease, which is one of our concerns: that we're going to focus on the inquiry but we would do that to the detriment of supporting some very important programs.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I couldn't agree more, and I know that Minister Hajdu is working very hard on a national strategy on violence against women, and obviously the indigenous part of that is hugely important. But that money is going to be there and increased.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

To go back to Kamloops versus Kelowna—