Evidence of meeting #145 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 education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lance Roulette  Sandy Bay First Nation
Virginia Lukianchuk  Assistant Director of Health, Sandy Bay First Nation

April 11th, 2019 / 9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We are in the public session of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs of the Parliament of Canada, and we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

It's very nice to see representatives from the Sandy Bay First Nation, from Manitoba. We're very happy that you found the time and made your way all the way here to Ottawa to present to us on community capacity-building on reserve.

You have up to 10 minutes. We try to be liberal with our time. After that, we'll go through rounds of questions from members of Parliament.

Any time you're ready, please start.

9:35 a.m.

Chief Lance Roulette Sandy Bay First Nation

Thank you.

First off, thank you very much for the opportunity not only to speak to the standing committee, but also to share and engage in the process of reconciliation, and to get that clarity and understanding from both sides. We from Sandy Bay thank you very much for the opportunity to allow us to be part of this unique discussion, but also to share exactly what Sandy Bay is encountering and how the decisions from today can make a difference not only for our community, but for many other first nations communities across Canada.

I'll give a briefing on capacity in terms of what Sandy Bay has gone through. The realm of capacity is consistently evolving, and it has a set of skills to achieve not only employment, but also growth along the evolution of any person or any first nations child.

Sandy Bay has been successful in achieving the means of capacity development throughout its existence. This is directly attributed to the growing population and the demand for specialized services.

A prime example of a successful community capacity-building model would be the Sandy Bay First Nation implementation in the 1970s. The chief at the time, the late Howard Starr, clearly reiterated to the community that it was time to move in a different direction in order to train our own people to teach our own people. A lot of this was really directed at the education realm.

From there on, into the 1990s, Sandy Bay First Nation was able to train quite a few of our own local members to not only become certified teachers, but also to assist with the development of our children, taking a unique cultural approach, having a sui generis nature. These individuals graduated with degrees in education, and took a first nations approach. More people followed in the path in the following years, and today the majority of teachers in the school are first nations community members.

The barriers of the current capacity models within Sandy Bay have been met with many desired outcomes, and many not. One thing remains: the ability to overcome the funding parameters on specific or engaged projects that reflect continued service that is guaranteed. This has been a focal point in the intended area of capacity-building of Sandy Bay.

The Sandy Bay ASETS program has served the community in the areas of capacity development from the late 1980s to the current time. To date the program, known previously as the AHRD initiative, has been semi-successful in achieving its goals in many areas and designed targets. These targets have been community-driven and -centred.

The following training programs have been offered to the community, some in conjunction with the province, Service Canada, education and other program departments, and with ISC. I'll just name a few: the “Mature 12” program and the partnership that we have with many other organizations such as ACC, and so forth; the community access program, which is IT; the summer youth employment strategy; and special education, SETA, with manpower and providing that training so that they begin to step into the realm of education.

A good key focus within the program specifically has been in the areas of trades and apprenticeship, journeyman plumbing, electrical and carpentry; nurse practitioners; home care; certified heavy equipment operators; class 1 licence training; tower assembly training; and meat cutting and processing plant training.

Once again, I thank Ms. Mihychuk for her collaboration in making that program become not only a reality, but a successful project that we've been going about throughout the years. We are on our seventh cohort, starting next week, so thank you very much for that opportunity.

As well, just to name a few of the projects that we have done through the ASETS program, there are various first aid courses; work hazard informational sessions and systems; driver safety; partnering with medical transportation through health; safety and skills; survival skills, partnering with education; and gun safety.

There are benefits to training our own people; however, the reality is that many first nations have limited employment opportunities, especially for people who have successfully completed the programs. It does speak to a larger issue in many of our first nations communities, as they have to go off reserve.

As a result of these projects, there has been a complement of services that include non-negotiated contribution agreements and self-imposed policies. These imposed guidelines restrict a true community-driven approach to a needs-based model. Regional administration and non-negotiated areas of service delivery are also restricted. Secondary services are a good prime example of the flow-through mechanisms from government to secondary service level providers.

It's understood that those secondary supports require specialized professionals in attaining assessment tools and getting a more centred approach, from identifying the developmental stages of a child to understanding the learning parameters of any individual, whether they be a visual, auditory or tactile learner.

One of the things we had noticed at Sandy Bay was that the flow-through mechanisms, such as FPDI, AMC, SCO and MKO—and no rudeness intended to those organizations—impede a true grassroots impact from the funds that are provided from the federal or the provincial side, and they don't speak to the true intent of a community needs-based model.

When considering community capacity development, we are consistently met with barriers: underfunded agreements; agreements that are usually signed under duress without any means of negotiation; agreements that are awarded to tribal councils without considering the needs of the individual; and the authorities, due to the inability of ISC to meet the needs of the funding in question.

In Sandy Bay's case, it was centred directly on the set contributions, whereas there was no means of negotiating for additional funding set out on the actual needs versus perceived needs of any first nation by its funders, but more so, the fact that any community matter under a subagreement will meet failure.

This is a direct result of the non-community-driven initiative, but also indicates non-funded community-based program costs as dictated by funders and many non-consulted regions, which is usually the case, once again alluding to the fact that the funding models that come down to secondary service providers don't hit the targets.

In closing, I pointed, to a degree, on what specifics to identify during a process of self-sufficiency and through general understanding of parameters that are set in place to govern the areas of service delivery, based on the perceived model of development. It contradicts itself, as no need is more in demand than another. It is rather a priority based on urgency.

Whether we are a politician, an advocate or a service provider, one thing remains, and it is how the decisions from today will improve the access to many needed services and programming that truly reflect a first nations or community-driven model. To ensure progress within the community, it is important to note that there is a clear and concise method of gauging the desired outcomes and processes on community-driven programming, as well as transferable skills to meet the needs of each successful participant. These types of programs and initiatives should be fully funded and specific to community demographics and location. The reason I express this is that unfunded areas don't reflect the needs of Sandy Bay and other first nations communities.

With that opening statement, I say thank you.

I'm not too sure how much time we have left. I would like to have Virginia make a few other statements.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have about a minute.

9:45 a.m.

Virginia Lukianchuk Assistant Director of Health, Sandy Bay First Nation

I'll just add to the chief's comments in relation to the barriers. The funding normally flows to the secondary organization rather than straight to the community, and this decreases the chances of our people within our community to access that training.

For example, another organization that receives money through the education system on behalf of our community is the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. They train their people to come and provide the services at the community level, which we feel is the opposite of what we'd like to see. We would like to see our people being trained. That would help with retention within the community because people would live there.

It would also help with the economy within the community because these people live there. It's not somebody else coming from the outside who doesn't understand what our culture is within our community and may not be able to speak our language. I'm proud to say that probably 80% of our community members are strong speakers of our language. Eventually we want to see in our education system that nursery to grade 12 is taught in our language. We feel that's very important in our identity as first nations people.

I think it's really important to note that there are a lot of services we're not receiving at the community level that would help with the education of our people. They are programs such as the maternal child health program, which benefits the parent and the child in that early learning, as well as the aboriginal head start program. We do not have that in our community and that would help to support children in their early years, so that they do have a better start to their education system as they grow older, and hopefully we would see higher numbers of grade 12 graduates.

I also think it's really important to note that we would like to see these relationships with the post-secondary educational organizations coming to our community to deliver the education that's required with the new health transformation call-out. We are one of the communities that are looking at developing a health model within our community based on geographic population. That's never happened before. We have one of the largest communities in Manitoba, yet provincially we are not identified as a huge geographic population where other services are provided to other non-first nations populations. We want to see that come to a more even scale.

Thank you.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We're going to move on to the question round, and we will begin with MP Yves Robillard.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for their testimony.

I'm going to start by speaking about education. The witnesses told us about difficulties getting adapted infrastructure to provide appropriate teaching to the students. Can you describe the current state of the infrastructure in your community?

9:50 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

As infrastructure within Sandy Bay itself, we do have a K-to-12 school. With the growing population, it's beginning to be a hindrance on how much room we have for the children.

On the issue of capacity development, it does impede what staff supports we have in place. A prime example of that would be our grade 2 classes. The student-to-teacher ratio is anywhere from 28 students to one teacher, which is double the norm of what any other educational facility has at a provincial or a federal level.

The ability to ensure that the child receives the best education—especially with the growing demand of many children with disabilities and need for specialized professionals to assist in identifying the child's opportunity to learn—I can best describe as being very low.

Once again, as my colleague Virginia had indicated in relation to MFNERC, they receive money for us for specialized professionals to come into Sandy Bay—and they do receive a huge chunk of change on Sandy Bay's behalf—but having them come in once or twice a month does not fit what we need within Sandy Bay. This is why we spoke to the issue of secondary services.

I hope that answers your question.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

It does.

Here is my second question.

How can the federal government assist you with respect to education infrastructure?

9:50 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

I think the direct relationship would work best. That way, there's more clarity provided between the two. A lot of the time we have regional offices that say they speak for their community. No one can ever speak for anybody's community, other than the community itself. I truly believe that a direct relationship without the flow-through mechanisms of any of these secondary services would be the key.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

The Sandy Bay First Nation has had local control over education since the seventies. Are there any promising practices you might share with other first nations, with respect to education?

9:50 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

Well, I think the one thing we've been very successful at, once again, is the issue of cultural retention, and also incorporating that with the importance of education. The exchange from student to teacher has always been unique; a majority of the teachings are understood in both a cultural sense and also in a contemporary sense. The model that Sandy Bay always tries to provide is that we want to be able to capacity-build our students not only to be successful within the education realm but also to come back home and be the future leaders of the community, be the service providers of the community. That's always key.

We've been very successful in post-secondary programs as well, once again, but a successful post-secondary program is also dependent on the curriculum within Sandy Bay. Our curriculum is two years behind. We need to ensure we have funding for the compulsory programs that are required so we're not setting up our graduates for failure when they do undertake a post-secondary program.

Would you care to add?

9:55 a.m.

Assistant Director of Health, Sandy Bay First Nation

Virginia Lukianchuk

Yes. I just want to add as well, in relation to culture, that we do have a junior chief and council set up at the school. As well, there are land-based teachings that happen on a regular basis. They have a little powwow group as well, too, that is learning drumming and stuff like that, which I believe is really important to the youth.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

With regard to education funding, can you tell us how the federal government is helping you at this time? How can we improve that?

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have about one minute.

9:55 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

I believe how we can help each other improve, once again, would be the issue of funding parity between the province and the federal model. Also, it's about having a direct relationship and being able to have direct engagement with one another, ensuring the secondary-level services that are out there fit with the first nation, our model, specific to each community, basically.

9:55 a.m.

Assistant Director of Health, Sandy Bay First Nation

Virginia Lukianchuk

I'd just like to add to that. I think it's investing in capital. We are so behind in capital at the community level. There hasn't been an investment in all areas for a very long time. Our school is very crowded for teaching our youth. It's an older school.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

MP Arnold Viersen.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our guests for being here today.

I think the time goes to Kevin Waugh.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

If you have a question, go ahead.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

I'm always convinced that the chairman gives me the short minutes, so I'm going to take it.

Thanks for being here today.

Around the education piece, across the country it looks different. Where I come from, even within my own riding of 14 first nations, it's different depending on which part of the riding it's organized from. Six first nations have organized themselves into their own educational authority, and they're doing their own thing. Some of the other ones that are closer to town send their kids to the public school. Others are off on their own doing their own thing.

I just would like to know what the model is in your community.

9:55 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

In our current model, the administration is usually handled through our director, and recommendations for any changes, whether to the curriculum or to the overall structure, would come from our director of education.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

It's federally managed?

9:55 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

It's federally managed, yes.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Is there another community close by that you could partner with?

9:55 a.m.

Sandy Bay First Nation

Chief Lance Roulette

Do you want to speak to that, Virginia?