Evidence of meeting #42 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 métis.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sylvia Johnson  Co-Minister of Health, Children and Youth, Métis Nation of Alberta
Heather Bear  Fourth Vice-Chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
Susan Bobbi Herrera  Chief Executive Officer, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Ms. Herrera.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations

Susan Bobbi Herrera

Thank you.

Regarding role models, I'll jump right to that. We too have a number of role models we're very proud of.

One that jumps out is Chief Billy Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation. He's a very young chief. When he was elected he didn't speak his indigenous language, and he promised his people, especially his elders, that in one year he would address them in Cree, and he has done that. He's one role model to bring back the language.

My personal mentor, and I think an excellent role model, is our current grand chief, Willie Littlechild. If there is anybody who has done anything for indigenous peoples worldwide, it's Dr. Wilton Littlechild.

Social media is a good tool to stay connected, but people can be so mean and angry, because they're anonymous. They can get into a person's home like no other predator out there can.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Is my estimation correct that most everybody in your communities is on Facebook?

9:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations

Susan Bobbi Herrera

Yes. I am a great-grandmother now, and my grandchildren are being limited on their phones, but I had to limit my children because they are the role models. If you don't want your children on social media, then get off the phone yourself.

Luckily, I'm starting to see that, because I didn't know I had a granddaughter harming herself and contemplating suicide until they reached out to me in the middle of the night crying. It really hurt me, so I had to talk to my daughter about becoming a role model for my granddaughter. Luckily, things are starting to turn around.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We're now moving to the NDP, and Ms. Ashton will be leading the questions.

February 7th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to our witnesses who are here today. Thank you for your powerful testimony, and to Ms. Johnson as well, who's joining us on the phone.

Obviously, our committee is looking for some very concrete recommendations that we can put forward to the government with respect to suicides on first nations and in Métis communities. One of the recommendations we've heard far and wide, not just with respect to tackling suicides but also more broadly in terms of wellness and moving forward with a new relationship with first nations and indigenous communities, is the need to adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That's the legislation put forward by my colleague and our indigenous affairs critic, Romeo Saganash. It's actually Bill C-262, and it also reflects the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I understand that Grand Chief Littlechild has also communicated with my colleague's team with respect to this important piece of legislation.

My question for you, Ms. Herrera, and for you, Chief Bear, is how important is it to move forward with adopting and implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Do you see this as a way of establishing a solid relationship with first nations and indigenous communities, decolonizing the relationship that exists? Do you see this as having positive impacts for the next generation of indigenous youth?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Ms. Ashton, we have somebody on the phone as well whom we could start with.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Perhaps we could start with either Ms. Herrera or Chief Bear, and then to the phone.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Ms. Herrera.

9:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations

Susan Bobbi Herrera

Thank you. It's very good to see you, Ms. Ashton.

The UN declaration is important to set the foundation of a framework of reconciliation, of working together, with the indigenous peoples and the state of Canada. Grand Chief Littlechild is one of the authors of the declaration, and I truly wish he could have been here to answer directly, but I'd like to tell a short story about the UN declaration.

I was working with Grand Chief Littlechild for many years. When he started working on the UN declaration, I asked why, because there was the UN declaration on human rights. When National Chief Atleo and I were meeting with Hillary Clinton and her aide and trying to promote the UN declaration, to have it adopted by those states that had initially rejected it, I reminded them of the story that Willie told me. When the UN declaration on human rights was passed, indigenous people were not even considered human beings, so we had no rights whatsoever. That is why the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is so important. It will set the norm, the very standards for our rights as indigenous peoples, something that we were prevented from having for generations.

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Very good.

Chief Bear.

9:30 a.m.

Fourth Vice-Chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Vice-Chief Heather Bear

Yes, just quickly—and thank you for that—I'll just step back to when the United Nations initiated the treaty study. I was a part of that work and, of course, out of that came the declaration.

I have always believed that all the issues today result from the lack of implementation of our treaty promises right across the board. When it comes to governance, in terms of the United Nations, things happen very slowly. They evolve, and I think they've evolved now to a point of implementation and the calls to action. The timing now is to put our heads together. In terms of working inclusively with our elders, if I can impress anything on this committee, it is this. Please, why do we have to fight to validate that our elders are the answers? We bring scientists and doctors, and I know they're important, but our elders.... We should be at a time now that we don't have to fight to validate that those good ways and those teachings are just as important. Our elders should be recognized properly in terms of the good work they do, even financially.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Ms. Johnson.

9:35 a.m.

Co-Minister of Health, Children and Youth, Métis Nation of Alberta

Sylvia Johnson

The Métis have always been left out and virtually ignored. We have no resources and a lack recognition as indigenous people, other than saying under section 35 that we are part of the three indigenous groups.

But things are improving for us. The Métis Nation of Alberta signed an MOU with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, last week. With those kinds of positive things going forward, we are very pleased to be involved, hopefully, with Bill C-262. Of course, we want to be involved. We have recommendations that we want to bring forward. We're also going to put forward our paper. This was a small introduction to us, but with the lack of resources and the lack of recognition we are hoping that our people in the future will have a lot more validation and a lot more things coming their way.

Thank you for that question. It's very important.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We still have 30 seconds.

9:35 a.m.

Co-Minister of Health, Children and Youth, Métis Nation of Alberta

Sylvia Johnson

In the north many children have used suicide to solve their problems. It's not a problem-solver. We need healthy people contributing to our society. I know that if there were resources some of these people would be alive today.

We've done surveys. For some reason there are many youth called Dustin. We're trying to implement a help line called Operation Dustin. Do not use suicide; it improves nothing. This is not the answer for our children.

If we had the resources, we could have a help line or somebody at the end of the line, somebody who could talk to them, somewhere we could have a youth centre, somewhere they could go to realize they do have self worth and they are valid. What's happening now with suicide is genocide.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you, Ms. Johnson.

We're going to move on to MP Rusnak.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you for your presentations today.

One of the things I'm not that familiar with is the health delivery models in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Could you elaborate on the delivery models and the positives that you've seen?

I don't know who wants to start first.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Why don't we start with Chief Bear?

9:35 a.m.

Fourth Vice-Chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Vice-Chief Heather Bear

Thank you for the question.

When we look at our health delivery models, of course in Saskatchewan we have 74 autonomous nations, and also our health commissions, which are encompassed by representatives from the tribal councils. Our health commission, our women's commission, comes from the grassroots to the leaders.

When we look at what's working in our communities, Peter Ballantyne, for example, has a model that is mostly holistic, utilizing the medicine wheel concept: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual programming. Those models are pretty consistent across the board.

When we talk about our essential services, there's one thing. The family violence programming funds we used to have, the prevention dollars that were cut, went into the shelters a few years back. In order to access family violence prevention, you have to get a lickin', I guess, and go to a shelter. There's really something wrong with the system when we start to implement these programs of prevention and the funding gets cut. What do you do?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

That's one of the things I want to delve into. Obviously, you see problems with the way the system is being delivered right now. Do you have any recommendations for improvement?

9:40 a.m.

Fourth Vice-Chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Vice-Chief Heather Bear

I just want to supplement that. Unilateral decisions are always forced on us from the top down. We need inclusion and engagement of the community and elders. That should never have happened. It really hurt our communities.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I'm just going to stick to this line. In Alberta, is the coordination between the first nation organizations and first nation leadership healthy, so to speak? Are there challenges with inter-jurisdictional problems among first nation organizations in Alberta?

9:40 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations

Susan Bobbi Herrera

In Alberta, we have a unique situation. We have a co-management table in place, where Canada and representatives from Treaty 6, 7, and 8 First Nations sit and review programs and services for first nations peoples. Not all of the first nations belong to co-management. Some have pulled out. Others have joined. It's still a work in progress and under review. A number of our larger first nations do have their own health centres and stuff that our people can go to for basic dental, eye care, and basic health needs.

We don't have our own hospitals. Often the communities adjacent to our first nations use our numbers to increase their hospital size or get new hospitals. Our people are often faced with discrimination in trying to get access to services. When you think it would be improving, it's gotten worse.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

With respect to the Métis in Alberta, are there jurisdictional issues in delivering health care to your communities?