Evidence of meeting #146 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 services.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Isa Gros-Louis  Director General, Child and Family Services Reform, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Joanne Wilkinson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Child and Family Services Reform, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Laurie Sargent  Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice
Chief Robert Bertrand  Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
Cindy Blackstock  Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Jennifer Cox  Barrister and Solicitor and Project Lead, Enhanced Child Family Initiative, Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn
Paul Morris  Lead Counsel, Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia
Duane Smith  Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I'm sorry, but I would ask you to be really quick. Our clock is wrong, and I didn't realize that we were actually over. I'll give you one short question, and then we will have to call it quits.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Okay.

Basically, I'm surprised we don't have the jurisdictional issue between, say, the Métis nation and the Métis settlements in Alberta necessarily sorted out. Saskatchewan doesn't seem to be overly excited about this legislation. We are where we are. What's the likelihood of this piece of legislation passing into law, and what's the likelihood of there being a court challenge to this piece of legislation if it is passed into law?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

To go back to the beginning of your question, I just counted back, and there were 22 engagements with provinces and territories in the summer and fall of 2018 on options for potential federal indigenous child and family services legislation. And 22 at the senior level, the deputy minister level, is—

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Which could explain why we're here today, but—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

One question.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

—if we're here today because of all those meetings, I would expect that those issues would have been ironed out by now.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The final word goes to the minister, and then we need to let him go.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

So can you explain that to me, Minister?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Well, I mean, regardless we'd be here, no matter how well those meetings went or how poorly they went.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Very good.

We're actually over our time. I'm sorry for interrupting, but I've already exceeded our allotted time. I apologize to everyone who has been waiting to move.

Thank you so much for coming out. We have begun the exploration of the bill, one of the most important pieces of legislation in Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming out. We really appreciate it.

Meegwetch.

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Let's get together again. The officials are remaining with us and now we can dive right into the bill. Let's continue exploring Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

I will restart the round. Are you expecting to do another presentation, or will it all be questions?

It will all be questions. We're going to begin with the Liberal side for a seven-minute round. Who is taking the lead?

MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette is going to lead us off.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

I would like to discuss paragraph 9(3)(e) concerning Jordan's principle. Is that acceptable? Excellent.

Paragraph 9(3)(e) states:

in order to promote substantive equality between Indigenous children and other children, a jurisdictional dispute must not result in a gap in the child and family services that are provided in relation to Indigenous children.

The concept related to a jurisdictional dispute reflects the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 3, that all levels of government fully implement Jordan's principle.

We have been implementing a lot of that—more funding, with some $1.2 billion for Jordan's principle. But have you had any discussion with indigenous groups on funding for this into the future? Why is this paragraph in this bill and is so important?

9:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

Can you answer the question on why it is in the bill, because you were part of the engagement session specifically?

9:35 a.m.

Director General, Child and Family Services Reform, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Isa Gros-Louis

That's correct.

This section—and there are a couple of others that touch upon Jordan's principle—were specifically included in this bill at the request of participants in the engagement session. While we did not specifically call it Jordan's principle, the principle behind Jordan's principle is captured in the section you're referring to.

The reason for not calling it or identifying it as Jordan's principle is that this bill is much broader than Jordan's principle. Nonetheless, we wanted to make sure—and especially in this section—that the concept of not having a services gap applies in the context of child and family services. That's why this section in particular was added here.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

As we implement this, let's say, in two years' time we have an indigenous group from Treaty 4 or Treaty 1 territory that says, “We passed this legislation.” The communities can then create their own regulations about how they want to implement it. Then they decide on the types of services they believe their children require. How do they then go about obtaining the funding to ensure that there is no gap in service and they're actually able to accomplish the desires of the community to look after their children and see their children succeed and reach their full potential?

9:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

It's the discussion we're going to have to have with them. You mentioned the dollars for Jordan's principle. As you know, we have more than 200,000 cases that have been addressed under Jordan's principle. The budget is probably over $400 million per year now on the Jordan's principle side.

What is important in a case like you mentioned is looking at the resources that are there, and after that identifying exactly what the needs are, the kinds of services and jurisdictions, and how they want to exercise their jurisdiction. At that point, if there's a gap between the funding available and the funding needed, that's going to be an important discussion between governments.

The bill at the moment, as mentioned, doesn't necessarily address those case-by-case issues, but it would be part of the discussion in each case. We don't expect that it's going to be the same everywhere, so we have to take that into account too.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

One of the issues that I believe was faced in Manitoba is the devolution of authority or administrative powers to indigenous communities, with a northern and southern authority that supposedly, technically, had control. But over time, what happened is that the province just created more and more regulations layering them on, due to, I suspect, political fears of children being hurt or killed in care. There are some terrible statistics. More than 400 children have been killed in care under the responsibility of the province in the last eight years.

What guarantee is there that the federal government will not start layering on more and more regulations and trying to direct first nations how they carry out what they deem are their responsibilities in looking after their children?

9:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

Yes, you're right to point it out. This is a discussion we have had with first nations leaders in Manitoba. The way it has sometimes been described to me is that we included first nations in the system; we didn't change the system in Manitoba, and the system continues as it is. As you said, it was reinforced by some cases, and that actually created a kind of incentive for more apprehensions of kids.

What we think is different here are the principles, and there's also the recognition of the jurisdiction. First nations, Inuit and Métis have a writ jurisdiction recognized, and they can exercise it. If there's bad faith on the part of a provincial government, they can actually go ahead with their own legislation through the process.

This is a very significant change, and we hope that the principles of cultural continuity, for example, as well as the substantive equality that we talked about and the best interests of the child, will be guaranteed to make sure that what we're doing here is opening the door for a system to change, not actually reinforcing a system as it is.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

How difficult was it to obtain agreement among so many different indigenous communities? We're talking about Métis, Inuit and first nations who are also very diverse. You know, we call it “distinctions-based,” the idea that we're all different and have our own distinctions.

How difficult was it to obtain agreement? Usually when we deal with bills in Parliament, they're much more restrained in dealing with either one group or another group. Often you'll see bills such as the Mi'kmaq educational laws, the B.C. tripartite agreements, or the Dakota self-government agreement, and they're all very restrained. How difficult was it to obtain agreement surrounding this?

April 30th, 2019 / 9:45 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

I think we tried to focus on where there was a consensus among the parties, and there was a consensus that measures needed to be taken to make sure that the kids were not taken the way they are taken in some places now. That was an important element coming from all across the country, which we heard from everybody.

The other element was the recognition of the jurisdiction. Rather than having legislation that tries to put in some system—which is not necessarily something bad—what first nations, Inuit and Métis people will likely do in the future is to describe what they want. This legislation doesn't go to that level of detail. This legislation opens the door for first nations, Inuit and Métis to occupy that space.

That was the way to get as much consensus as possible among the parties, not by predetermining, as the minister said before, what exactly the solution would look like but by setting the stage for those discussions to happen. This bill opened the door for the beginning of a discussion, and that discussion will happen at the nations level, at the regional level and at the local level, way more than in downtown Ottawa, if I may say so, with all due respect.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Four minutes—this is good. Thank you very much for being concise.

I was just wondering how this bill, Bill C-92, would implement or reach some concordance or agreement with UNDRIP, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its implementation. Is that reflected in this bill?

9:45 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

It's in the preamble, as far as I remember.

9:45 a.m.

Director General, Child and Family Services Reform, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Isa Gros-Louis

UNDRIP is much broader than this legislation, and maybe you're raising this because it was mentioned in Bill C-91. However, in Bill C-91, UNDRIP refers to languages particularly, whereas UNDRIP does not make particular reference to children and families. That's why it's not specifically mentioned in this legislation.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have one minute left.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Laurie?