Evidence of meeting #136 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 capacity.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Karen Campbell  Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development
Jean-Pierre Gauthier  Director General, Indigenous Programs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development
Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good morning, everyone.

We're so pleased to have our first department coming to talk about our new study, community capacity building.

Before we get started, I just want to recognize the leadership and willingness to work with the committee. I sincerely thank them on behalf of the clerk and the administrative team. We really appreciate it. It turned out that our schedule was tight, and you came forward. Thank you very much.

Truth and reconciliation is a process—200 years of apartheid doesn't get turned around easily. Canadians are curious and feel responsible, I find, which is the beginning step of understanding truth. It's not only a formality, especially in this committee, but a necessity to recognize that we're on the non-surrendered land of the Algonquin people. We appreciate that they worked with us—those who are settlers.

Now, we are pleased to have you. Since you're the queen, we can be flexible. We're not going to worry too much about time. Take your time, present what you like, and the MPs will of course have opportunities for questions.

Thank you very much.

Go ahead when you're ready.

8:45 a.m.

Karen Campbell Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for having us today on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, where we have the privilege to live and work.

I'm Karen Campbell, the Acting Director General of the Indigenous Affairs Directorate at the skills and employment branch, ESDC. I'm joined today by my colleague Jean-Pierre Gauthier, the Director General of the Indigenous Programs Directorate in the program operations branch. Together, our groups are responsible for policy design and coordination of delivery of ESDC's indigenous labour market programs. We're pleased to provide you information today on these programs and their impacts, particularly those related to human resource development and capacity in first nations communities.

Since 2010, ESDC has funded 84 indigenous organizations, with more than 600 points of service, to deliver employment and skills training under the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy. We call it the ASETS. ASETS invested $292 million annually, with one-time increases provided in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Specifically for first nations, ASETS funded 66 service delivery organizations, with over $188 million annually to provide services to individuals living in first nations communities, as well as those in urban and rural centres.

First nations organizations offer a wide range of training and employment services, from life skills and employment counselling to supporting post-secondary education. An assessment is made based on the needs of the client weighed against available resources and opportunities for success.

Through these investments, around 319,000 first nations clients have received employment and skills training. Of these, following their participation, almost 101,000 were employed and 4,500 returned to school.

In 2016 and 2017, ESDC undertook extensive engagement on the future of indigenous labour market programming to fully understand the strengths of the current approach and what needed to be improved.

We heard that new funding was needed, since organizations were continuing to work with budgets set decades ago, in the face of growing demographics and increased costs of doing business in a rapid technological change.

We heard that organizations wanted longer-term agreements with greater flexibility to provide wraparound supports; to address and remove barriers to participating in or completing training for those further from the labour market; a need for increased ability to support youth through transitions to prepare them well in advance for participation in the labour market; a greater role for leadership and priority setting, including moving to a distinctions-based approach to labour market programming; and recognition and reflection of the success of clients and organizations across the skills continuum, and not just looking at jobs found or entry to labour market as the success of the program.

The new indigenous skills and employment training program, or the ISET program, captures and reflects what we heard and builds on the strong foundation of the ASETS. It will invest $2 billion over five years and over $400 million per year ongoing, ensuring new and sustainable funding to indigenous organizations to help close the skills and employment gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

The new ISET program will be in place on April 1, 2019, in a few short weeks, following extensive work this past year to co-develop implementation with indigenous partners.

The ISET program recognizes and introduces distinctions-based funding streams, to recognize the unique needs of first nations, the Métis Nation, Inuit, and urban and non-affiliated indigenous peoples, as well as their different labour market conditions. The first nations funding stream specifically received $101 billion over five years and $235.7 million ongoing.

8:50 a.m.

Jean-Pierre Gauthier Director General, Indigenous Programs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

I'm going to continue, if I may.

Good morning. I'm pleased to be here today.

I'd like to begin by sharing some policy directions and facts with you. Through your questions, obviously, we'll be able to provide more detailed information on different subjects, depending on where your interests lie and what you'd like to know.

One of our main goals is to refocus the department's approach away from risk and administrative tracking and on organizational capacity, to help build that capacity and promote results as opposed to day-to-day transactions.

With that in mind, we are working very closely with the communities. I think how we work is a crucial component in building a new relationship with indigenous organizations and communities, and over the past two years, we've deployed significant efforts to that end.

We will be carrying out a joint evaluation of each organization, looking at their management model, structure and capacity to achieve desired outcomes for clients. That way, we will be able to properly identify where they are in their development. The process will enable us to focus more energy on the long-term goal of building community and organizational capacity to better serve clientele.

Consequently, we want to remain engaged with our indigenous partners to understand their needs, realities and challenges, while doing everything we can to support their organizations and build their capacity. I believe that fits into the study the committee is undertaking today.

In collaboration with indigenous partners, the department is co-developing a performance measurement strategy. Again, it's in the same spirit of reaching out and making sure we do it together as opposed to us doing it to them. It will basically rely on robust program data, which we currently have. It will also need to rely on jointly determined research, jointly because they have their own interests and they, too, are accountable in many ways to their communities. It speaks both to their interests and to ours to make sure that we have a good performance measurement strategy.

This includes, among many things—and I think you've heard of it already in a previous appearance—the labour market information pilot with first nations that the department is conducting. We can provide more information if the committee wants to spend more time on this. We have more information updates for you if that's an area you'd like to explore more.

Collecting data, research and doing the analysis will therefore support both the communities and us in terms of identifying our success, our gaps, the areas where we can do better and where we can improve—we is all of us: the organizations, us, the communities—and also in terms of being able to report back to places like here about the success and the achievements of the program, of these investments.

We also have another program that I want to touch on very briefly. You may know the skills and partnership fund. It's a slightly different program from ASETS, but it's very related. Actually, the two are very much complementary. From that perspective, I think it's interesting.

The fund is a demand-driven and proposal-based process, as opposed to ASETS, which is a partnership with an established network of organizations. It focuses, as well, on training for the labour market. It puts emphasis on establishing partnerships, so it has a little bit of a reaching out type of a spin to it to try to make sure that the organizations establish good partnerships that make sense for the communities at the local level and, again, with an objective and a target. That's where the two programs are complementary because they are aligned with the same overall objectives of skills development, job training, and supporting employment and access to the labour market. Ultimately, the two instruments are working very much together.

The fund was launched in 2010. It has about $50 million per year. We've basically managed to leverage $150 million from 2010-17 through the partnership side of it, so that basically is pushing further the public investment on the SPF. We see about 450 partners in the private sector, and other organizations as well, that have been fostered by this program. We're very happy about this.

It is based on a call for proposals. The last one was done in 2016-17. We have a series of projects currently at play for five years. We're monitoring their progress. We're getting information on their achievements to date. We'll basically look at how we move forward with that program, in about a year or two from now, as we approach the end of this five-year cycle, which is aimed roughly at March 31, 2021. I say “roughly” because not all projects are the same, but the timeline was March 31, 2021.

To date, according to the information we have, the fund has allowed 32,000 people to be served, 14,000 to actually find jobs and about 2,000 people to go back to school using those projects and partnerships.

That gives you a bit of an overview of a second program that will also, I think, be interesting for the committee to study.

We'll stop here and open it up to your questions. We'll do our very best to provide all the information that could be useful to the committee.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

We'll open with a round of seven minutes per member, per party. Then we'll move to five minutes. We'll continue for the full hour.

We'll open the question period with member Mike Bossio.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you both very much for being here today. We really appreciate it.

Your organization is pivotal to the future success of young indigenous people realizing their dreams and their careers. I think we all want to try to ensure that we maximize the potential of our indigenous youth.

In some of the questions I'm going to ask, I'm going to try to be as diplomatic as I can. This program has not been overly successful in the past, from what I can see and given what the Auditor General had to say in his last report. I know there are changes being made, but I'm most curious as to what we're doing to ensure that this becomes indigenous-driven, indigenous-created and indigenous-led.

I guess my first question would be: What percentage of the staff leading this program today at ESDC is indigenous?

9 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

That's a good question. There are myriad. Our two groups work on the national policy and program design. There are also throughout Canada, Service Canada employees who work with indigenous organizations on this program. I don't know the percentage, but I can find that out for you.

I think it's important to understand this program: Since 1999, the fundamental design and delivery of employment and training programs has been undertaken by indigenous organizations. It's been a hallmark and a unique aspect of this program, unique in federal grants and contributions programs. It really sets the tenor for how the delivery happens on the ground.

That is even more the case going forward. We've been working directly with indigenous organizations—with leadership and with those who deliver services—to fully co-develop the parameters going forward, to co-develop the terms and conditions for the program. They have gone through and co-developed the template for the contribution agreements. It's still a contribution program under the transfer payment policy, but we're moving those markers as far as possible to ensure that indigenous organizations and representatives can determine how that will look.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Are all of the 450 partners you have in the private sector indigenous?

9 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

The private sector partners.... Fundamental to the skills and partnership fund is the need to work with indigenous organizations. The training and those pieces are done by indigenous organizations. Those private sector partners are industry, social enterprise.... They themselves are not necessarily indigenous. The key to that program is that it's delivered by indigenous organizations for indigenous peoples and that they're linking with private sector partners.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Are we working towards ensuring—scouring to try to find—that those private entities are indigenous?

9 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

That program is opportunity based and looking to fill human resource needs in emerging sectors and ensure that indigenous peoples have the opportunity to fully participate in the economy, particularly around where they live. Many resource development projects often take place in traditional territories, but those individuals who live in those territories haven't had access to those opportunities. In part, that program is to bridge those gaps and ensure they have the ability to be fully trained to participate in those opportunities.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Everywhere I go within indigenous communities, other than my own, thankfully.... The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte have a very strong governance and institutional structure, so they deliver most of the programs directly by their own people. However, the vast majority of indigenous communities don't do that.

Last night, I was at a youth conference here in town. There were five indigenous youth from Attawapiskat, who were there with their teacher. Their teacher was from Belleville, from my riding. I couldn't believe that he was all the way up in Attawapiskat as a teacher. I asked him whether he was finally seeing other indigenous teachers coming to the fore in the school. He said that they have eight teachers in the high school and they're all from away. He said he was in the elementary school before that, and all the teachers were from outside the community. There was not one single individual from their community teaching their own youth.

This is a recurring problem. We see it over and over again. I don't see that we're breaking down the barriers on this. In the south, we seem to be able to find that ability, but in a lot of our northern and remote communities, we're not finding that strength. You have members who used to sit here, such as Michael McLeod, who talked about how when they finished school, they'd have to go back to school for two years before they could go south to a post-secondary institution.

My question goes back—and the AG spoke about this—to how we can do better in ensuring that we're bringing in all those capacity needs within our indigenous communities. How can we raise them up so that they are delivering to their own communities?

9 a.m.

Director General, Indigenous Programs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Jean-Pierre Gauthier

I can perhaps provide some insight as to our approach there.

We're very much reaching out to work with people living in the communities, because they are probably better placed to identify what makes more sense to them. We're trying to empower them and support them in looking for solutions for those questions.

That's where the partnerships come in. As Karen was explaining, they look around and see projects going on, in terms of the jobs in the new mine being set up and so forth—whatever happens around them—and they want in.

The idea for us in terms of an approach is to be very mindful of the issue, but—

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'm sorry to cut you off. I apologize.

There is one area that I want to explore. One of the best examples I have seen of indigenous-driven, indigenous-led programs is the First Nations Financial Management Board. They have 326 different indigenous communities that have partnered into that. They're providing the training, governance structure, financial structure and the administrative structure, which most of these communities are now following.

What other examples are you finding out there that are like the First Nations Financial Management Board? Are you involved with the First Nations Financial Management Board, and are you trying to propagate that model in other areas?

9:05 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

Fundamental to the new approach under the indigenous skills and employment training program is the move to what we're calling a distinctions-based approach. There are separate funding streams for distinctions. Part of the proposal for that, based on our engagement for a number of years with indigenous partners, is that not only will the first nations labour market strategy be delivered entirely by first nations organizations, as is currently the case, but also the broader strategic parameters will be set through their own structures, through leadership and through common purpose around setting those priorities.

We have a 10-year program which we're looking at really advancing over those 10 years to greater and greater autonomy, and looking to transferring program authority where we can. We're doing that with self-governing first nations right now.

Under this program, we're now able to transfer funds directly through their fiscal finance agreements with ISC or with CIRNA, which we were never able to do before. It's really respecting those governance arrangements in a unique way.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Questioning now moves to MP Kevin Waugh, from the great province of Saskatchewan.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

That's right: Saskatchewan.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We still welcome an amalgamation.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

There you go.

9:05 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, departmental officials. You're the first of seven that we expect to see. Mr. Gauthier and Ms. Campbell, I thank both of you for coming.

You know what the Auditor General said. I'm not going to pick away at it, but obviously we have not done a very good job. The current government has thrown $2 billion more at it, as we've seen.

I'm just going through your numbers, Ms. Campbell. We have 319,000 clients and we employed 101,000. We don't have a tracking system. Are they employed for a month or for a year, or are they still employed?

That was part of what was from the Office of the Auditor General, that we don't have a tracking system. With this plan and this $2 billion over five years that you're going to get, is that the first thing we can address? You had 218,000 out of this program unemployed, and yes, it was nice to see 4,500 returning to school, but we still had 213,500 who were unemployed out of your number of 319,000.

I think that is the first thing. Do we have tracking? Are we going to once and for all track employment in your department?

9:05 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

Thank you for your question.

We take the recommendations and observations of the Auditor General very seriously. Moving forward, we're building on our program data. This is the information that we receive from all of the indigenous organizations that provide the services across the country, and we're working through other administratively held data of the government, building ways so that we can get a better picture of those employment outcomes on a longer term. It's something that, respecting privacy laws and all of these other pieces, we've been able to do.

We had done some preliminary work on this that the Auditor General was able to see and review but, because it was preliminary, felt it hadn't gone far enough. We're really building on that and looking at those recommendations and seeing how we can have that kind of information around our program and its impacts going forward.

February 7th, 2019 / 9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

He was very critical. I think this is something that all politicians and all Canadians are concerned about. Just throwing money at a program is no good. It's absolutely no good. You have to have a tracking base. He sat here and talked about that, so hopefully your department and other departments heard the message loud and clear from the Auditor General and will look after that.

In my province, I know that the problem with this program, to be honest with you, is that sometimes, as my colleague Mr. Bossio pointed out, it is southern driven. Also, projects that could go to the north aren't in the north. I'll give you a couple of examples.

One is building homes in southern Saskatchewan and moving them to northern Saskatchewan. Could we not do a better job in our skills training whereby those homes actually would be built in northern Saskatchewan? Up there, they know the weather conditions and they know what's needed. Often we have seen flawed homes. They're built in southern Saskatchewan and they're just ready-to-move homes. They move them up north to reserves and so on.

It's good that we have that, but at the same time, there's no skills development on reserve. We have it in the Saskatoon public school system. In our schools, we build homes and then move them out to Whitecap, a reserve. It's an urban situation, which is good, but you know what I'm saying. We need more hands-on reserve training, if you don't mind me saying that. Are there any kinds of examples in northern Canada where that could be happening that you can share with me?

9:10 a.m.

Director, Program Policy Division, Indigenous Affairs Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Campbell

Certainly. Those kinds of projects in fact have been supported through the existing ASETS program.

I'm thinking of some projects in northern Ontario, for example. Water first was a project that worked within communities to build capacity for water treatment engineers, and throughout the entire life cycle of that process, ensuring that there were those competencies and skills within the community amongst community members to take care of their water systems and to ensure they are safe and running.

There are a number of projects under way that are focused just on that, on housing and those skills for building and for trades and apprenticeships, so people can have transferable skills and tickets that they can work with in their own communities and can support other communities through those.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Good.

Mr. Bossio was talking about 450 partners. Are we tracking those? Sometimes partnerships can happen, and we all love partnerships, but I've seen partnerships that last six months, and whatever happened happened, and we don't have a reporting mechanism to go back and say, “This is what happened. This company decided not to go forward.”

Mr. Gauthier, you've talked about that.