Evidence of meeting #142 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 regard.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Howard Grant  Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Thank you for that question because it's always concerned me.

Having been a bureaucrat, I know that all of the funding is basically done on an annual contribution agreement. When they went to what you would call block funding, or AFA, to five years, it was always at a very restricted amount. It had little to do with building capacity or training first nations. That was excluded within those kinds of funding formulas for first nations. Then, on a proposal-driven basis, you could apply for funds for capacity development. They call it PIDP, the professional and institutional development program.

Those programs only operate on an annual basis. The sad reality is that many first nations were on remedial management plans, so the majority of those dollars did not go towards professional development of first nations. It was provided to contractors such as Deloitte Touche and financial institutions that would parachute into first nations and help them get out of remedial management. I use that as one example.

Therefore, there was no long-term vision in regard to these contributions arrangements. As you're well aware, when you do it on a proposal-driven basis, and it's only on an annual basis, there is no ability to look at a five-year or 10-year strategic plan, because it's not there. How do you say to somebody that you want to move in a certain direction?

I will say that in the last five to 10 years, government has come to the realization that comprehensive community planning is a critical instrument, so they invested in it. With comprehensive community planning, three or four first nations got global attention and won a number of awards, and they updated the planning every two years. The sad reality, however, is that consultants have taken this situation, and rather than build on it from the ground up, they're once again imposing it from the top down and saying they're “cutting and pasting”. That doesn't help anyone. That's the reality.

More importantly, to answer your question, government is still operating on an annual contribution basis in the majority of cases. They're going to say to you that they're offering a 10-year grant. But if you look at it very closely, the 10-year grant is really in regard to statutory requirements, where there's discretionary and non-discretionary funding. Non-discretionary is the 10-year grant, and all others are still proposal-driven.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

In recent weeks, witnesses have told us that many members of indigenous communities are leaving their communities to take better-paying jobs in urban areas.

What steps can be taken to improve talent retention on the reserves?

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Again, it's a question where on-the-ground intelligence is required. Were the talent we're talking about originally from on reserve, born and raised there, lived there and then moved? Did they get their education and then decide not to return? If that's the case, we have to recognize that two things have occurred: one, the salary levels are probably far less; and two, the housing conditions are probably not there. Those two things are probably the most important.

In my particular case, in my first nation, we have a lot of talent and the majority of those individuals are non-aboriginal people.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Do I have time?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

No, you've run out of time. Sorry.

We are now moving to MP Arnold Viersen.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our guest for being here today.

You mentioned in your testimony what you call the dinner table education. That's an interesting term that you used there.

One of the things that was interesting when we did our suicide study a number of years ago was that we talked to young people and they said to fix their parents. That was a common theme. They said, “Can you help fix our parents?”

That's very important, that dinner table education. How do we build that capacity back?

9:40 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

With me, I was blessed and fortunate that I didn't have to go to residential school. I was surrounded by grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles. I became the surrogate child, grandchild and nephew of every member of my community. I have six children. I made sure that my children always sat at the dinner table and we would talk about who we are and where we came from, as my mother and elders had always described to me.

That was important in regard to who we are: to know who you are. That is the missing element. That is one of the residual effects of residential school. A lot of those current parents whom you're talking about never had that opportunity.

How we get it back is, again, to develop the curriculum, develop the history books of first nations. People call it stories. We don't call it stories. We're not telling a story. We're telling you our history. That's the important aspect: telling what's important in life. Five TVs and a Cadillac are not important things. At the end of the day, you can't take it with you when you're going to heaven or hell. The important thing is how rich you are, how many people you have touched in your lifetime, and how many of you have created a legacy that you left this place better than when you arrived.

That dinner table talk education becomes so, so important to recognize what a child is and what they can learn about how to take care of Mother Earth.

It sounds so simple, but those of us who live in cities take for granted that the beauty is going to remain there, that the gasoline is going to always be there for us. It's not.

That dinner table talk becomes an expensive exercise that doesn't need to be expensive. We just need to regain and have those, which are an investment into developing within the first nation itself it's curriculum to say our history, who we are. We have role models. We have idols. We don't recognize them, you know?

My kids go to school, and they have Tecumseh and Hiawatha. Our greatest warrior was Giyeplénexw. There's nothing about him in the curriculum in the school system. If you went and asked my community members who the most important person is in their community, they wouldn't know that.

There's a need for investment in that dinner table talk. That's the missing element—for those parents, as well. I agree with you. You have to create a healthy community before you can have a healthy government.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

What levers do we have at our disposal to help you with that?

9:40 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Investing into that curriculum in both the school system....

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Okay.

9:40 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Right now, UNDRIP, the United Nations declaration, that many schools are now.... It leaves it to the teachers to teach a course or have an assignment on first nations issues. Even they will go to the library and whatnot, but they're not going to find something on the local history. They're not. They're only going to find something from east of the Rockies, because most of the authors are from the east side.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That is a very good point. There's a lot of history not recorded.

I interrupted just to indicate that we've run out of time and to thank you for coming here and sharing with us your experience, both at the band level in B.C. and federally. You bring a lot of wisdom to us and we really appreciate your contributions.

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Meegwetch.

We are going to suspend the meeting for a few minutes so we can switch over to go in camera for committee business.

[Proceedings continue in camera]