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 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

I am happy to answer this question. This clause is on a voluntary basis; obviously, prenatal services cannot be imposed.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Sorry, in terms of legislative impact, if you have something in legislation that requires something, I don't see the word “voluntary”, so how is it all of a sudden a voluntary...?

9 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

It's not voluntary for the service delivery person. The service will be offered to the mother, but whether the person wants to adhere to the service or not is voluntary. The service will be offered to the mother.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

What service? What is Alberta going to have to do under this legislation that it is not doing already?

9 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

They would offer prenatal support. If we take an example of a person who may have a drug addiction while pregnant, it would obviously be flagged in the system and the services for drug addiction and recovery would be offered to the mother while she is pregnant. Now, that's where I'm talking about its being voluntary. It cannot be imposed on the person. It it becomes a choice of the mother whether she wants to take the offer of the service provided.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I don't have any trouble with it being a choice, but I guess what I'm trying to drive at is this. In terms of the provinces and where jurisdiction is not drawn down by communities, is it correct that all of these clauses in the bill would apply to the province?

9 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

That is correct.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

That is correct. Okay.

I understand completely where a community has drawn down services both for on and off reserve or other circumstances, but what we have here is clearly that the provision of health care is under provincial jurisdiction. Child welfare services are under provincial jurisdiction. Where a community has not drawn down services, all provinces and territories are now going to have to decide what prenatal care means. Is that accurate?

9 a.m.

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

Isa Gros-Louis

That is accurate. Some provinces, from what we understand, are doing consultation that already considers these issues. Whenever a case is being flagged in the system, some provinces will provide wraparound services to the mother. Some will have one-on-one services. That's what we're talking about.

April 30th, 2019 / 9 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

I will give you an example on this. We did add the term “minimum standards” in the legislation precisely because some provinces said that in some cases they may actually go over those standards and offer more. So, they didn't see it as necessarily.... There is also a system in the provinces that offers prenatal services. We're not starting from scratch.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

No, of course not. First of all, I certainly am very familiar with what is being offered in provinces across this country. What I am wondering about is whether this is compliant with the Constitution. Can you provide us with any letters from the justice department that say this is all consistent and compliant with the Constitution, that we are not going to end up in courts like we have in other cases? I absolutely believe in preventative services and appropriate prevention. Certainly these are minimum standards, in my perspective.

9 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

It's the source of law.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

But you are compelling the provinces in a way that I'm not sure you can do constitutionally, especially around the delivery of health services. Do we have any letters from Justice that support this is as being consistent with the Constitution?

9:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Jean-François Tremblay

I say we have authority under subsection 91(24), and we think it is also embedded in section 35 of the Constitution, but I would like Justice to answer that.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We do have a representative from Justice, but we've run out of time. Perhaps one of the other members will follow up on your important question.

We are now moving to member Rachel Blaney from the NDP.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

I'd like to share my time with Georgina. I'm just going to ask a question or two first.

I'm always happy to have a conversation about how indigenous children in this country matter. I think that's always important and something that this country has certainly not had enough conversations about—that, and the family core.

Minister, I'm a strong supporter of the Spirit Bear plan, and I'm sad and disappointed that this government is not endorsing and supporting it. It basically asks that Canada immediately comply with all of the rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which I believe has now come back seven times to ask the government to finally comply. This government, sadly, has not.

It also asks that the Parliamentary Budget Officer publicly cost out the shortfalls in all federally funded public services provided to first nations children, youth and families. In addition, it asks that the government consult with first nations to co-create a holistic Spirit Bear plan to end all of those inequalities—which this legislation simply does not do—and that we look at the core issue in this, which is systemic discrimination. If we talk about that in this place, we need to be mindful that our systems are built on a colonial system, the impacts of which are felt today.

It also asks that government departments undergo a thorough and independent evaluation to identify any ongoing discriminatory ideologies, policies or practices and to address them. Finally, it asks that all public servants, including those at the senior level, receive mandatory training to identify and address these ideologies, policies and practices.

I guess my question is twofold. First, if indigenous children matter in this country, why is this government not supporting this plan? Second, why has the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal come back to this government seven times because of government's non-compliance with the agreement and the judgment made?

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

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

First and foremost, since I took this position, I'm determined to make sure that we help the individuals who have been affected, and not the agencies that sometimes represent them. I'm more interested in going to the individuals and not the agencies. This hasn't been done in a bit but I'm determined to do it.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

That doesn't explain why the government has not obeyed the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, or why it has come back seven times with non-compliance and it is still not done.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

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

No, it's in the middle of doing it.

I'm going to throw it over to Joanne now.

9:05 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Child and Family Services Reform, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Joanne Wilkinson

Thank you.

I would point out a few things. We do continue discussion with our partners, and those partners do include the parties to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders. We are funding the actual cost for prevention for first nation agencies, as an example. The deputy mentioned that we have doubled the funding in this area. That's a huge investment that is going directly to agencies.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you, I'll leave it at that.

Georgina, you get to ask a question.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I do want to say one thing. Principally, this language that the government is using sounds very good, and because of that, it sounds like I'm open to supporting it. However, this bill is quite flawed. I'm very disappointed as an indigenous woman who goes into the riding and sees the reality on the ground for first nations and Métis children on and off reserve.

I am talking about the investments required for the moms and the dads to stay at home and get the help they need from health and healing programs, from training and job programs and the investments there. Then there are the social workers, the physicians, the nurses and those who provide all the medical care, including the RCMP, which often gets involved because there are no social workers available. Without these investments, how can we say that the child is the centre of this? I think that is misinformation that the government is talking about.

I support putting children first. I support their well-being. I support children having families to love and support them, and families having the support they need. Why is the government misleading people? Why has no funding been attached to this bill?

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

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

This is a bill that deals with jurisdictions, not funding. It deals with jurisdictions in a groundbreaking way that has never happened before—

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I don't understand when you said—

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

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

—on which national organizations—