Evidence of meeting #137 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 education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claudia Ferland  Director General, Regional Infrastructure Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Keith Conn  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Ted Hewitt  President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Mary-Luisa Kapelus  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, Department of Natural Resources
Jerome Berthelette  Assistant Auditor General, Performance Audit, Office of the Auditor General
Adrian Walraven  Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Ursula Gobel  Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Dan Vandal  Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, Lib.
Steven Blaney  Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC
John Kozij  Director General, Trade, Economics and Industry Branch, Canadian Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources
Lynne Newman  Director General, Fiscal Arrangements, Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

9:15 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, Department of Natural Resources

Mary-Luisa Kapelus

In conclusion, we're changing how we work with indigenous people in all resource sectors by creating lasting relationships that support indigenous-led and -owned projects.

Thank you for your attention.

I'm happy to answer your questions.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We have our final presenter, the Office of the Auditor General.

Thank you for being here. Please go ahead.

9:15 a.m.

Jerome Berthelette Assistant Auditor General, Performance Audit, Office of the Auditor General

Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present the results of two audits from our spring 2018 reports: one audit was on the socio-economic gaps on first nations reserves and the other was on employment training for indigenous people.

Joining me today are audit principals Dawn Campbell and Glenn Wheeler.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada has a long history of auditing federal programs and activities that affect indigenous peoples. Although successive governments have made numerous commitments to improve the well-being of indigenous people, I am sorry to report that our decades of audits indicate that the results of the programs for indigenous peoples have been unacceptable.

As you will see from the findings of the two audits we are discussing here today, recurring issues include the lack of information and the poor use of available data to understand and improve the impact the programs have on the lives of indigenous peoples.

In the first audit, we concluded that Indigenous Services Canada did not satisfactorily measure or report on Canada's progress in closing the socio-economic gaps between on-reserve first nations people and other Canadians. We also concluded that the use of data to improve education programs and thereby improve socio-economic well-being was inadequate. We found that the department's main measure of socio-economic well-being on reserves, the community well-being index, was not comprehensive. While the index included Statistics Canada data on education, employment, income and housing, it omitted several aspects of well-being that are also important to first nations people, such as health, environment, language and culture.

We also found that the department did not adequately use the large amount of program and other available data to accurately measure and report on whether the lives of people on first nations reserves were improving. For example, we calculated that the gap in levels of high school graduation, or the equivalent, between on-reserve first nations people and other Canadians widened between 2001 and 2016. We also found that the department overstated first nations' high school graduation rates by up to 29 percentage points because it did not account for students who dropped out between grades 9 and 11.

Indigenous Services Canada also made poor use of the education data it collected to improve education results. For example, the department spent $42 million over four years to prepare first nations students to enter post-secondary education programs; however, we found that only 8% of those enrolled completed this preparatory program. Despite these poor results, the department did not work with first nations or educational institutions to improve the success rate.

Our second audit examined how Employment and Social Development Canada managed two programs, the aboriginal skills and employment strategy and the skills and partnership fund. The common goal of these two programs was to increase the number of indigenous people who had sustainable and meaningful employment. For both of these programs, the department worked with indigenous organizations across the country that provided training and employment to support first nations, Métis and Inuit clients.

Overall we found that the department could not demonstrate that these programs increased the number of indigenous people who got jobs and stayed employed. Specifically, we found that the department did not define the performance indicators necessary to demonstrate whether the programs were meeting their objectives. For example, the department established an annual target for the number of clients employed after receiving services; however, the department counted any employment obtained as a successful outcome, whether the work was short term, seasonal, part-time or full-time. This means that it did not know how successful the programs were in helping clients find sustainable employment.

We also found that the department did not analyze the program data it collected to identify trends, problems or good practices that could help indigenous organizations improve their services and results. For example, the department spent $130 million between the 2010-11 and 2016-17 fiscal years on wage subsidies for employers who hired clients for specific lengths of time; however, the department did not track whether these clients continued working after the subsidies had ended.

ln addition, the department did not consistently monitor indigenous organizations to ensure that they fulfilled their obligations under funding agreements, nor did it use the information from the monitoring it did to know how well the programs were working.

This means that the department missed the opportunity to explore ways to improve program delivery and to work with indigenous organizations to identify areas in which capacity needed to be strengthened.

Following the tabling of our reports in Parliament in May, lndigenous Services Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada each prepared an action plan to address our recommendations. Your committee may wish to ask them for an update on the implementation of their commitments.

I would like to note that the committee may also be interested in several of our previous reports that address issues related to capacity development as indigenous organizations take on more responsibilities for programming. Notably, you may be interested in our June 2011 status report on programs for first nations on reserves, in which we identified structural impediments that explained the lack of progress in improving programming.

Another is our fall 2015 report on establishing the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, which identified factors that facilitated the transfer of health responsibilities to first nations.

This concludes my opening statement.

We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

Okay, we're moving into the question period.

We will begin with MP Mike Bossio.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you all for being here this morning. I greatly appreciate it. It is some valuable information that you have shared with us.

I would like to get from Indigenous Services Canada a better understanding of the current landscape of training and talent retention on reserve. In your experience, what are some of the most common challenges communities face to retaining qualified individuals on reserve?

9:25 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Keith Conn

As we alluded to earlier, the demand for training and development is wide and deep when developing individuals, whether through college or university or other forms of training institutions across the land.

In my health experience, among the challenges is accessibility to getting the right training in place for community members who want to occupy the health field. We also have issues around housing in retaining individuals. Where would you house people?

The other part of the challenge is the competitive nature of the health field. Salaries and wages pose a challenge in trying to be competitive with the labour market.

Another issue is language. We have developed programs. John Kozij and I had the pleasure of participating, in what was at the time HRSDC, in the skills development training to match the local jobs by planning and organizing sports to get individuals who didn't complete high school to complete high school programming to transition to jobs. What I'm getting at is that it is a large coordination issue in some respects.

I will have some of my other colleagues share, if they will, concerning the education sector as well.

9:25 a.m.

Director General, Regional Infrastructure Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Claudia Ferland

In terms of even the educational infrastructure approach, I would say that it really is, as Mr. Conn was saying, a question of having access to education and having some of the barriers—salaries, housing, competencies...but we are working on a number of retention programs and developmental programs so that skill sets can stay at the community level.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

The week before we went back to our ridings, there were 338 youths on the Hill. A number of them were from the north, from Attawapiskat. They had a teacher there with them. I was talking to the teacher about the school and the fact that there were very few, or actually, no indigenous teachers at the school. What are we doing, looking forward, to try to solve that issue?

I am really curious about Natural Resources Canada going in and actually training individuals on site to do land surveying. That's a really interesting model.

Are we looking at tapping into that in any other ways, in any other areas where we can actually go on site to where these schools are and take the indigenous youth from a young age who appear to have that capability and almost try to stream them in certain directions that will benefit those local communities? Even if it's not within the one reserve itself, do we look at it at a nation level and try to spearhead it from that direction? Is there any thought towards that?

9:30 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Keith Conn

Adrian?

We have an education specialist here who we'll have to draw upon, if he can please join us at the table.

9:30 a.m.

Adrian Walraven Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much.

In response to the question, speaking in the domain of education, part of the way forward that we're trying to work collaboratively with first nations across the country to develop is one that's going to be regionally tailored and locally driven. While the issue of teacher recruitment and retention is a common one across the country, how we address it and how we work together to improve the situation will be different in different parts of the country.

In particular, in northwestern Ontario, as I'm sure you're familiar with, there are particular challenges given northern remote isolation posts. Housing is an issue. Addressing the actual drivers of what education costs to deliver, with salaries and teacher retention benefits, is part of it.

What we are trying to do in the domain of education in the areas of your question is to establish regionally driven strategies on how we can address practical problems such as this. That starts with the overall effort we are trying to do to improve our funding relationship with first nations across the country, providing stable and predictable base funding and then tailoring whatever additional funding might be required to the local circumstance. Certainly the northern remote issues we are facing with teacher recruitment and retention are a big part of that. We are having joint discussions and action-oriented conversations with first nations at the national level through meetings convened with the Assembly of First Nations, and at the local level with organizations such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Ontario and other partners across the country.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Right now, our indigenous youth have to leave their reserves to get that post-secondary education and become teachers. Do we have any idea of how many have actually left to become teachers and then never gone back?

That is one of the biggest problems, right? How do we do it closer to home so they're not losing touch with their local communities, or they leave the community and then become ostracized trying to go back to the community? We have a double problem that we're trying to address there.

9:30 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

Working with our first nation partners, that situation is going to require integrated solutions. To have someone go out and be trained as a doctor, teacher or administrator and then come back to the community, you need proper housing, proper supports within the community, a competitive salary, all of these types of things that create that enabling environment for retention. Those are the types of conversations we're having and need to have to move toward.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you. I think you can provide us an answer to the question specifically as to what percentage of indigenous people go back to their home communities after post-secondary education.

9:30 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

I don't have that data with me today, but it's something we could address as a follow-up.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We'll move on to MP Kevin Waugh.

February 19th, 2019 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you to each and every one of you for attending this morning.

I'm going to pick up with the data. You don't have the data. You haven't had the data, as the Auditor General has stated, for over two decades.

It's interesting. We continue to throw money...and I see it right now in education. There are some groups in this country that are getting more education dollars than others. You have picked winners and losers.

Mr. Walraven, I'm going to start with you.

I have seen this government throw a lot of money at skills. Two weeks ago, we had the Department of Employment and Social Development here, and there were horrific numbers. There were 318,000 people who went through training, and only 100,000 got jobs. Over 217,000 people didn't get jobs after the training. There were 4,500 people who went back to school, which was good. But you see where we're coming from.

In Manitoba, there are certain areas that are getting more dollars for education.

How is your department looking at the education dollars? There are some students getting up to $18,000 per year, and others still getting $10,000 per year. How do you pick winners and losers in the education system in this country?

9:35 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

What we've done over the last couple of years in working with our first nations partners is that we've co-developed a strategy that addresses this issue specifically.

In the coming fiscal year, we are implementing a new way of funding first nations' education that is configured to provide, in every jurisdiction, base funding that is provincially comparable, so that we are providing the same base resources that align with teacher salary rates and other base costs. Then, through regional education agreements and regionally driven conversations, which can be based on treaty, territory or a local community-specific situation as well, we are figuring out, based on locally driven priorities, what the above and beyond is that we need to go toward.

We know that to properly fund and get the types of education outcomes we need to address, we will need to go above and beyond base provincial comparability. The first step in that process is rolling out base funding that is equitable and provincially configured across the country, and then the second step is regionally tailoring the next wave of investment.

We have one regional education agreement that was recently concluded in British Columbia with the renewal of the tripartite education agreement. We are actively working to develop similar agreements in other parts of the country.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I take it that there will be differences in funding because of the regional....

Can you explain that a bit?

9:35 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

There will be, in part because teacher salary rates and other base costs in education vary across the country. A teacher's salary range in Alberta is different from what it is in New Brunswick.

What we are trying to do is to address that base comparability, and then, in all areas, talking about the important things that first nations want to prioritize—language and culture investments, vocational training and a variety of other areas that we haven't quite been hitting the mark on in an era of underfunding—and then addressing those in conversations going forward.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Are we going to do a better job on graduation and literacy rates and tracking them? Is your department capable of that, or are you just going to have it done by these regional education...?

Who is going to do the job of tracking education rates? When a grade 9 or 10 student leaves, can we bring them back and get them over the line of a grade 12 education?

Last week, I toured two facilities in my city of Saskatoon, the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the Saskatchewan Indian Training Assessment Group. Both have done wonderful work, but who's going to track it? That was the question I asked both organizations last week: Who is tracking this data?

Who will track your data on graduation rates, as the Auditor General has pointed out, and those who leave the education system for one reason or another, and how do we get those people back in the system years later?

9:35 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

We're working on two fronts.

In the short term, the department continues to work and improve how it tracks performance in working with first nations. We are developing a national outcome-based framework through the new fiscal relationship work. We also have our ongoing obligations to report publicly to parliamentarians and Canadians on how our program results are evolving.

At the same time—and I think this is the more important point—we are working actively with first nations partners to address the questions you're raising in terms of mutual accountability. First nations want to be able to demonstrate progress in their own first nations' education systems, as much as we would like to make sure we're selling that success story as much as possible to all Canadians.

At the national and regional level, we are developing structures that would allow us over time to have mutual responsibility when it comes to that, through public disclosure and ultimately accountability to first nations citizens, which all Canadians can also reflect on based on publicly available data reporting.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

You're still developing it. How long will that take?

9:35 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

It will take time in different regions on different pace levels. In British Columbia, we have a new results framework that is already established and is currently being implemented. In other parts of the country, we are in the process of developing these conversations. In some parts of the country, working with our first nation partners, we haven't yet made as much progress as we would like. But the key point here, I put forward for the discussion, is that we are committed to making sure we are developing the way forward jointly with our first nation partners because otherwise it is not ultimately going to be successful.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I must have some time left, then.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You only have 20 seconds.