Evidence of meeting #143 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 indigenous.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Laurie Swami  President and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Waste Management Organization
Bob Watts  Vice-President, Indigenous Relations, Nuclear Waste Management Organization
Chief Arlen Dumas  Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Philippe Méla

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Okay. Is it appropriate to truck nuclear waste from New Brunswick to Ontario? Does that work?

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Waste Management Organization

Laurie Swami

What we would look at is the safety. We know that it's safe to transport. Whether it's truck or rail, it's safe to transport the used fuel. It goes in certified packages, which are tested to make sure it's safe to do so. Part of our program will be to go out and talk to the communities along a transportation route.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

There are no interested parties or groups or areas in New Brunswick near where the facilities are?

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Waste Management Organization

Laurie Swami

Canada's plan is to site a deep geologic repository for all of Canada's waste, so it's not—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Just one. Oh, okay.

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Waste Management Organization

Laurie Swami

There would be just one for the used fuel, yes.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Oh, okay. That's interesting.

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I want to thank you for coming. That ends our period of questioning.

We appreciate your knowledge and your perspective and your special project. Meegwetch.

We're going to suspend the meeting for a few minutes and will have our second panel come forward.

Thank you, again.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Let's get started. We're taking a little bit longer than normal, but when we have Manitoba guests, I need a little time to say hello and see friends.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas is with us. We're very pleased to have you on the unceded territory here in Ottawa of the Algonquin people. Arlen comes from the community known as Pukatawagan to us settlers, and I've had the opportunity to work with him over the years.

We are very interested in your perspective as Grand Chief the Manitoba chiefs. Any time that you're ready, you can start.

April 4th, 2019 / 9:50 a.m.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Thank you for the introduction. Thank you to everyone here, and I acknowledge the land that we're on. I'm just going to head right into it.

I want to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the time to speak to you on the talent and retention and recruitment of first nations employees in various fields of delivery of essential services on reserve, including first nations education and graduation rates for elementary to secondary schools.

It is my understanding that this will include a section on community capacity-building initiatives. Therefore, I would like to begin my presentation with the definition of capacity-building. Capacity-building is the process by which individuals and organizations obtain, improve and retain the skills and knowledge, tools and equipment and other resources needed to do their jobs competently or to a greater capacity, larger scale, larger audience, or larger impact.

Capacity-building and capacity development are often used interchangeably. The term “community capacity-building” emerged in the lexicon of international development during the 1990s, and the term is included in the programs of most international organizations that work in development, such as the World Bank, the UN and various other non-governmental organizations.

Today, community capacity-building often refers to strengthening the skills, competencies and abilities of people and communities so that they can achieve their goals and potentially overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering. Now, when we look at the words, “potentially overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering”, we need to look through the lens of how we have been trying to build capacity to help our citizens and communities achieve their goal—the goal of inclusion, and overcoming the effects of colonial policies and legislation.

That lens, that approach, has been through the delivery of unilaterally-developed government programs that do not take into account the history, the geography and the existing capacity in the community. We are already doing a disservice to the first nations. We make the assumption that there is no capacity, so the government must build it for them. I have told many colleagues, time and time again, “Please don't come and build my capacity. Come and enhance it.” The inference is that if you need to build my capacity, I don't have any. It's very insulting.

Capacity enhancement means a person increasing their own ability to achieve their own objectives effectively and efficiently. We need to start looking at how we enhance existing capacity, because it's there. The population is there, the desire to learn is there, the desire to change one's life is there. It's in our blood memory. We want to move forward and have a hand in how we plan the future.

When we talk about the provisions of the essential services on reserve, we are talking about our health care, our education, child and family services, social assistance, housing, policing, etc. Yet, the lack of legal framework governing essential services on reserve leaves first nations vulnerable to arbitrary and sudden changes in policies.

The one piece of legislation governing the lives of first nations citizens both on and off reserve, the Indian Act, remains silent about social assistance, child welfare, child care, health, education, policing and emergency services, and other key services for individuals and their well-being in communities. Non-first nation people receive these services from the provinces and territories. Provincial legislation sets out in great detail the level of service citizens may expect, ensuring the level of accountability and program design and delivery.

First nations have been going without properly funded essential services for decades, and when Canada saw the impact of these hardships on our first nations citizens, it immediately began to negotiate cost-sharing agreements with the provinces and territories without consultation with their treaty partners. Monies for child and family infrastructure, emergency management services, etc. all flow to the provinces, and there are no plans developed with first nations to enhance capacity at the community level.

Moreover, there are no accountability measures in place to ensure that those dollars go to communities. For example, as a temporary measure, Ottawa decided to provide social assistance on reserve at rates and standards comparable to those provided in the provinces on nothing more than a mere policy manual. These comparable rates were not and are not reflected in the cost of living in remote and isolated communities.

Fast-forward 70 years, and we are still working with income assistance policy manuals that actually work against communities and not for them. This approach becomes the norm for all essential services on reserve, and this approach is highly problematic.

Regulation by policy manual allows unelected bureaucrats to determine the policy and dictate what the most vulnerable citizens are entitled to from the federal government. Every day federal government officials are making decisions regarding the eligibility of first nations for crucial public services. Every day Canada is creating programs that first nations must compete for by proposal submission. Not every first nation has proposal-writing experts at hand, so far too often, they are unable to access these resources and unable to attract and retain the people they need to provide the services. In many cases, the federal officials have considerable discretion in decision-making, relying only on intergovernmental policies or program guidelines that were not created by first nations. We never have the conversation about whether borrowing social policy designed by provincial lawmakers for different citizens in different circumstances adequately accommodates conditions of first nations living on reserve and respects their rights to self-government.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Women's Council have gone on record to state that the application of provincial child welfare laws is inappropriate and is contributing to the record numbers of first nations children taken into permanent care. How is the federal government monitoring how government staff implement policies that allow for the enhancement of capacity in our first nations communities?

Over the last two decades, at least five auditor general reports have suggested that government staff do not know and are not tracking whether essential services on reserve are actually comparable to provincial or territorial programs. This observation is corroborated by several human rights complaints lodged by first nations in the last five years, alleging programs on reserve, including the areas of child welfare, education and policing, are significantly if not consciously underfunded and not comparable to provincial or territorial services.

We in first nations country are aware that the application of policy varies from region to region. We talk of the variations in section 95 housing policies, income assistance, health and education, etc. This federal government just announced a $4.7 billion budget to address indigenous issues, without any legislative framework. The failure to adhere to the rule of law affects policy outcomes. First nations people in Canada remain at the bottom of almost every socio-economic statistic and well-being indicator.

As the Office of the Auditor General of Canada found in its 2018 spring reports, Indigenous Services Canada has had an abysmal failure in collecting or making use of socio-economic data necessary for setting realistic benchmarks, establishing funding formulas or setting priorities for closing the gap in funding to first nations. The analysis being done is currently so askew that the department was reporting an increase in high school graduation rates on reserve when in fact that number has been declining steadily for a decade. Our populations are booming, and oh, we have 10 graduates this year but there were 30 people born in that same year. Thirty people should have graduated, but we can only fund 10 people.

The Auditor General has linked the lack of a legislative framework and appropriate funding mechanisms for programs on reserve to this problem, noting that these gaps severely limit the delivery of public services to first nations communities and hinder improvement in living conditions on reserve. The UN special rapporteur on indigenous people has called this a human rights issue of crisis proportions.

First nations citizens in this country ought to be entitled to some basic measure of accountability from the federal government when it comes to key programs that affect some of the most vulnerable and marginalized citizens of this country, but that is a problem as well, because everything is a program.

Programs have end dates. Programs do not have to be renewed. The possibility of the closure of a program is ever present, like first nations policing, which is not deemed an essential service in Canada. It is threatened with closure every time the agreement with the federal government hits its expiry date. It is very hard to attract and retain qualified and interested staff when everyone knows there's a possibility they will not have a job come March 31.

In the absence of safeguards, checks and balances of a legislated and regulatory process, our first nations citizens are susceptible and vulnerable to administrative decisions made by federal employees and government officials. They lose quality staffing, they lose quality programming created by the community, and they lose momentum when they make changes.

We come up with new programs and announce new dollars, but until the funding is secure, stable and addresses inflation and population size and is embedded into the legislative framework, it will be hard to retain staffing and enhance capacity at the community level to create long-lasting changes in the socio-economic status of our communities.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee on this very important matter. I look forward to further discussions. If you require any additional information, please contact my staff. We will provide some written comments for you.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you so much.

We are anticipating that the bells will ring any minute now. Is there a willingness to perhaps have five-minute rounds from each party, so you will have the opportunity? Then we can go and vote.

Okay. Let's get started.

We'll start with MP Mike Bossio.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I very much apologize for this, Arlen. I enjoyed meeting you when we were in Manitoba, and you have been here before. Unfortunately, because of the timing of an upcoming bill, there's a motion that I wanted to move. I deeply apologize that I will be taking my time to do that.

As everyone knows, I have a motion that I put forward the other day. We are going to be distributing that motion right now. It is similar to what was passed the other day, except it takes into consideration some of the concerns that other members had about the motion.

In point number four, I will be changing “the committee hear from witnesses for four meetings, and that these meetings be extended” from 8:30 to 1:30. It said “at the discretion of the chair”, but I think it's important that we put in there for emphasis that it will be from 8:30 to 1:30, which would mean a total of 20 hours of witness testimony for Bill C-92 when it comes to committee.

To address some of the concerns the clerk expressed the other day, we've added to number 6—which read, that “the committee proceed with clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill no later than Tuesday, May 28, 2019—the words “subject to the Bill being referred to the committee”. This will try to ensure once again that we're not trying to leapfrog the process and that the bill needs to be referred to committee before it can go through clause-by-clause.

Recognizing there could be further concerns around points six and seven, we could either add to them “subject to the bill being referred to the committee” or make them 5 a) and 5 b), depending upon what the legislative clerk feels is the best way to address that.

With that, I will look forward to any other questions that people might have about this.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Okay.

We have one technical issue. The French translation and English do not match. I believe we've agreed to four meetings, but the French translation has three, so we will correct that.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Cathy, I have you on my speaking list.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

My only question is for the clerks. You had significant concerns about of the way it was worded previously, given the fact that the bill has not been referred to us.

With the proposed changes to this motion, is it now acceptable and appropriate?

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Mr. Legislative Clerk, please.

10:05 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Philippe Méla

Yes, it is.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Okay. Very good.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Would you recommend that we change it to 5(a) and 5(b) for 6 and 7, or leave them as is?

It doesn't matter? Okay. Very good. We'll leave it as is.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Do we vote? Has it been circulated?

10:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Yes.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Okay. We can have a vote on this motion. Are we ready?

(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

I believe we have about a minute and a half.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'll pass my time over to the Chair.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you so much.

All I'd like to ask the presenter is what practical steps would you recommend we take to enhance governance capacity? You were talking about the ability to do proposals, which are complicated and often determined by the community's ability to craft these documents. How can we assist communities to become fully engaged in that process and be successful?