Evidence of meeting #140 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 funding.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Seamus O'Regan  Minister of Indigenous Services
Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Alex Lakroni  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Diane Lafleur  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I understand there was a comment in cabinet that indicated that there were no rights in terms of indigenous off reserve. You're clearly stating that there are rights that need recognition off reserve. I understand that's contrary to one of your colleagues' comments.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

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

Section 35 rights are section 35 rights.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Questioning moves to MP Georgina Jolibois.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Minister, for coming. I appreciate this opportunity to ask you some questions. I only get a short period of time.

I want to acknowledge Chief Robert Bertrand, who is in the audience here. The work that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples does is very important, because it speaks to off-reserve first nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada.

Like the Conservatives, I've noticed that.... Is there a reason the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is often left out in codeveloping important legislation with your organizations, as well as Minister O'Regan's? I'm curious about that.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

Coast to coast to coast we have tried to be as inclusive as we can. In the meetings we held after the Prime Minister's speech on February 14, we chose not to deal just with organizations. We dealt with rights holders in all the centres we went to. We had over 50% of women at those meetings. This was about dealing directly with section 35 rights holders, and dealing with them as members of the community. It was not organized through the AFN, NWAC or ITK. It was organized by region and directly with rights holders.

We look forward to being able to codevelop future policies and legislation on the issues that would involve the members of CAP, but it's a matter of working with everybody to make sure we are able to get the best possible policies.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I have another question regarding the indigenous languages legislation that Minister Rodriguez put forward, which the heritage committee is studying right now. Many witnesses have appeared thus far, and I understand that the committee will wrap up seeing witnesses this week. That is very important legislation—I cannot emphasize that enough.

In my opinion, it is being rushed. I'm not alone in that opinion; many witnesses have expressed a concern about the legislation being rushed. I'm hoping you can comment on what your involvement is in the legislation and whether the government is open to making changes to the legislation.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

I think it is hugely important. As so many of our partners will say, language is who you are. It is your identity. I think we know that a secure personal and cultural identity leads to better health, education and economic outcomes. This is about the identity of a people and peoples.

The legislation was organized based on codevelopment and 12 agreed-upon principles for the legislation. I think I see it much more like the Canada Health Act, where there are some principles. It's not prescriptive in any way, but in some ways the purpose of the legislation is to explain that language is part of section 35. It's not separate. It's not optional. Language is a right for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

ITK is one of the codeveloping groups you speak about. As you know, ITK is very concerned with the legislation. They've expressed their concerns openly and in committee, and they've done a fine job of providing their reasons behind it. They weren't alone. There were other witnesses we heard from who also suggested this.

Is the government open to legislating indigenous languages as official languages like French and English?

That's what has come out so far. What is the government's position on that?

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

Again, I think that this piece of legislation is an excellent beginning, and it makes very clear how important indigenous languages are as we celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

I think there is a lot of work to be done, and the commitment with ITK and with the Inuit was always how we would go forward to be able to craft what they will need. We will continue these conversations to make sure that the rights are implemented in a way that's effective. As you know, and as the minister has said, the focus is on fluency and on us making sure that first nations, Inuit and Métis are part and parcel, and are able to direct the funding for it in a way that they find the most effective.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I have a quick question regarding the funding. How come the government hasn't provided the amount of funding to go to the legislation?

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

March 19 is coming up. All of us have our requests in to the finance minister and the Prime Minister, and we eagerly look forward to being able to properly fund the priorities of the government.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The questioning moves to Will Amos.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Minister, and thank you to your senior officials. It's always appreciated when you take the time to come.

Today I want to focus a little bit on the Métis side of the question. You spoke about accelerating indigenous self-determination and the importance of closing socio-economic gaps, so I wanted to give you the opportunity to expand a bit on this.

By way of example, there's significant funding in the estimates for a Métis housing strategy. I think we all agree that more needs to be done to close gaps in housing for the Métis in Canada, but can you explain how this is going to be delivered? In particular, what mechanisms are going to be used that enable Métis delivery of this housing strategy?

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

The agreement now has been with the Métis National Council, but we are working with all of the governing members to look at their needs. At the moment, there is a formula for the first three years, and then in year four we'll move to a more needs-based approach that we will codevelop with the governing members.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

How have the Métis articulated their desire to maintain control over the delivery of this? What have been the key messages coming not just from the national organization but also from people on the ground, people who are deeply engaged with the Métis community?

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

I think you've said it. They want control of how it's distributed, period. This isn't about us and a government program through which we fund this and we don't fund that. They want to make sure their members are properly housed. If it's to go to renovation, that's what they'd like. As you know, in Manitoba, they've moved to a first home ownership opportunity. President Poitras, in Alberta, has huge experience in housing. They've done an amazing job. It really is going to be them moving in a way that they design to be able to do the needs assessment, and then to be able to fund it in a way they choose.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

On the cultural side, you highlighted the funding that was requested to support the construction of a Métis national heritage centre in Winnipeg. I cannot wait for the opportunity to learn from that heritage centre once it's completed.

You noted also that the funding is going to support the Métis Nation's management of its own culture, art and history, which is great.

How will this change the way things have been done in the past around the telling of the Métis story?

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

I too think it's very exciting. It really is about nation-building and coming out of the shadows. It is about the forgotten people. This is about, once again, Métis having an opportunity to tell their stories and to be able to really correct some of the misinformation that has been out there, from Louis Riel to Gabriel Dumont. These are not things that we learn in school.

What is exciting, I think, in terms of a place for artifacts, a place to tell the story.... I'm not sure yet, but I'm sure the chair would agree that the work that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is doing now in virtual information dissemination coast to coast to coast is a real opportunity for understanding that it's never just a building; it is an opportunity to disseminate the history and the culture and to have young Métis youth be really proud of who they are and their heritage and how they go forward.

I must say that at every meeting, the Métis youth are so impressive. Whether they're paddling or beading or jigging, to see them back in touch with their language and culture is a total inspiration. So many of their parents are only now discovering their Métis heritage.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I will make two brief comments.

I think this is a fabulous initiative not only for the Métis but also, as you said, for the rest of Canada. It should be a great driver for tourism. I expect that there will be a lot of people coming from places all around the world who are very keen to learn about our Métis Nation's history. In fact, all of the Americas have a whole history of mestizaje. That is absolutely of great significance as we trade more and more with the other countries in the Americas.

Minister, to you and the rest of your team, the first weekend of June is always the greatest of Algonquin powwows in Kitigan Zibi. It is a lot of fun. I go every year. Of course that community would love to have you. I'll take the liberty of inviting you formally to that event.

Thank you, Minister.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

When we talk about the Métis, we must not forget the road allowance people, Rooster Town and Mary-Anne Gaboury. I had to get that on record, because—

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

That's an excellent statement, Madam Chair.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much, Minister.

We move on to MP Arnold Viersen.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Just to get it on the record here, thank you, Minister, for being here as well. Earlier we had Minister O'Regan. I think there's one more minister, though, isn't there, a northern minister?