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

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Tshinashkumitin.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We are now moving to Vancouver. We will hear from Raven McCallum.

It's still fairly early there for you to come to the video conference site. We appreciate that. Please go ahead whenever you're ready.

11:45 a.m.

Raven McCallum Youth Advisor, Minister of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council, As an Individual

Good morning everyone. My name is Raven McCallum. I'm Haida and British on my mom's side and Métis on my father's side. I was born and raised in Vancouver. I now live in Victoria on the territory of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples.

I've been a youth adviser with the Ministry of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council for almost four years. The Youth Advisory Council is a group of former youth in care who provide advice and recommendations to the ministry based on their experiences and stories.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my thoughts regarding Bill C-92. It is an honour and I'm grateful that the youth voice is being heard as part of the reflection on Bill C-92. Overall, I find Bill C-92 to be a step toward necessary changes that need to occur. However, I do take issue with some of the material.

I will provide my insights describing both the highlights and areas for development. Before I begin, I feel that as a youth representative I need to share a bit about my personal story in order to provide context to my understanding of Bill C-92.

I was raised both in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and a delegated aboriginal agency. Prior to moving into care, I lived with my mother and grandmother. When I lived with my family, I grew up knowing that I was Haida and Métis, and spent my time surrounded by indigenous family and friends.

While I was in care, I had almost no connection to my culture until my teenage years. Some homes disregarded my culture and many reinforced stereotypical notions of what it meant to be indigenous, and others, who made small attempts, assumed it was okay to simply connect me to any indigenous culture that was not my own.

This further discouraged me from participating in culture and it caused me to feel a loss of connectedness and confusion even within my own family. My first experience of being reconnected with culture did not happen until I was 17 years old when I went to a Haida homecoming. I was not connected with my Métis culture at any point during my time in care. I met people from my Métis community of Île-à-la-Crosse for the first time last year. Some of the most impactful times in my life were those times I connected with Haida Gwaii and Île-à-la-Crosse.

The current reality for Métis people in Canada is that our culture often gets brushed under the carpet, particularly if we also belong to another nation. There are many misconceptions about what Métis is and that results in culture being disregarded. It's a painful experience to believe that a person's identity is not important or is less important than other aspects of their cultural background. Just as much as anyone else, Métis children need to be connected to their community and culture.

The significance of my story is that these kinds of experiences are happening to so many young people across the country. Unfortunately, many people aren't as lucky as I am and often go their whole lives not knowing who they are, where they belong and that they are loved by entire communities.

In reflecting on Bill C-92, I considered whether or not it will aid in overcoming the same barriers to accessing culture in communities that I've experienced. While I was reviewing it, I asked myself the following questions: Are opportunities being opened for communities to know who and where their children are? Does it support them to bring their children home? Is Métis culture acknowledged to the same extent as others? Are youth's voices empowered?

There are definitely components of Bill C-92 that will support communities to know the location of their children. Paragraph 13(b) outlines that the indigenous governing body, acting on behalf of the nation to which their children belong, has the right to make representations, which I'm in support of. If my nations had been behind me doing these significant legal proceedings, alternative options to staying in non-indigenous homes may have been created.

Subclause 12(1) states that the service provider must provide notice to the child's parents, as well as to the indigenous governing body that the child belongs to. I believe this will allow communities the opportunity to share their thoughts on how to provide the best care possible for children and maybe even create permanent options or offer preventive services. I would hope this subclause would be applied in all circumstances. I have questions about what is meant by “before taking any significant measure”. In an ideal world, communities would be informed if a child's parents were being investigated before significant measures were needed or even thought of.

Additionally, clauses 27 to 30 discuss information sharing which is important to ensuring that all levels of government have strong communication channels, so that indigenous children can have the best care possible.

Indigenous communities should have the same access to information regarding their children that the provinces and federal government have. Given that there are many Métis communities across Canada and that many Métis people are living in provinces that their family did not originate from, who would be responsible? Is it the Métis group whose province the family lived in or the province where the family has heritage or extended family? Métis dynamics are complex and I don't think there was enough specific focus for Métis people in this bill. Additionally, I do not see any reference about how to approach situations when a child belongs to more than one nation. I think it's something that is important to acknowledge. We need to know all aspects of our identity.

I feel that the youth voice is not reflected very strongly in Bill C-92. The language is complex, and I hope to see documents that are youth-friendly in the future, particularly since the rights of the indigenous child are highlighted in the bill in subclause 10(3).

Paragraph 10(3)(d) describes that a child should be able to determine the importance of an ongoing relationship with the indigenous group. My interpretation of this point is that children can choose whether they want to be connected to culture and family. Connection to culture and family is a concept that is difficult for even adults to grasp, so how can a child be responsible for this decision? The situation is even more complicated because some children will have been placed in non-indigenous homes and might feel pressure to live a certain way, and some others have seen negative indigenous role models, so their ability to decide about this could be skewed. To be blunt, I think that this point might open opportunities to create excuses to decide not to connect a child to culture.

I think this paragraph should be omitted entirely, especially considering paragraph 10(3)(e) highlights the fact that the child's views and preferences should be a considered factor determining their best interests. Paragraph 10(3)(e) is a helpful point, and I think it encompasses many things, including relationships that the child chooses to maintain.

I would like to move ahead to discuss some of my general comments.

My understanding of subclause 13(a) is that care providers are being granted the same level of influence as parents and indigenous communities in legal proceedings. This makes me very uncomfortable, because some of my caregivers have not had my best interests at heart. I would not be comfortable if some of my caregivers had the right to party status in a civil proceeding, particularly without my permission. Given that many care providers are not indigenous, this also creates imbalances between families and communities.

I appreciate that Bill C-92 in subclause 16(2) discusses prioritizing siblings to stay together. This is an important point. I was separated from my siblings at a young age, and it was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It's important to keep siblings together to support permanency and belonging.

In summary, I generally support the intent of Bill C-92. I think it is a step in the right direction and has the potential to create meaningful change, with some adjustments to reflect the needs of youth in community.

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to share my thoughts.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

We are moving into the question period because, although we have tried to find the third presenter, Peter Hogg, we have not done so yet.

We're going to start the questioning with MP Will Amos.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Actually, Dan and I will take the first one. We switched things up in the hope that Mr. Hogg will arrive.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Mike Bossio.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, presenters, for being here this morning. We greatly appreciate your testimony and your passion around this issue. Of course, it is a very passionate issue. Being a parent myself, I know that any time we're dealing with our children and their future, there's the tendency to get our blood flowing very quickly.

I would like to put my first question to Viviane Michel.

From a consultative standpoint, how did you feel about the government's engagement with the province of Quebec and engagement with your organization around this bill?

11:55 a.m.

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Several indigenous organizations took part in the consultation process. At Femmes autochtones du Québec, this is how we proceed with consultations: we go to Nations members and take time to explain situations. Based on all the information given to them, our members — that, is, First Nations women — give us guidance or recommendations. As the president of a big organization, it's not for me to decide for all First Nations; I receive guidance from the members. That's how we proceed.

At home, we use what we call guidelines. That's what tells us how to work with members, as well as the government or other organizations. The processes for including, consulting, and engaging are really important. In the end, there is always one last process, that of determining whether the final document truly reflects indigenous thought, what we call Innu Matunenitshikan. We want to make sure that the wording reflects First Nations essence. That is how our organization, Femmes autochtones du Québec, works on a daily basis.

Noon

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

The elegance of this bill is that it's a framework. We don't want the bill to be too prescriptive. We want the bill to be defined by indigenous peoples themselves through their own laws in ensuring that their laws are paramount over provincial or federal laws.

I know that you've made a number of recommendations on the bill. I just want to make sure that in those recommendations you're still honouring the essence of the bill in that it's a framework. Therefore, I want to leave as much latitude as possible for indigenous peoples to drive the creation, implementation and delivery of services within their own communities.

Noon

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

You're on a roll right now and you might make history. This is a Bill that concerns all children. There must be recognition and, of course, inclusion. We're the main actors, those who know the needs of our people. I hear the young girl. We also listen to young people. They must have a voice, along with women and men — who also have parental duties. And let's not forget our elders. So we form a single unit instead of just a little family. That truly reflects First Nations' reality. It takes a whole community to raise a child.

Actual needs and deficiencies are truly glaring within communities — I'll never say it enough. In the National Assembly, we've contributed to Bill 113, which recognizes the effects of indigenous custom adoption. We're grateful that it was recognized. There is still a lot of work to be done and changes to be made. All recommendations or questions that we submit are really based on what constitutes our essence, our realities, and our needs, of course.

Noon

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you so much.

I'll turn it over to Mr. Vandal.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Vandal.

Noon

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you for your passionate presentation, Mrs. Michel.

You mentioned key points that concern you, for instance, regarding funding and the Jordan principle. I believe you had a third one. Can you talk about that again?

Noon

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

It's for the Bill to include positive obligations for the Canadian government and provinces to take all necessary measures to improve socio-economic conditions for indigenous children and families, including those who live off reserve and in urban areas.

In fact, we live in two realities: the one within communities and the one outside of them.

Noon

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Can you explain the similarities and differences for someone who lives within a community and someone who doesn't?

Noon

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Yes, I can easily compare both situations.

Given the scale of a community and its general history, we know that access to housing is a major issue within a community, as well as access to services, among others.

We know that all indigenous communities — there are 54 of them in Quebec — are in economic survival mode. There's minimal access to services, education, healthcare, and so on. Survival mode is a reality within a community.

Why is that?

Within a community, funding is never sufficient. We know that funding comes from the federal government.

And federal and provincial governments keep passing the buck. Funding is not equal on both sides. Provincial funding is higher than federal funding. That's how it is, both within and outside communities.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Very good.

Let's remember that as well as the witnesses here in person, we have a guest on video conference.

We're moving to MP Cathy McLeod.

May 7th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses.

I'm going to start with Raven McCallum from my home province of British Columbia.

It's great to see you here. I also really appreciate that you are our first witness who has talked about the lived experience. You are the first youth that we've had here. There's been a bit of a gap in our testimony that we've had to date.

First, could you quickly share with us what the role is of the advisory committee that you're on? Second, was there any conversation with the council that you're on as this bill was being formulated?

12:05 p.m.

Youth Advisor, Minister of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council, As an Individual

Raven McCallum

The Ministry of Children and Family Development's Youth Advisory Council started about four years ago. The objective of the council is to provide advice and recommendations to the ministry. We also go to different events across the province and we share our stories. We work with front-line workers and with ministry executives. I've also worked with the federal government. I presented at the emergency meeting.

We were actually consulted by the federal government in the development of this bill, as far as I'm aware. There was a session in Victoria where we were asked what types of changes we would like to see and what would really help us develop as adults. I think that a few members of the council were able to participate in that session.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Great. Thank you.

We know there are challenges when children age out. This has been identified by one witness to date and I think there are more who have expressed concern in writing. Although the bill speaks to prenatal care, it doesn't speak to that issue at all.

From your experience with the advisory council, can you speak more about that particular issue? Do you perceive that there is any role for comments about that within the bill or for that to be included?

12:05 p.m.

Youth Advisor, Minister of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council, As an Individual

Raven McCallum

I'm not sure exactly how that would look, but I do think it is an important topic. Youth transitions are very complicated and I think a lot of people slip through the cracks after they turn 19. I think that if indigenous communities are able to connect with their children at a younger age, they'll have more permanency and connectedness even through their adult years.

I would love to see youth being able to stay with their caregivers for longer. I think that's the norm in today's world. Otherwise, as long as they can be connected to their culture it's already a step in the right direction. A lot of people slip through the cracks because they don't have their identity. They don't know who they are and they don't know that people love them.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

You talked a little bit about the complexity of your background. You also talked to the issue of more than one nation.

Do you have any insight in terms of anything that should be done within this bill now to address that challenge, or is that a logistical piece that's going to have to be worked out as nations take on the services? I see it as being a complicated issue.

12:05 p.m.

Youth Advisor, Minister of Children and Family Development Youth Advisory Council, As an Individual

Raven McCallum

It is very complicated. I think that one way this bill could address it is to maybe mention that the child's full identity is important and that all aspects of the child's cultural identity need to be honoured. I do believe that it would have to be up to the nations to discuss what the best way is to move forward for the child.