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

April 2nd, 2019 / 8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good morning, everyone.

This is the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. We are continuing our study on community capacity building on reserves.

We want to welcome our guests here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. Canada is in a process of reconciliation, and everyone here around the table is very cognizant that this is an important step in rectifying historic wrongs, and that the process will take an effort from all of us.

We will be hearing from Mr. Howard Grant, who is the executive director of the First Nations Summit Society.

Welcome, Howard.

You have up to 10 minutes to present. After that, we'll have questions and answers until the time is up, in just under one hour.

Whenever you're ready, you can begin.

8:45 a.m.

Howard Grant Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Thank you.

First, I want to say thank you to the committee for giving me the time to present to you today in regard to the capacity of first nations in Canada, but more particularly in British Columbia. I'd also like to say thank you to the Algonquin people for allowing me to have such an audience with you today.

Having said that, I believe we submitted a presentation to you. Rather than go through the presentation myself directly....

I should apologize first of all to say that Christa Williams, who was at one point the executive director of the First Nations Public Service Secretariat, is unable to join us today for health reasons. In B.C. we have bronchitis, pneumonia and whatnot and it's sad to say she's one of the people who have been afflicted.

I thought I would give you a bit of background on who I am. My name is Howard Grant, and I'm the executive director of the First Nations Summit Society. I'm also a member of the chief and council of the Musqueam First Nation in British Columbia. I've been on council for 37 years. I'm an ex-bureaucrat. I worked for Indian and Northern Affairs from 1984 to 1993. I had the opportunity to work within the federal public service for a number of years. I'm also an ex-band manager. My whole life has been within the bureaucracy of government and first nations.

My traditional name is Qeyapalanewx VI. It was my great-great-great-grandfather who met Captain Vancouver in 1791 and Captain Narvaez in 1792. We have a long history in British Columbia, particularly our first nation, recognizing that we've had 300 years less contact with the European population and, therefore, having had the clear opportunity to maintain a lot of understanding of our complex governance system that was in place prior to the usurping of that with the European culture and the Indian Act. I was blessed and fortunate to have conversations with my grand-uncles who were 106 years of age in 1952, so 1848.... I'm talking about individuals who probably met the first Europeans. I'm only one example of a number of other people on the west coast to have such a luxurious background.

Having said all of that, I was a recipient of Indian Affairs program and service delivery as a young child, not knowing that government was there providing so-called resources. I also became a delivery agent as a band manager and also a policy-maker within the federal government in regard to how one would provide services to first nations.

In 1970, first nations started to take on program and service delivery, first of all, just handing out welfare cheques and whatnot rather than having to stand in line at a district or regional office. Then they allowed a salary level of approximately a CR-2 level. I don't know if you're familiar with government structure, but that CR-2 level was maintained throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, and from that period first nations and the federal government started to delegate more and more of their responsibility to first nations and their institutions, but again always looking at a CR-2 level, a very low clerical level position.

In the mid-1980s they decided they would give more responsibility to first nations to manage those programs, and asked for reports that looked at the management of those programs. Whether or not they utilized the information is not relevant at this point, but the significant point is asking them to manage something at a PM-5 and higher level, but still at a CR-2 wage scale. There was non-recognition of that balance.

In 1970 in British Columbia approximately 6,000 federal employees were delivering some kind of service to first nations. That also included teachers, etc.

Then the government, through Mazankowski, decided to downsize. With that came the fact that government downsized to where it is today with regard to about 300 people within the former department of Indian and northern affairs. There are about 8,000 first nation employees currently on staff at various first nations in British Columbia, but recognize that they are still at a CR-2 or CR-3 level salary base. Take those things into account, and recognize that those first nations people are still enjoying the luxury of having a minimal wage scale, if not less than that, but being asked to provide senior management with guidance, advice and reports. That's the backgrounder to what I have to say.

Then you also have a government policy that was established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That policy states, “to provide...for status Indians living on reserve under the Indian Act...comparable to...Canadians...” in regard to services and programs; “to negotiate...forms of self-government...which increase Indian control and management...”; “to remove barriers and to facilitate Indian access to the economic expertise, capital and markets...” of the world; “to negotiate comprehensive claims...”; “to satisfy legal obligations...”; “to fulfill the terms of self-government legislation and associated formal undertakings....”

That is just a snapshot in regard to the policy of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in the 1970s. We fast-forward to today and those policies now are what you call something new under the guidance of reconciliation, but they have always been there. The recognition of government as a whole—to recognize that they had that fiduciary—and a horizontal approach were non-existent up until most recent times.

Even today, that is still a fact. Most governments, most federal departments, acquiesce and say, “No. That's an ISC or a CIRNAC problem. Hand it over to them.” Yet there is the realization that the Prime Minister sent a mandate letter to every federal department, and those departments still today are not acknowledging that recognition and relationship that is required.

Having said all of that, we have to look at how to build capacity. We in British Columbia, under the First Nations Summit, created the First Nations Public Service Secretariat, recognizing that there was a need for something more. This secretariat was created a number of years ago under the regime of Gordon Campbell, former premier of British Columbia. We came to the federal government and asked for their support in regard to creating a two-pronged approach. The federal government said, “No. Sorry, but we're not into that.” That was 10 years ago.

We fast-forward to today. The federal government has come to a recognition and a realization to some degree that they need to re-aggregate, reposition, reconcile and work towards first nations self-determination, but under whose definition? Under whose definition do we define reconciliation?

True reconciliation requires the recognition of first nations governments under the Constitution, recognizing that there is a true nation-to-nation relationship that is required and, in order to have that relationship, to enhance the opportunity of first nations with their government structures. That's the requirement. So how do we build those kinds of relationships? It's through reconstituting, rebuilding or building a first nations public service, to regain a better understanding in regard to their complex governance system.

Indian and Northern Affairs from 1970 to today has tried to impose a European style of governance. They say that public admin is public admin. That is not necessarily so. We have to recognize that first nations are unique. Their circumstances are different. Carleton teaches federal public admin and the University of Victoria teaches provincial, but we have to deal with federal, provincial and municipal. On top of that, we don't have the institutions that all of your governments have in regard to supporting Crown agencies and business development.

We have a responsibility as a first nation to look at how we maintain our fiduciary, and at zero risk, so a first nations public service is a full requirement. I'll conclude by saying that we clearly recognize that four pillars are fully required. The first is senior management; the second is financial; the third is human resources; the fourth is in regard to records information management. Those are the clear four pillars that we've come to realize are full requirements.

With that, I want to conclude by saying that we have to ask tomorrow's questions today.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

Questioning will open with MP Mike Bossio.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Actually, I'd really like to give you the opportunity to expand a bit on the four pillars that you discussed and the way you see in terms of how we need to evolve into those four pillars. We've tried since the 1970s and it hasn't worked as well as we'd like it to. I'd like to see you expand a bit on how we can solve the conundrum the government has in trying to.... We apply the language of public administration that we've had for hundreds of years, and as everyone knows, indigenous communities are far different, and far different from each other across the country.

How do we take into account the uniqueness of the first nations experience, traditional knowledge and cultural background and build out a public service from that based on the four pillars you've just described?

8:55 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

I'll answer your questions by giving examples of what has happened.

For me, as a band manager or chief executive officer of my first nation, I was there for 10 years. I left my community in 1997 to work for the First Nations Summit. From 1998 to today, in my community's case, we've had 11 band managers, or CEOs, or COOs, or whatever you want to call them. All of those individuals had MBAs, MPAs or commerce degrees, etc., but none of them fit into all of those categories, recognizing that when you're at a first nations level, do you completely understand public administration from a federal perspective, a provincial perspective and your adjacent municipal perspective?

On top of that is recognizing zero risk in regard to your Crown corporations that you've created under the land management taxation, etc., and then your business arm external to that, and most importantly, the subtle nuances of cultural activity within the community. When you're dealing with people, especially in British Columbia, whose populations range from 700 to 3,000, your constituents are right in your face immediately if you make an error in judgment. They'll question everything. You've had people make reports in regard to saying that first nations aren't transparent—absolutely wrong. When you make a decision as a councillor or a band manager or whatnot, they're right there, those people who ask these kinds of questions. You have an internal auditor branch, so to speak.

We recognize that those four pillars are so important, but the one that's absolutely missing is records information management. All records used to be held by the federal government. In the mid-1980s, they transitioned and said, “Okay, all these files, Indians, you have them.” You have files that are contained in chiefs' or band managers' houses, in attics, in basements and whatnot, but none of that is in a concentrated area. To get all of that information back into one building to access for daily operations and to recognize how we're moving forward is what's missing.

We need government to recognize those kinds of things. They've placed us into a far, far corner, and we're trying to get out of that corner now. Those four pillars that we've described are just the starting point, because then we have to build those institutions beyond that.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I guess what we're trying to get at here as far as the capacity building study goes, at least from my own standpoint, is what the most effective and efficient way is in order to build out that capacity and to retain that capacity, to retain those services. As you said just now, the changes happen so fast. You were there for 10 years, but since that time there have been 11 changes of management. How do we build out that capacity and how do we retain that? What kinds of retention strategies do we need?

9 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

There is limited data being collected in regard to the right data. As an example, the government is applauding themselves, patting themselves on the back and saying, “Wow, look at this—from 1985 onward the graduation rate for post-secondary is on the rise.” Absolutely not. If you use the same factors prior to 1985 on reserve exclusively you'd see a decline, because all of the current investment for post-secondary in particular right now is going toward the more urban population, the so-called city Indians. They're taking advantage of that. You had Bill C-31, Bill C-3 and whatnot, and the new Indians and the self-identified natives, and all of those are put into your database, the government database.

Now, that rate looks like it's on the rise, but if you use exclusively on reserve, because those are the people who are going to stay at home.... They're raised there and they're culturally involved. When we send our children off reserve to communities, they lose that in the majority of cases. Imagine sending your children aged 7 to 14, who are living in rural and remote communities, to schools outside of your reserve because there are none there. It's a challenge, and the most important lesson of education is being lost. It's what I call the dinner table talk education. That's the important part. You have not only the education that you learn from high school or post-secondary, but the cultural side of your community as well that's quite important.

I'll give you an example. We have an individual who is a forester, an arborist, and is trying to manage an economic development opportunity. He saw a grove of trees up on the mountainside and said that we should cut that down, invest and make an economic opportunity, but that was a very significant archeological and whatever site for the community. That resource was never to be touched, but just because the person who was the band manager of the day or the forester didn't realize those kinds of things, it may as well be a non-aboriginal person moving in.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Grant, for sharing your story.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning will go to MP Kevin Waugh.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you, Mr. Grant. You've touched on a number of things.

Urban and reserve education are different. I see in your presentation here that for over 23 years you've had data. B.C., you claim, is the only region in this country that provides this type of in-depth accountability, so how is education on reserves? I look at this and see a lot of numbers, but they're not separated here.

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Yes, absolutely, and again, it's to recognize how we use that data. Economists are very bright and smart, and they'll use data to support and defend a rationale. Likewise here, it's to ask why isn't it working. The majority of our people, if you read into it, will tell you that the majority of people graduating under post-secondary are in the social sciences: health, education, social development, social work, archeologists, anthropologists, etc. None are in the more demanding areas of economics, finance, public admin and business admin. That's the missing element from a reserve perspective.

In my particular case, we have nine lawyers, and they're all in rights and title, but we need lawyers with tax law, and now we need lawyers under matrimonial real property in regard to divorce and property rights, etc. We're missing those kinds of things, those very on-the-ground substantive issues that affect us economically.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

What does post-secondary education look like in B.C. for first nations? Is there a university for them? We have one in Regina—

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

No, there is no—

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Should there be one?

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

There is no exclusive first nations university, but government keeps providing money to these universities for us because they go in with a proposal and say that they're going to develop a curriculum for post-secondary. I'll give public admin as a very good example. Right now, that's the flavour of the day. They create the curriculum, but that's it. You spend $200,000 to $300,000 developing a curriculum, but nobody takes the course, so that's $300,000 not well spent.

You know, the creation of institutions that are much more...and we can't do it online because there is no Internet access at this time for probably a quarter or a third of our communities in the remote areas.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

How are we going to fix this? It has been decades. You've been in the civil service from 1970 on. It hasn't changed much, I would probably say, in your 60 years or so. How are we going to change this when we look at capacity? There is no capacity on reserves, or very little.

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Yes. I say, take a step backwards. Asking tomorrow's questions today is so important. You ask, “Okay, how do we do this?” We build with tomorrow in mind. Capacity requires us to assess the current situation within the community: what we have, what we don't have and what we need. How do we train the current bureaucracy that's there? As well, then, we need to look at the future and ask, “Okay, how do we invest in that?”

That's how we did it pre-contact. We already knew a child when he or she was growing up, and we knew who was going to be the speaker of the house, who was going to be the artist and who was going to be the gatherer or the hunter and whatnot, because they demonstrated those skills. Society is no different, but what happens is that in society, if you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, your child almost assumes that responsibility. We don't have that. We don't have role models in our community. We don't have a doctor. We don't have a scientist.

Let's be honest. For those of you who have children beyond the age of 21, you've helped them with their homework. You've taught them and you've talked to them every day of their lives. We don't have that. You parachute somebody in. Somebody goes in and says, “I'm going in for my cultural fix once every two weeks of the year.” You can't just come home and say, “I'm part of your family”, and then leave.

We have to look at those things. We have to invest in that and say, “Okay, which natives are going to live on reserve forever?” Let's invest in those and then, no matter what...because salaries are going to be very important. We lose a lot. I'm in an urban reserve, and a lot of people who have professional standing don't come and work for us because we can't compete in regard to salary.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Yes. I see that in my city of Saskatoon. They get scooped up.

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Then the urban reserves, and we have many, are left holding the bag and they fall farther behind.

The urban-rural issue is a real issue in this country. As you mentioned, they leave the reserve, go into an urban setting and often come back, and we lose track of them. Also, retention of teachers...just everything. That's what we're studying here: How can we move forward on this?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Well, you create those incentives, recognizing that salaries are equal. As well, it's to recognize that in the past.... I'll give you an example. Years ago, Indian Affairs, when they still did everything for aboriginal people, had teachers. They said, “Okay, we want you to go into that more rural and remote area.” That salary base was always the same, but they created incentives for those teachers to stay out in those communities.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

That's right.

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

They had living allowances and those kinds of things. That's not happening right now. You start at that minimum wage for a teacher, and that's all you're getting, period.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Questioning now moves to Rachel Blaney.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you so much for being with us today, Mr. Grant.

Could you tell us a bit more about the approach you talked about presenting to the federal government, the two-pronged approach around wages?

I hear what you're saying. A lot of the indigenous communities that I'm part of and that I represent talk about a couple of things. They talk about the challenges, as you said earlier, of being able to pay people a good wage. If they leave the community, they get better pay, so that's a challenge. They also talk a lot about the governance structure and the fact that there's been very little investment in helping them grow and develop that structure, because it has changed. Depending on the process of colonialism within their community, the actual impacts can be very profound.

I'm wondering if you could talk about what that two-pronged approach is. Also, how do we look at reconciling the fact that governance structures were attacked by the Government of Canada forever? What resources are needed to build that capacity within the communities?