Evidence of meeting #148 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 families.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brenda Dubois  Kohkum (Grandmother), Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation
André Schutten  As an Individual
Adrienne Pelletier  Social Development Director, Anishinabek Nation
Marie Elena Tracey O'Donnell  Legal Counsel, Anishinabek Nation
Judy Hughes  President, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation
Chief Constant Awashish  Conseil de la nation Atikamekw
Anne Fournier  Lawyer, Conseil de la nation Atikamekw
Natan Obed  President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Lance Roulette  Sandy Bay First Nation
Richard De La Ronde  Executive Director, Child and Family Services, Sandy Bay First Nation
Jenny Tierney  Manager, Health and Social Development, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Clément Chartier  President, Métis National Council
Billie Schibler  Chief Executive Officer, Metis Child & Family Services Authority
Greg Besant  Executive Director, Metis Child, Family and Community Services
Miriam Fillion  Communication Officer, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Viviane Michel  President, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Raven McCallum  Youth Advisor, Minister of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council, As an Individual
Mark Arcand  Tribal Chief, Saskatoon Tribal Council
Ronald Mitchell  Hereditary Chief, Office of the Wet'suwet'en
Dora Wilson  Hagwilget Village First Nation, Office of the Wet'suwet'en
Michelle Kinney  Deputy Minister, Health and Social Development, Nunatsiavut Government
Peter Hogg  As an Individual

9:15 a.m.

Legal Counsel, Anishinabek Nation

Marie Elena Tracey O'Donnell

The first nations that have taken on jurisdiction currently number 17, in the brief we...it was a point in time. We anticipate that the 40 will follow through as well.

The way this bill impacts our first nations is that it actually interferes with the process we've initiated in the exercise of our inherent jurisdiction. This bill requires now our first nations to provide notice to the government of our intent to exercise our jurisdiction, and we did that back in 2007. Now we're being required to do it again.

Under section 20, we are also being required now to provide notice to the other governments that we expect, within their jurisdiction, to exercise our Anishinabe law. This creates challenges that previously didn't exist and requires us to redo a lot of the work that we've done, plus some.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now moves to MP Arnold Viersen.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

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

Ms. Pelletier, one thing the government is trying to do with this particular bill is to correct some of the jurisdictional issues. Do you think this bill achieves that, or does it merely muddy the water some more?

9:20 a.m.

Legal Counsel, Anishinabek Nation

Marie Elena Tracey O'Donnell

I'll answer that, if that's okay.

Our belief, upon reading the legislation, is that it actually muddies the water more for us. We have a clear statement of Anishinabek inherent jurisdiction. In Ngo Dwe Waangizid Anishinaabe, one Anishinabe family is our starting point. Adrienne read that out at the start of our presentation.

Although this legislation, with the additional requirements and even the best interests tests as set out, is intended to create national minimum standards, it's not respectful of the standards that the Anishinabe have established and what we're proceeding to implement and establish our system on. It creates additional challenges for us.

We've asked for and have received technical briefings with respect to the intent. It appears that in some instances the intent doesn't match the words on the page—or perhaps our interpretation of the words on the page doesn't match the intent—but it does create additional challenges for the Anishinabek Nation. Jurisdictional issues are not resolved.

May 7th, 2019 / 9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Brenda, you're shaking your head a little bit on this. What I'd like to ask you about is the role of parents in all of this.

A number of years back we did a study on suicide. We were up in northern Canada, and many of the kids we talked to said, “Fix our parents”. They said, if you can fix that issue, we wouldn't have the problems we have today.

What role do parents play in all of this? How do you see that family unit? You were starting to talk about this a little bit. I'd love to have your comments on it.

9:20 a.m.

Kohkum (Grandmother), Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Brenda Dubois

Family is the most important institution of all. No matter what, when we started Peyakowak in Saskatchewan, it was the families in the long run who guided us. They were the ones who taught us. In the long run, when you go to assist families you need to see the intergenerational trauma. If you're focusing on alcohol, violence and all that other stuff, you're really not getting to the core of what needs to happen.

When you're walking alongside parents, sometimes for about a year to two years, life changes as much for them as for their children. You don't realize the value that just doing that has, and it's not just on that one family, because what we find is that helping one family ripples and affects other family members as well, so that we get requests from other extended family members to assist also.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

In this bill, there is a little that just touches on prenatal care somewhat. Would you see there any ability to broaden that out?

Do you know what I'm getting at?

9:20 a.m.

Kohkum (Grandmother), Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Brenda Dubois

Not really, sir, because I can't read your mind in regard to what you're trying to lead me to, but I can make a comment there.

The only thing in regard to prenatal and to children is the investment into mothers, which is already being made in the programs that are there. However, for me it's about the prevention of apprehension pre-birth. I have to ask a social worker the question, “Is this baby going to be apprehended upon birth?” and they say, yes, but they disregard the supports of the family and don't do planning with the family.

The last call I received, three months ago, was from a distraught kokum who was crying and saying, “Brenda, they took my grandson and they passed me on the way out.” They hadn't even talked to her.

That's why I asked you the question, “Do you see me?”, because a lot of people don't see people in our community.

With the last one that happened in Manitoba, the extended family was right in the room and social services still went in and took that child.

If you clarify your question, I can answer you a little better.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

My question was basically, how do we build into this particular piece of legislation the role of family, the role of parents?

9:20 a.m.

Kohkum (Grandmother), Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Brenda Dubois

Family is the most important of all, and then you have to remember, when we say “family”, I don't just see mom and papa. I see that whole big picture of people who are standing behind them as well. We are rich when we look at that aspect.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Ms. Pelletier, do you want to make a comment?

9:25 a.m.

Social Development Director, Anishinabek Nation

Adrienne Pelletier

I just want to highlight the fact that our law gives the power back to the community. The community will set their community standards, how they want their children served. It recognizes and affirms customary care, which means that a member of the child's extended family looks after that child while the parents do what they have to do to get well. It stops the court proceedings.

In Ontario, for up to two years, you can become a Crown ward. In my opinion, no institution should be in charge of a child, and that's what a Crown ward is.

We want to repatriate all our Crown wards back to their communities under our own Anishinabe law. We have a very respectful relationship with the Province of Ontario. We are negotiating a collaboration agreement with the Province of Ontario that respects the Anishinabe authority and respects our first nations. If you give too much power to children's aid societies, you have the situation we have in Manitoba where children's aid societies do whatever they want. There are no band reps in Manitoba.

You can do in vitro care to that unborn child. You can wrap services around the mom, as Native Child and Family Services of Toronto does, as some of our indigenous children's aid societies do. They support that mom as she's trying to deliver a healthy baby, instead of giving her a birth alert and saying they're going to just rip her child out of her arms after that child is born.

We are trying to make a difference in Ontario so that the very important connection between the spirit of that child and that mom is maintained. We respect that in Ontario, and I know all of the indigenous societies are trying to make sure that we support babies before they're even born and we wrap services around that mom. We connect them with the healthy babies healthy children program. In our communities, we have community well-being workers and family well-being workers.

All of that is important structure to respect the inherent right of that unborn child. We have to respect the spirit of every child and make sure they're connected to their family, their extended family and their community, even if they've never been there before. That's a right of that child to know where they come from and to know who their relatives are, and to have access to their anishinaabe-wiinzowin, which is their spirit name.

Meegwetch.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now goes to MP Rachel Blaney and the NDP, but we have only two or three minutes. That's why I was trying to urge you to give a chance to the MPs.

Please go ahead.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

I'm going to be very quick because of that.

I'll start with you, Adrienne and Marie, if that's okay. You talked about the child well-being law. Bill C-92 is seen as a framework of the legislation and there are multiple concerns that have been brought to us, such as the fact that in this bill there are no principles around funding. We understand the dollar amount, but there's nothing in there that holds accountability. If we want to make the change, the resources have to be in there.

You talked about your child well-being law. I want to know a couple of things. How does this legislation work with yours in terms of it being a framework, and what are the gaps? You talked about the restriction of jurisdiction and your concern around that, and then the idea that you may have to negotiate with every province and territory.

When we look at this, what could be done to change it to make it more effective, or is it not going to work at all?

9:25 a.m.

Legal Counsel, Anishinabek Nation

Marie Elena Tracey O'Donnell

The requirement to negotiate the agreements with the respective governments in Canada would not work for us at all. If the law, as stated, gives effect for the first nation law to be a national law, a law across Canada, then adding this requirement to negotiate agreements just doesn't match with the intent of recognition of first nation jurisdiction.

As indigenous peoples, we have never restricted our jurisdiction to geography; it went with the people. Our laws are tied to our people, and our people are mobile—that's reality—so that piece doesn't work for us in any way.

With respect to funding, we raised that question. If the true intent is to make a difference and affect positive change, there needs to be funding to go along with that, to support that. We've been in negotiations with the Government of Canada for a number of years to secure that funding.

When this bill came in, things seemed to come to a complete halt. That causes problems for us in terms of advancing the Anishinabek Child Well-Being Law and advancing our exercise of jurisdiction. The coordination agreements don't work for us. As Adrienne said, we negotiated a special agreement with Ontario because of the reality of two systems working side by side and the fact that they fund the agencies that support our first nations, so there are problems. Changing or removing that requirement would be helpful to us.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you for your time. We appreciate your participation in our committee. Your words will be on the permanent record for Canada and all Canadians to see. We on the committee will take them very seriously in our deliberations on the bill.

Meegwetch. Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

President, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Judy Hughes

I do have one comment I must make on the record, if I may.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please, quickly.

9:30 a.m.

President, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Judy Hughes

I would just like to talk a bit about two areas in Bill C-92 that need some more work—

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I'm sorry.

9:30 a.m.

President, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Judy Hughes

—in regard to family unity and automatic standing. I think it's very important, in those areas, that advocacy organizations such as SAWCC are able to have some automatic standing in some cases because this determines—

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

My apologies.

9:30 a.m.

President, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation

Judy Hughes

Okay. Thank you very much. It's just to note those two things.