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

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

When this first nations-led organization has made, on rare occasions, the very difficult decision that it is in the best interests of a child to have other, alternative care, is it just the minister, or does the department call this “abductions”?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

The minister referred to cases that were mentioned, when it's only for socio-economic conditions, the cases that we sometimes call in Manitoba “a birth alert”, or kids that are apprehended at birth and there was not necessarily work done. Sometimes, as we and the minister heard from first nations and the Métis and Inuit, they were taken in some cases based just on the profile of the mother, on what she was in the past, not who she is at the moment. That's what they refer to.

When you talk with first nations, Inuit and Métis, they all recognize that there is a moment where protection is needed. Nobody is against protection of children here. That's why the interests of the children is so important. The question is, protection should happen only when other methods and tools have been used before.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good.

Questioning now moves to MP Rachel Blaney.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you so much for being here with us today.

I want to ask a couple of questions. When the minister was here with us, he said a few things that I want to get clarification on, if you could talk about them.

He said it's up to indigenous communities to tailor to their needs. Also, he spoke about doing that work based on the capabilities of the community.

I represent a large riding in British Columbia with many indigenous communities that are very small. When we talk about capacity to do this work, some of them have that capacity and some of them are limited.

I'm curious as to whether the basic capability of the nation will, in this legislation, make it so that they can't take this next step.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

It's a very good example. As you referred to, and you know it as much as I do and probably more, B.C. is a good example of where communities decide to join together sometimes to take jurisdiction or to take control of their own business.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

In my riding, there was an attempt to do so, and they were denied the ability to do that because they were still considered, within those small communities together, as not being large enough to do that.

I just want to make sure that when this bill comes into place, because it will—it's a government bill, of course—those things are going to be represented in it.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

Capacity issues are linked to many reasons. Being a small community is one of them. It's not the only one. It could also sometimes be other issues that they will face.

The issue of capacity will have to be addressed. If you're a really small community, it may be difficult to manage an overall system. It doesn't mean that you should not be part of a jurisdiction or a way to manage it.

When I was talking about the self-governing nations, a lot of them didn't take or decided not to go with the legislation because they thought there weren't necessarily the economies of scale to manage, for example, a health system. That's why in B.C. you have a first nations health authority, as you know, that actually delivers health services to all first nations across the province.

In a case like that, it's difficult to make an assumption, case by case, but it's not to exclude any size of community. That's not the point. They all have the same rights and they all need to be respected the same way. However, from a practical perspective, that's the type of discussion they are going to have to have, which is what are the means they need to meet their level of ambition. In some cases, it might mean for them to work with others if they find that it's actually the best way for them to get the capacity for this.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

One of the things is that indigenous communities are really being asked to rely on the spirit of this bill to make sure there actually will be the resources available for them to do the work. We know that in the 2018-19 budget there are zero dollars for any implementation of this. I'm just wondering how I ask indigenous communities across this country to have faith.

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

To believe in it, yes. The bill is doing something that is very innovative, as was mentioned. The way that we are recognizing jurisdictions in this legislation was not done in the past, so this is something quite exceptional.

We haven't waited for this bill to engage with first nations, Inuit and Métis on child and family services. As was mentioned, it was the extraordinary meeting in January 2018. Even on the funding side, we have almost doubled the budget for the existing system. However, it was also mentioned in a discussion at the CHRT that the system needed to be reformed, and that's part of the reform. Even now, today, if you go on the self-government side, there are negotiations across the country. Because we have actually put the emphasis over the last few years on child and family services, more and more of the first nations or the indigenous groups that are negotiating self-government are focusing on child and family services, and those negotiations are resourced. So, we're not without any resources at the moment. We are doing things, and we are investing more in the system.

10 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

If an indigenous community right now came to that table and said, “Okay, we want to add this into the negotiation process,” that's something the government would not only support, but actually have some resources for?

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

Under self-government at the moment, there's actually a significant number of them, yes.

10 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

One of the other questions I have is this: Why was the word “apprehension” used? That language is pretty outdated. Currently, the more often used terminology is “child removal” and “placement in alternative care”. I'm just wondering why that language was chosen.

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

My English is so bad that I will let her decide why “apprehension” was used versus other terms.

10 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

The question was raised, and it's basically to be consistent with existing language use in other legislation. The “apprehension” language is now being used. To make sure our legislation is consistent with the language being used across sectors, we used that language in this bill.

10 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Okay.

One of the other things I noticed is that the bill doesn't really address the need for technical or data collection. There are some communities that have some capacity, and some have very low capacity. I'm just concerned about making sure this support is there pre- and post-.... I think that's also important: the pre- part of making sure there's the technical support for building this internalized legislation. They need the support and then the data collection as well. I'm just wondering why that wasn't included at all.

April 30th, 2019 / 10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

As I mentioned before, this legislation is part of a general plan. There are six points. Part of the six-point plan is actually data. We're working with the partners, but also with provinces and territories because this will have a significant impact on them. It's a discussion that we need to have with them. So, those issues are being discussed and addressed. They're not in the legislation because, as I mentioned before, the legislation focuses on what we thought the legislation was the best to address and where there was a significant consensus that seemed to emerge. It is about the jurisdiction, and it is about the protection of indigenous people in the existing system.

That's part of the general reform. The legislation is one tool that we have to address part of the puzzle, if you want, not to address everything. However, it is something that we recognize will be a challenge and will need to be addressed for sure.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That ends our round for MP Blaney. We move to MP Yves Robillard.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Many children are being cared for in non-indigenous settings. How will this bill affect them?

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

Ms. Gros-Louis, do you want to respond?

10 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

This situation is addressed in clause 16 of the bill. We're asking that each case be re-assessed on an ongoing basis. As part of this process, the situation is reviewed and the reunification of children with their own families is encouraged at all times. The bill seeks to ensure that the situation of children currently in foster care is regularly assessed and that, when it's consistent with their best interests, they can be reintegrated into their families.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs stated that this bill—

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

On a point of order, Madam Chair, I note the bells. We would certainly like to have unanimous consent to keep going. Perhaps we could keep an eye on the clock and give ourselves 10 minutes to get to the House.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I was going to say that I think we can go for 20 minutes. I think that's fair; we're here in the same building as the House.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

That's why we're here.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Yes, exactly, so it's perfect.