Evidence of meeting #39 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 phase.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gaylene Schellenberg  Lawyer, Legislation and Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
David Taylor  Executive Member, Aboriginal Law Section, Canadian Bar Association
Kim Stanton  Legal Director, Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Krista Nerland  Associate, Olthuis Kleer Townshend - LLP, Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Pamela Palmater  Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University, As an Individual
Mary Eberts  As an Individual
Ellen Gabriel  As an Individual
Candice St-Aubin  Executive Director, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Martin Reiher  Senior Counsel, Operations and Programs Section, Department of Justice
Joëlle Montminy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Grant McLaughlin

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I know you've come here many times, but would you be amenable to coming back to the committee in six months, 12 months, 18 months, so that we can hold you and INAC accountable to ensuring that this continues to progress in a timely way so we can get these issues resolved?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Absolutely.

I think what I committed to at the Senate last week is that we would even come back early in the new year. We'll begin with a work plan in terms of what we've heard and what seems like a reasonable time frame, so that you would be involved in the design and the time frame of phase two.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Going to phase two, then, how do you see phase two evolving? You've given us a taste as to what it is, but as for being able to deal with these complexities, once again in a timely way, how do you see that rolling out?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Certainly, the complainants have articulated a real interest in being involved in that. They know that their fight has seen 35,000 people through the gate now. They want to be part of making sure nobody is left behind, and they want to make sure it's a reasonable time frame. They don't want it to go on for years and years. I think we will figure out a work plan that's reasonable, but where the people most affected will have their say in the design of phase two.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I've seen, for example, a list on the preliminary consultation process that you went through, with the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Native Council of Nova Scotia, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Anishinabek Nation, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Confederacy of Treaty 6, and Treaty 7 and Treat 8 first nations. There are a number of them here.

What we're looking for is assurance that you're not going to just focus on some of the larger organizations where you can get a lot of ducks at one time with one shot, but you are going to actually get out to some of the smaller ones. We've met with so many individuals and smaller organizations that need that representation, and need to be part of that consultative process.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

We've heard that in so many things, that the national organizations have important people there with policy. What we've heard very clearly is that people want us to be able to talk directly to the people affected, the communities, the community organizations that are the most affected. Even in Mr. Descheneaux's own community, there are many people who will be left behind as Bill S-3 goes through.

Talking to those people, I think will be very important in actually hearing what they have to say, such that they don't have to go to court to get their rights. We want to make a good policy decision that will get rid of all of these discriminations and inequities that are still in the Indian Act.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

We'll have to leave it there, Mike.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you so much.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

The next question is from Cathy McLeod, please.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Minister, I want to start by noting that last week you told the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, “My department's failure to directly engage with the plaintiffs was not only unacceptable but embarrassing for me as minister.” Of course, as we all know, and with all due respect, as a minister you're responsible for the department and what happens.

To be frank, I believe you would have been outraged as a critic had we moved forward with the piece of legislation that clearly had so many flaws. I look at the consultation. This bill was introduced on October 25. Most of these consultations happened after the bill was introduced in Parliament. Some of them happened just prior, so certainly anything that was in the consultations clearly didn't see its way into the legislation.

You have a big job with the second phase. The big job with the second phase should really be about moving beyond this bizarre registration process that we have. We have a chance right now. We have identified...and I think we've had really articulate witnesses, and these are issues around the charter—basic issues. I think we can get these problems fixed once and for all. Your phase two, rather than focusing on continuing to deal with the gender inequity, can deal with what is most important to first nations, which is moving on and past and out of the system.

First of all, how can you justify presenting a piece of legislation to this Parliament when the consultations happened after the legislation was introduced, which is certainly not consistent with nation to nation?

December 5th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think that's the reason this has phase one and phase two.

Phase one is to deal with what the court told us we had to do, and we were able to include some simple parallel cases in that piece of legislation. We knew we would have to then go out and do all the rest.

With due respect, my department has had very little experience over the last decade in going out and talking to people. With due respect, we're here today because Bill C-3 wasn't consulted on properly; therefore, that is what we are having to turn around. We have to turn around to a culture where the solutions are found by the people who know the most, those with expertise and those with lived experience.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

That's why we are here today, because Bill C-3 was flawed.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

We've had witnesses who have given us really easy diagrams to figure out the flaws that are still here.

You talked about people who, if you read their entire testimony, supported in a quasi way the moving forward right now with this flawed piece of legislation. Of course, we didn't talk about the Canadian Bar Association, the indigenous associations, Stéphane Descheneaux.

We just had an excellent panel of witnesses, and almost without exception they said that we can get this piece right and we can do it in a reasonable time frame so that we get rid of the things that are charter non-compliant, fix the flaws, and spend phase two on the important work of moving forward.

What are you saying to these expert witnesses we've had at committee who have said, almost without exception, to take a little more time and get it right? McIvor had two extensions.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Unfortunately, the court didn't give us more time. The court gave us a bit more time because of the election, but we had only 18 months instead of the usual year they give.

Also, they said that by February 3 the registrar would not be able to register more people, because these provisions had been struck. Since this legislation came through, we have at the registrar's office at least 100 to 150 more applications...to actually be able to exercise their rights. These were 35,000-plus people learning about it and coming to terms with it.

That's why we need to begin phase two in February, to deal with all the other ones.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

First of all, McIvor did have two extensions, and to be quite frank, I think if you have a limited phase two that's dealing with things we've seen at committee already, we are never going to get them to become—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I'm sorry, Cathy. We can't do phase two until we've done phase one. I'm not sure what you're saying. Just tell me what you think we should be doing.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

What I'm saying is we have some clearly identified charts and flaws. I think with technical expertise you could identify any remaining that are charter non-compliant, and phase two can be the bigger important discussion that needs to happen, not taking the Stéphane Descheneaux lawyers' diagrams and spending two years or five years looking at and talking about diagrams with clear flaws.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I wish it were that easy and that there would be clear advice on the other issues of inequity. Unfortunately, there wasn't even a registry pre-1951. The unknown paternity is difficult to sort out.

These are not easy things to implement, and you actually have to figure out how you would do it if you're going to draft a bill.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

There are still a number of issues that have been pointed out and are known currently that we have not dealt with in terms of this particular piece of legislation. I would suggest that when you see a good motion towards getting something done, the courts have tended to be relatively accommodating. In the case of McIvor, there were two extensions granted..

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

My advice has been that the extension would be only for three to six months, and that the court is granting extensions, generally, to deal with the issues of the plaintiffs in the courts.

In the obiter part of the judgment, we feel we've dealt with the easy parts in this bill. We believe that the judge's advice to us was to take proper time in phase two. We see that all as a piece. There will be the easy things we're doing right now that the court found as an inequity, and then we will get on with phase two in a timely manner.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Other litigants suggested that that would be a process forward.

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

We're out of time there.

The next question is from Romeo Saganash, please.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you to the minister for appearing before us again.

I have several questions after listening to you, but let me start with the easy one. You said in your presentation, “I am giving you my word that phase two will be launched in February 2017.”

That's pretty close. I imagine that you've already started meeting with people on that on how this is going to be structured.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes. That is, meaning that we are working on a work plan and deciding who we would talk to first.