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

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

The governance structures.... Again, looking at the definition of the more colonial mindset, you've heard a lot of speeches with regard to this: reaggregation, reconstitution, rebuilding. East of the Rockies there was a formula that described and allowed first nations to have x amount of land, 250 acres per family. That's why you have large communities east of the Rockies of 5,000 to 12,000 acres. Then you move to the west of the Rockies, where the formula changed dramatically. In my particular case, it's 2.5 acres per family. We have the smallest reserve in all of Canada. In British Columbia, the sad reality is that we have 200 first nations, and people are saying, “Well, why don't you reconstitute yourself? You must have had the Coast Salish, the Kwagiulth, etc.” No, we didn't.

People keep trying to place us into this category of linguistic groupings. We were more city states as opposed to a nation, and we always will be, so that governance structure has to be recognized with regard to who's defining it and how we build it. We had it before contact and we can have it again post-contact. It's just a recognition of that. Then we need to look at how we work it in a manner that will help first nations.

If you take a look at the federal government, you have institutions that support your good governance structures, the Department of Justice, the Department of Finance, etc. We have created some of those institutions as well, but sad to say, they have followed in the footsteps of government structure, of siloed.... We have the First Nations Finance Authority, the First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Tax Commission and the lands advisory board, but they're all siloed.

I took the opportunity four years ago to hold a dinner, and I said to all of those institutions, “Why aren't you working together? Why aren't you promoting and educating the first nations and making them understand so that they can access what you have to offer?” It came to them; a light bulb turned on. They had their first conference last year, and now they're having their second one where they're working together to do those things.

Those governance institutions are needed in every region.

Sad to say, the reality of government, especially federal, is nationalism, a national approach, a national policy. Currently, we've asked that the First Nations Public Service Secretariat be a pilot in British Columbia, but ISC is afraid. It said, “How do we go to Treasury Board and ask for something? We know we're going to get turned down.” This is true because the mindset of Treasury Board is the bottom line: How is this going to save money? How is this going to be better?

If you went to a national approach right away tomorrow, it would not work because there's the uniqueness of every region and a complexity—some are matrilineal and some are patrilineal—and we have to allow them to rebuild based on that approach. We can't keep continuously imposing.

I hope I answered your question.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you. I appreciate that.

This is an interesting time. I know that we've seen multiple issues with discussions around who's in charge. Is it elected officials? Is it hereditary officials? I think this is part of capacity building, of understanding, and of how we bring those things together. I'm from B.C., too. A lot of those communities are very small, so they're dealing with the government in a nation-to-nation approach with very limited resources.

Could you speak about the challenge in those communities and what sort of resources or support they need to be able to do that nation-to-nation approach with the federal government?

9:15 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

We're not unique in that manner of hereditary.

If you take a look at Canada today, how many of us still pay homage to the Queen of England? I just shake my head. You have the majority of Canada saying, “Well, we don't understand you guys. You have hereditary; you have this, and yet we all are willing to give part of our tax dollar to the Queen of England.” That's no different. You can still have the hereditary system in place, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, we've fast-forwarded to the 21st century, and sad to say, in the hereditary system, the chief is no longer the individual who provides for the community. Therefore, you need a more elected body of individuals who have the skill set, the knowledge and the tools to run a government. There's actually a recognition of that; it's just a matter of how do we communicate that.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

The questioning now moves to Will Amos.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Grant.

Please continue on that line of thinking. I feel that you had more to say, and I am interested in hearing it.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Yes.

The majority of the hereditary system is on the west coast of British Columbia, as opposed to the interior and whatnot. It's working with those first nations. Right now in the news, you have the Wet'suwet'en who have the hereditary system, the elected system, and half of the hereditary chiefs are also elected as well. It does work. It's just a matter of defining it and then looking at who the people will take their guidance from.

We have a Senate. The Senate is very, very important. There are people who have on-the-ground intelligence, the knowledge and the wisdom, I'm hoping, in regard to looking at how we improve Canada and how we don't deface it. We're a country that is considered to be one of the best in the world. You have that responsibility to look at no matter what piece of legislation is coming through and you ask those hard questions.

Likewise with the hereditary system, if I were a hereditary chief, I would be worried about land loss, the environment and the future legacy for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The oil pipeline is a clear and good example of that. The National Energy Board said it is good for all Canadians; therefore, let's proceed. Excuse me, but is it good for all Canadians? Is it good for it to come through my backyard? I don't think so. We're not getting any economic return on it. But we will have a legacy if the pipe ever bursts.

In my particular case, the Salish Sea, if one of those tankers collides and has an accident, the whole of the Salish Sea will be ruined for 50 years. That's my bread and butter. We won Sparrow under that. Right where we won Sparrow is where they are building Roberts Bank terminal two. Again, we're being denied the opportunity for ceremonial and food access.

So how do we engage with government? That's the challenge. We won Sparrow, and we're the second under conservation to access the Fraser River-bound fish. What did the government do? They negotiated with the Maa-nulth people for the first access of Fraser-bound sockeye. You look at those kinds of things and you ask questions as to how we create a reconciled approach by government looking at other pieces of legislation and other governments introducing legislation that will impact whatever we come to a conclusion on.

Under the hereditary system, I believe that's where the wisdom of hereditary chiefs and chiefs comes into play.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Earlier in this study we had contributions from our Algonquin neighbours, whose territory I represent in large measure. Mr. Norm Odjick spoke specifically to the theme of tribal councils, the need to resource tribal councils, and the challenges they face, linking financing and the work necessary to link various communities within the Algonquin nation. You have proposed a particular set of approaches that would be helpful in terms of enabling access to federal institutions and resources that are used to quite successfully, or reasonably successfully, provide that substratum of government support for the nation of Canada.

What do you see as being the least cumbersome and most cost-effective way of enabling better access to resources that the federal government might have through its different departments and agencies to enable that kind of community support in our indigenous communities?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

I am sad to say that I am part and parcel of being the author of tribal council funding. Back in the early 1980s, tribal groups amalgamated...or worked together.... They didn't amalgamate; they worked together under a political umbrella. When we downsized in British Columbia, we looked at how we could help first nations. As we downsized, we recognized, okay, we'll create five advisory positions that were already existing within Indian and Northern Affairs. We transferred these five kinds of positions: band financial adviser, local government adviser, economics adviser, tech services and a planner. Within the bureaucracy, those five positions were all at a PM-5 or PM-6 level, but when we transferred those programs, we transferred them at a PM-3 or PM-4 level. What they were supposed to do under a tribal council was work with those member bands to help them develop under those five structures. That never happened.

Again we imposed a top-down approach as opposed to from the first nations side. It became an enhanced subsidy just to make the tribal council a political body as opposed to servicing.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

The questioning now moves into the five-minute round.

We begin with MP Cathy McLeod.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you for coming. Being from British Columbia, the weather here in Ottawa is a bit of a shock for us.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Tell me about it.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Anyway—

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Oh, suck it up; come on.

9:25 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

—I have a whole number of areas I'd like to pursue.

First, though, you talked about the first nations-led institutions and how they need to get together. I agree that it's.... I've heard some people say that they need an infrastructure institute. Do you see gaps in terms of what that can look like? How do you see that fitting into allowing autonomy within the group?

Does that make sense?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Could you repeat that?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

We have some first nations-led institutions, such as the First Nations Tax Commission and the First Nations Financial Management Board. You indicated there is an ability for them to work more closely together. Are there also some gaps in terms of those types of institutions that would be valuable in infrastructure, for instance?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

Absolutely. Clearly, one that is missing is data collection, real data collection. If and when we are able to move away from...and go more towards nationhood, nation to nation, somehow we'll have to create a vehicle that will come to Parliament and say, “Here's the amount of money we need.” It gets financed and whatever else in terms of allocating those resources. It's defended and it's rationalized. How do we do that? What instrument will be in place for us to do that? Somebody has to go to Treasury Board. Somebody has to go to Finance and say, “Here is the amount of money we need, and here is the data to support our request.” Clearly, that is a requirement. I know they tried it in Manitoba. That institution was there, but it became somewhat defunct. I don't know where it sits right now.

Again, we need to recognize that it has to be across Canada. Each region has to have that.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I don't disagree with that. I think there was an attempt, as you say, and it really had challenges. Do you really think there would be an agreement across the country to participate in that kind of...?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

You're asking a question that's beyond tomorrow's exercise, but yes. First nations have also asked for an institute called the auditor general's office. I don't agree with that. We have one Auditor General who holds Canada to account. You could have a subdivision of a first nations body, which they currently have, but it's not as structured as you would hope it to be. The Auditor General holds our government to account with regard to that, and I think that office does a fairly good job.

To your question, I'm an optimist, or else I wouldn't be here. I still believe that one day we're going to get rid of the Indian Act, but let's not do it until such time as we have something that is equally good to replace it.

As an example, currently, government is proposing 10-year grants. They're proposing a number of things. They say that first nations can become self-determining, but let's be honest; no matter what, most first nations can't. You can have a current funding resource from government, but if you don't have jurisdiction, it isn't going to work.

It's the same with you as a government. The oil industry is down, so what do you do? You raise the tax dollar or whatnot from other areas. We need to do the same thing if and when we enter a nation-to-nation relationship.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

What does “nation-to-nation” mean to you?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You only have 30 seconds, so be very brief.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

It's a recognition of a third order of government. Reconciliation is to recognize that we have those rights and to deal with us in an honourable manner, as the courts have said.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Questioning now moves to Yves Robillard. It will be in French, so you might need your earpiece.

April 2nd, 2019 / 9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Grant.

A number of witnesses have pointed out that the federal funding doesn't give first nations the opportunity to establish a long-term vision, given that the funding is annual.

Can you describe the challenges faced by indigenous communities with regard to the funding system and tell us how we can improve the situation?