Evidence of meeting #124 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 results.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jerome Berthelette  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Rachel Wernick  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
Joe Martire  Principal, Office of the Auditor General
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please direct your question through the chair instead of directing it at our guest.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Okay.

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

The new funding formula is going to be in place in April 2019, so that's less than a year from now. We're working with first nations on developing their own systems. We have two school boards that have been created over the last two years.

Regarding data, I agree with you that we need more data. We have to do it, we believe, with first nations, because it has to come from them. It has to be their data through their institutions that is used to improve the education system. Otherwise, I don't think we're going to break the old colonial approach of our telling them what to do. Basically, that's what we're trying to change.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You still have three and a half minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Back to that, before you answer that—

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please go through the chair.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Sorry; you're over here.

How can I say this politely?

In the meantime, I'll come back to education in the INAC area here. You're asking young lives to be put on hold and wait for the department to get together to fix the problem. In the meantime, what are they supposed to do?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The question is going to indigenous services.

4:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

I don't think we're waiting. We've been working on child and family services reform this year and we've made significant progress towards the legislation. That's something we're trying to address. We have been investing a lot over the last few years on housing, which is also another determinant of what the results would be in the end on education.

As I said, the new formula is going to be coming up in 2019, but it doesn't stop us from investing in the system. We have made significant investment over the last two years.

We have to understand—and you know that as much as I do—that those results will take time to change. We've also built up 14 new schools over the last two or three years, so we have been active. It's not as fast as you would like and it's not as fast as I would like, but it's as fast as we can do it, I can guarantee you.

4:15 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Rachel Wernick

I would start by agreeing with you that the gaps and the conditions for many indigenous peoples in Canada are unacceptable. I think that's why we are working so hard in our own way to change this program and make it better.

We spent a year and a half working directly with our indigenous partners at all levels, from leadership right down to the communities. We engaged on how we could make this program better and how it could achieve better outcomes. They came back to us and they said, “We're being asked for data that doesn't reflect the types of clients that we have.” They said to us, “The types of clients we're working with need to move up the skill spectrum. They need to start with ready to learn, then they need to learn about pre-employability. Only then are they able to do some of the technical training.” These comments are from some of the clients we work with, yet you're asking us about how many jobs they got.

We have to start here and work more on skills development, and that's what we're going to do in the ISED program. We're going to put in indigenous program delivery people and leadership, and communities and clients are in the driver's seat in this program. They will design and deliver it to better meet the needs of their clients through more emphasis on skills development, through co-developed performance indicators not just based on, as Mr. Berthelette said before, drawing attention from the community and its members to the requirements of government. No, we are co-developing with them so these indicators, this data and the way they design their program, make sense to them.

Let's be frank here. This program has been in place since 1999. Successive parliaments have not invested a single penny in it. In the meantime, population growth and inflation have gone up. This is a professional service delivery network that has had no investment in it. We're changing that by investing in the service delivery capacity.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I know that we're very passionate. In our committee we want to see success and we want to see it yesterday. I understand completely how members feel.

Our next round of questions go to MP Will Amos.

October 24th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thanks particularly to our civil servants for working hard both to maintain accountability and to improve our governance, and also to our department officials in responding, because it does appear there is a consequential response.

I'm aware, as I'm sure all of you are, that the 2016 budget proposed $2.6 billion of investments over five years in primary and secondary education for indigenous communities. There are already 156 projects under way, so clearly investments are being made.

I think its fair for Canadians to want that data collection around results to be done well. I think this is a fair conversation to be having.

I'd like to get some more information on what kind of information and recommendations indigenous representative organizations such as AFN, but not limited to AFN, have made to Indigenous Services Canada around the manner that the data should be collected and what kind of data should be collected.

We have a sense, but I'm specifically looking to hear what they are saying, as opposed to what our response is to what you heard them say.

4:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

Maybe I will leave this to Paul. He has been working with the AFN on the development of the national outcomes and can discuss the relationship with our partners in terms of data.

4:20 p.m.

Paul Thoppil Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much for the question.

Part of the new fiscal relationship is trying to identify when we declare victory on the elimination of the socio-economic gap. In order to do that, we need a combination of many things. Some of it is additional money. Some of it is essentially acknowledging that we can't impose anymore and we need to co-develop. We have established a table whereby we have been talking about how we co-develop the right indicators, the indicators that are meaningful for first nation community members and are meaningful for tracking.... They want to know themselves how their communities are doing in terms of education outcomes. It's also acknowledging what they have been saying, which is to minimize the reporting burden, which is the collecting of all types of data that may be program-compliant and input-related but not outcomes-focused. We've been trying to deal with both of those issues at the table.

There's also been an issue of regionality in this process. While we like to talk about data collection from a national level, it's very clear that in this country education is a provincial jurisdiction, and therefore there are regional issues. Also, from AFN's perspective, there are regional frames that need to be respected as well.

Those are just some issues we are moving forward with. That is why we are using some of the budget 2018 money to work with the First Nations Information Governance Centre to work through data through the 10 regional centres across the country and start developing a national road map on data, collectively, for which education is the first out of the gate.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you for that.

I wonder if you could provide some more detail on the depth to which the department has gone to consult at the local level. I can understand that we have representative organizations and institutions commenting. For example, here in traditional Algonquin territory, the community of Kitigan Zibi, which I represent here, has been a leader on issues of education. In fact, people such as Gilbert Whiteduck have worked very hard on this issue.

Does the consultation that the department has gone through in order to determine how to improve data collection gathering gone to that local level, or has it remained more at the representative organization level?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

It's actually a two-pronged approach. On the sectoral side, if I may use that word, on a programmatic basis, there is an engagement process that is regional and national. The region is doing it with the local communities on our behalf. We're also doing it horizontally through the new fiscal relationship initiative, which also engages communities across the coast directly as well.

We're getting it two ways.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you for that.

I take note of the Auditor General's report insofar as it clearly indicates that commitments around accessing education information system data were made back in 2008. This is a long-standing promise, and clearly we're dealing with long-standing issues.

In paragraph 10 you mention that commitments to report on education results go back 18 years, so a sequence of governments has come and gone, yet this issue remains to be solved.

Now we're in 2018, and quite recently, or relatively recently, our country committed to the United Nations sustainable development goals. Agenda 2030 is part of the mix. To what extent are both departments looking at those particular goals, in a context of data collection and the closing of this gap?

4:20 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

I will follow up on this. It's a very good question. We are building the new framework, in terms of data. The comprehensive new version of the Community Well-Being Index is based on the United Nations sustainable development framework. That's the core of this, or it will be the core once we have it.

4:20 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

We've been trying to find a frame that works for both sides in terms of data and indicators. Obviously we have the historical baggage of the colonial approach, of Ottawa defining those based on what Ottawa wants and needs, and not necessarily on what the community needs. That said, there is lot of mistrust, so what we have been using is the United Nations sustainable development goals as a neutral, independent, third party frame for the data collection indicators. Those sustainable development goals have received buy-in from first nations communities to get past the historical legacy.

We have been developing indicators under that frame from a mutual accountability perspective, to identify the right indicators and not have to ask for unnecessary data related to that issue I flagged earlier, the reporting burden we created in the past through the contribution agreements.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We're going to move on to MP Cathy McLeod.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you to all the witnesses.

I know that the public accounts committee allotted two hours for the Auditor General and the department officials. For this committee, which is responsible for this file, and for my colleagues not to support a reasonable time is of real concern to me. I think it shows a lack of concern for a report that highlighted some issues that we needed, as parliamentarians, to.... We needed an opportunity to ask the important questions, because we have a responsibility.

I think we have two things happening. For one, we have a shift, and I think it's an important shift, in terms of first nations' control of first nations education and the government removing itself from that particular work. On the other hand, we have this need, as the Auditor General clearly showed us, in terms of the bad use of data, not using the data available, and not having indicators to do the job we needed them to do.

My question at public accounts last week—and I'm wondering if we have an answer to that yet.... With the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement, which we all passed in this legislature, and with the newly released British Columbia agreement that you alluded to, what are the commitments around data collection so that other communities can know to what degree that self-government model will enable them to compare apples and apples and to what degree it's moving forward—or are there no commitments around that particular issue? Do you have the answer to that now?

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

As we mentioned, in agreements like the one with the school boards or the B.C. one, we sit down with them and we agree on the set of indicators. If you look at the agreement, there's a list of indicators they had already committed to.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Is this within the Anishinabek agreement?

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jean-François Tremblay

Yes, this is within the Anishinabek agreement. It's hard for me to comment on all the self-government agreements, because I don't necessarily negotiate them, and each of them is—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Yes, but I did bring it up at the public accounts committee last week, and you agreed to get back to us.