Evidence of meeting #154 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 vote.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Valerie Gideon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

As always, Minister, thank you so much for being here. You're always welcome, and you've been here quite a bit, and that's greatly appreciated.

Minister, during the last election, our party committed to launching a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Upon the election, you immediately started working with survivors, family members and loved ones of victims, as well as with the national, provincial and territorial representatives to seek their views on the design and scope of an inquiry. In August 2016, the inquiry was launched, and yesterday the independent commission released its final report. How has this report changed and how will it change our country for the better?

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I think that, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all Canadians now hopefully know a little more about what causes this tragedy, that it's ongoing, and that not only is it about raising consciousness, but it's actually asking every Canadian to call out racism and sexism when they see it, and to understand that they need to know that the stereotypes they still see are wrong, and that we actually have an obligation—every single one of us—to do something about this.

It means that the federal government will do what it can. The provincial and territorial governments will do what they can, and municipal governments, indigenous governments.... But this is about a tragedy. From yesterday, seeing Bernie Williams and Gladys Radek, who first came to the Hill in 2004 asking for the inquiry.... I think they walked this country seven times and still people didn't know. Now, I hope, with the release of this report and with everybody really thinking about this tragedy.... These were loved family members who were lost or are missing.

Those family members asked at the beginning for three things. They asked to seek justice for their loved one; for support and healing for the families; and for concrete actions to stop the tragedy, to prevent it, to make sure that no other family would have to go through what they've had to go through.

I think we have raised the consciousness with this national public inquiry. It is what the families and the survivors asked for. It is as the commissioner said: once you know the truth, you can't “unknow” the truth. It's really important that we go forward.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

You mentioned the families and the survivors. Can you tell me what you heard from the families about what this inquiry and the chance to share their stories have meant to them?

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I think that as the Prime Minister said yesterday, there were those who were able to share their stories; there are still ones who haven't. We hope that, again, unlocking the healing for all of the family members and the survivors....

It was really the first hearing in Thunder Bay at the beginning of the inquiry.... We had focused on the families, but there are survivors. There are people who woke up in an emergency department with bruises around their neck. There's my friend CeeJai Julian, who ran away from the Pickton farm. These are courageous people who have told their story. As I've said forever, we can't let them down. We have to move forward. This has to stop.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

What has the federal government done since the report launched to combat violence against indigenous women and girls?

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I think that Minister Monsef's gender-based violence programs have been investing in community. With her advisory committee, this has been very important. I think in everything we've done, from housing to shelters to safe transportation on the Highway of Tears, we have been doing those important things.

In the response to the interim report, we invested an extra $21.3 million on healing for the families, stood up the special unit within the RCMP on wise practices and invested in some of the community organizations on policing. We've also been able to start the healing with the funding that went to commemoration.

We've always said that we wouldn't wait for the final report and we need to keep going.

I think the change to child and family services, as I've said, is the transformational change—to not have these children at risk or abused because of this idea that taking children from their families and their communities would be in the best interests of the child. That's been proven wrong, and now we have to reverse that and work with our partners to make sure these children grow up as proud indigenous people with their resilience and their self-esteem. That is what will turn this around.

Seeing Tina Fontaine's grandmother there yesterday, and realizing what happened there in terms of that failure of what was to be child protection, was just awful. She was 15.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Is that the single most important thing we could do to end this national tragedy?

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We have to conclude.

The question now goes to MP Kevin Waugh.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Minister and staff, for joining us once again.

Yes, it was a very emotional day yesterday...the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, over 1,200 pages of testimony and 231 recommendations.

Let's start there, with the recommendations. The report calls them calls for justice, legal imperatives, and says that they are not optional.

Minister, do you agree with that statement from the commission yesterday?

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

The status quo is not okay, and we are going to have to move forward. It means we are going to have to do it and co-develop a national action plan that will make sure the objectives that were set out in the terms of reference, concrete actions to stop this tragedy....

They have provided their calls for justice, and we will work with our partners to develop a national action plan—what, by when, and how—with all of our partners. That includes the provinces and territories, the municipalities and indigenous governments. We need to work together in a distinctions-based way, with regional sensitivity, and get this thing done.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

According to the media's reporting from yesterday, with the recommendations—all 231—it's all or none. The commission would like all the recommendations accepted, not just “pick and choose”. What will your government do?

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

It falls under the umbrella of the national action plan, so that means we go forward working with our partners in terms of what their priorities are and in a way that will stop the tragedy. That's what we need to do.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

In 2017, in the interim report by this committee, they talked about little efforts having been made...focused more on reactive than preventative measures. They brought that out two years ago, and they've seen very little movement there—from that interim report that they did.

How can we assure indigenous groups that this is going to change? Very little has happened in two years.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Well, I would have to disagree with that, honourable member.

After the interim report, there was an off-cycle budget for $50 million that included the money for healing, the money for commemoration, the special unit in the RCMP and in policing. There are billions of dollars here in the estimates on housing, and all of the things that are truly moving forward. As I've said before, to me, as a family doctor and as a mother, the changes to child and family services, Bill C-92, are transformational. The fact that once again nations will have jurisdiction over their children and their youth and will no longer be vulnerable, preyed upon, to me, is transformational.

As well, the commission really made strong calls for justice on language. I think that Minister Rodriguez, in Bill C-91, has done important work there. Everything we have done is about changing the relationship, which was a colonized approach, one of paternalism, of disempowerment, to one of empowerment and a real respect for indigenous rights, and a relationship based on respect and partnership and co-operation.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I'm going to move on, Minister, if you don't mind.

Infrastructure in the north is a big topic.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have 45 seconds.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

The Inuit-Crown partnership committee released its report at the beginning of April, which suggested that funding delays for Inuit housing and infrastructure were eroding the overall effectiveness of these investments.

How can the government ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding moving forward?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

What's exciting is that Inuit housing now has stable, predictable funding of $400 million over 10 years. There is $40 million a year that will go forward. That's exactly what was asked for so that they can plan.

I also think we should salute the hard work at the Inuit-Crown partnership committee, because that's how we are co-developing the priorities, listening to our partners and being able to move forward on the things that really matter to them.

It was fantastic to get in to see some of the new homes in Inuvik when we were in the Inuvialuit territory. We know that housing really matters, particularly up there, where it's too cold to be homeless.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now moves to MP Yves Robillard.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Good morning, Minister Bennett.

Thank you for your presentation.

The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has opened the eyes of many Canadians to the terrible realities of Indian residential schools. I'm proud that our government is firmly committed to implementing the commission's calls to action. These calls to action set out a roadmap for reconciliation not only for all levels of government, civil society, educational and health care facilities and private sector businesses, but also for all Canadians.

As you said in your remarks, budget 2019 contains a number of investments to help your department implement the commission's calls to action. Can you tell us more about this?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Thank you.

I'm very proud that we've completed or made a great deal of progress on 80% of the calls to action. Budget 2019 includes $200 million to implement calls to action 50, 53 to 55 and 66 for indigenous youth, and 72 to 76 and 80. I'm very proud of our investment in the Indigenous Legal Lodge at the University of Victoria. My friend Marc Miller attended the launch of this initiative.

As you said, the roadmap for reconciliation is very important for all Canadians and for our partners. We must finish the job.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you.

How do these investments build on the measures already taken by the government as part of the whole-of-government approach that you're talking about?

June 4th, 2019 / 9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

In our first budget, we maintained historic investments. In 2016, the government provided $2.6 billion over five years to respond to call to action 8, which calls for the elimination of the discrepancy in education funding for first nations children being educated on reserves and first nations children being educated off reserves. In 2017, the government invested $1.7 billion over 10 years to respond to call to action 12, which calls for the development of culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for indigenous families. In 2018, the government invested $1.4 billion over six years to respond to call to action 1 and help reduce the number of indigenous children in care in the child welfare system. There was also Bill C-92, which is very important.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

My constituents want to be better informed of the government's ongoing progress in taking these essential steps towards reconciliation. The government is monitoring the progress in the implementation of the calls to action.

Can you tell us more about this?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

First, I encourage all Canadians to visit http://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1524494530110/1557511412801.

This website tracks the calls to action to see how we're doing. There's also a website on eliminating the boil water advisories in Minister O'Regan's shop.

All Canadians must accept their responsibilities and role in the fight against racism. The goal is to ensure that they have a better understanding of Canada's history, particularly its recent chapters, and that they contribute to the path to reconciliation.