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

10:05 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

I think there has to be a proper assessment of and respect for the political and technical auspices that already exist in our regions.

I think a big mistake currently being made by different people is that they're relying too heavily on the Assembly of First Nations. It is not the governing body of our governments, and we need to be mindful of that. Far too often, a breakdown occurs in communication flow.

If there are initiatives that you want to take in Manitoba, you come to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and we will work through our political apparatus and ensure that the communication and the initiatives go where they're supposed to go.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Okay. That's good advice.

We're moving on to MP Arnold Viersen.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our guests for being here today.

One of the things that we are studying in particular with this one is high school education. You mentioned that the staff had come up with this as well. What are some of the things that we could do differently?

The funding where I'm from has been matched to the provincial level. That has increased dramatically the availability of resources, but a big part of our problem is that they have all the money sitting there but nobody to come up and teach, or that with the teachers it's a revolving door. One school there had three principals in three months. Do you have any solutions for that kind of thing?

10:10 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Yes, certainly. Manitoba has actually been the bastion of leadership on the education front, but unfortunately we've been a victim of the intentional underfunding for decades. Our community arguably was one of the first to actually take the initiative for our education authority, and I'm a product of that.

I'm grateful for it and for the leadership of the day, but unfortunately the mechanisms that were negotiated when I was going through school.... I graduated from my community. I was educated in my community. I then went to all the best educational institutions in the country. I went to Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, which was the best undergraduate university for well over a decade.

When I was going through the entrance level to get into my school it was 1996, and the reason why I say this is that I'm a product of the reserve school system, but for literally 20 years you've heard nothing but negativity in regard to those systems. Unfortunately, those agreements that were negotiated in the early eighties have not increased. The population of my community since the early eighties is almost four times what it was. The resources that were afforded to me are no longer available to anybody because those things are stuck in place, so in order to truly change that.... I'd be interested to find out when your area was—

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Yes, just in the last two years or so.

10:10 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

It's going to take a long time for a true catch-up. Unfortunately in Manitoba we're a long way off. The problem is that when you make these grand pronouncements, you're not ensuring that things move forward. You have institutions that deliberately derailed first nations communities by not giving them comparable funding.

Further to your question, we have examples. We have our own first nations school systems. We have our own education centres of excellence. We have these things, but again, the only reason we have them is that we had to fight for them. We shouldn't have to do that. If we want to invest in our people and in the generations to come, we should be affording them any and all resources so they can sit one day and be the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, having gone to all the best academic institutions in this country. Unfortunately, in my life I see that we have literally stepped back two generations. It shouldn't be that way.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

How much time do I have left?

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have about a minute and a half.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

All right.

Is there anything else you wanted to put on the record today?

10:10 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Yes, I want to say that when people look into the issue that they look at the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, we're always blamed for our misery, when nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, it's about accountability. Every cent that comes to our communities is audited four to six times a year. If you want accountability, let's talk to the provincial governments that have benefited from using our statistics for decades, that have received resources on behalf of our membership and have never had to pay a cent toward educating our people. That's the reality that people need to take a look at.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Rachel Blaney; you're next.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

First of all, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate what you brought to the table.

You talked earlier about essential services and the fact that there is no legal framework keeping that level of accountability. What I heard loud and clear from you is how do you build capacity when the essential services are not there? They're not providing that foundation.

I'm just wondering what steps you think need to be taken by the federal government, by provincial governments, so we can send along a message that they look at that framework and make sure it's there for essential services.

10:15 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

You'll enhance my capacity.

Again, by making a meaningful effort to build relationships. On the one hand, we have a quite a long history of working with our federal partners. We do audits. We do all the things we need to do to move forward. Then other envelopes of funding are earmarked for first nations people that go to the provincial coffers. There's no accountability there. There's no reporting back. There's no update.

When we do initiatives, or training for that matter, I'll give you an example. In my community we're fortunate to have a construction company that's made an effort to train and bring people forward. Because we're able to do that in this case, we're able to hold our provincial partners who receive employment and training funding on our behalf, and we force them to the table.

How many other communities are unable to do that?

Then where do those resources go that were earmarked for that training?

Fortunately, in that case, in that community we have our own journeymen carpenters who are building our own housing projects and doing all of these things. There needs to be more of a mechanism to hold people more accountable. The best way to do that is to make agreements with your treaty partners. We have resources for you; we want you to use them. You want us to do a million reports; we'll do it. That would be more accountable than what's currently happening.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

You talked also about how everything is a program. It's a real challenge to maintain and keep great people working in your community because those programs are always short term. Then it's year to year, and you don't know.

How would you work with your federal partners to make that better?

10:15 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Let's do multi-year programs. Let's make a plan. We have to be fiscally responsible and accountable. We know how things are going to go. Take right now for that matter. We already know our best practices in our region. We've shown how to do things responsibly. Let's make a multi-year agreement that will transcend election cycles.

Do you know what I mean? It's about making the proper investments for people.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

I really heard that clearly, too. With the essential services, it's as if every new government that comes in deems how essential services should be, so that brings a lot of.... It's making it less.

Can you talk to me about rural and remote communities? I represent a lot of really rural and remote communities. I think of the multiple challenges they have in addressing the day-to-day issues. In the indigenous communities that I represent, a lot of the essential services are getting paid for by the revenue that they're creating in their own communities, so they never have the ability to take that next step to build up the strength of their community because they're paying again and again for the essential services that are underfunded.

10:15 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Right. It must be noted that a lot of these services were chronically, if not deliberately, underfunded. You need to address that. If you want to talk about doing things properly, then you need to have a discussion on the fact that things have been chronically underfunded for literally 30 years. Today we can talk about making plans on steps forward, but unless you deal with that chronic underfunding, how do you get people up to date? That is in fact what happens. “Well, use your own source of revenue.” “Well, I can't because I'm paying for funerals and I'm paying for all these other things that people are unaware of that are actual costs to communities.”

How do you address that?

Again, you need to make arrangements and agreements that will meet everybody's needs. If the issue is reporting and accountability, then make agreements with people.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

And more accountability in terms of what you are paying to the provinces or what the provinces are getting, compared to—

April 4th, 2019 / 10:20 a.m.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Absolutely.

For instance, I can tell you that there have been eight personal care homes—we had to call them personal care homes—operating on reserve for the past 40 years looking after our elders. I bet you if you looked at the census, you'd find that the Province of Manitoba has used those numbers to acquire resources, but because the on-reserve institutions cannot meet an arbitrary provincial standard, no funding has ever flowed.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

On that note, we have to call it quits.

We have 15 minutes to get to the House for the vote.

Meegwetch. Thank you.

The meeting is adjourned.