Evidence of meeting #60 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 million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Stephen Gagnon  Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Chris Rainer  Director General, Education Branch, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good morning, everyone.

Following our discussion at the last meeting, we agreed to have the department here to talk about supplementary estimates.

We're very pleased to have you here to do that.

I'm going to ask the committee for its consideration in allocating some time at the end of our meeting, after our guests and questions, for an in camera session on committee business, as we have to deal with the subcommittee's report and look at the schedule.

Do I see any objections? Seeing none, I thank you.

We're now on supplementary estimates (A), 2017-18, with votes 1a, 10a, and L20a under the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I'd first like to recognize that we're on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), the committee will now consider supplementary estimates (A) 2017-18. I will call vote 1 to permit general discussion of the estimates and questioning of the witnesses.

Here we go. Everyone has received the background information. We will open this up to the department.

8:45 a.m.

Paul Thoppil Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Honourable members, thank you for the invitation to discuss the Supplementary Estimates (A) for fiscal year 2017-18 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

I would like to draw the committee's attention to the deck entitled 2017-18 Supplementary Estimates (A).

Supplementary estimates (A) include initiatives totalling $750.1 million and will bring total investment for the department to approximately—

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Excuse me. Does everyone have translation?

8:45 a.m.

An hon. member

I don't have—

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Yes, I do.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please continue. I'm sorry for the interruption.

8:45 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

All right.

This will bring the total investment for the department to approximately $10.8 billion for 2017-18 to address the needs of indigenous peoples and northerners.

On slide 3 of the presentation, with respect to financial highlights, the net increase of some $150.1 million comprises: one, $446.5 million for specific claims settlements; two, $174.7 million for the Operation Return Home Manitoba Interlake flood remediation settlement initiative; three, $98.4 million related to budget 2017 investments for the on-reserve income assistance program, the youth employment strategy, and the specific claims program; and four, $30.4 million for loans to support participation in the British Columbia treaty process.

In terms of voted expenditures, $19.8 million will flow through vote 1, operating expenditures, primarily for the specific claims program; $699.1 million through vote 10, grants and contributions, primarily for specific claims settlements and Operation Return Home; and, $30.4 million as vote L20, as the chair indicated at the beginning, for loans to first nations in British Columbia to support participation in the British Columbia treaty process.

I will now briefly describe the major items.

On slide 4, the largest item in these Supplementary Estimates is $446.5 million for specific claims settlements. This item will provide the department with sufficient funding, $1.36 billion in the Specific Claims Settlement Fund for 2017-18, to pay anticipated specific claims settlements and awards from the Specific Claims Tribunal. INAC forecasts up to 60 specific claims settlements in 2017-18.

The second largest item in these supplementary estimates is $174.7 million for the continued construction of housing and community infrastructure that is required to repair, rebuild, and re-establish four Manitoba first nations that were impacted by severe flooding in 2011. Funding will also be used to make compensation payments to the impacted first nations. On slide 5 you will see some evidence of progress that we're making on infrastructure in that regard in these four communities.

The third item, which totals $39.2 million, is from budget 2017 and it's related to the on-reserve income assistance program. This funding is to reduce employment barriers for first nations youth by providing case management services to youth on reserve who are in receipt of income assistance.

Finally, the last few slides provide information pertaining to additional key initiatives, including objectives, outcomes, and status.

The Supplementary Estimates will enable us to continue to make concrete steps to address the needs of indigenous peoples and northerners.

My colleagues and I look forward to discussing any aspects of the supplementary estimates with you, and we welcome your questions regarding this presentation.

Thank you. Merci beaucoup.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you, Paul.

Questions are going to be opened by MP Michael McLeod.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you for the presentation.

I am curious as to the total amount being identified here, $10.8 billion. That's a bit above what you initially planned, I think, which was about $9 billion. Could you explain what happened, or what was not accounted for so that you've gone over what you were initially planning to spend?

8:50 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

Thank you very much, Mr. McLeod, for the question.

You are correct that prior to budget 2016 in particular, we were about $9 billion, but in budget 2016, which was $8.4 billion over a five-year investment in indigenous peoples, the first year was about $1.2 billion of that amount, so you're seeing that reflected through the cycle of supplementary estimates into main estimates into this full year. That accounts for some portion of that from the $9 billion. Then moving forward, you have the supplementary estimates (A) accounting for another $750 million. Grosso modo, the impact of budget 2016 combined with supplementary estimates (A) for $750 million accounts for going from your starting point of $9 billion to where we are now at $10.8 billion.

June 1st, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Okay.

In the main estimates you had identified $9.9 billion and you're now at $10.8 billion, so there seems to be some slippage going on there.

My second question is around specific claims. I'm curious as to how that's going in light of the independent tribunal having been set up. There was a review, and many of the first nations identified that there was a backlog.

Could you talk about that and how that's going?

8:50 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

Sure. Given the significant impact of our supplementary estimates related to specific claims, my colleague Stephen Gagnon, who is the director general responsible for that program, will be best able to respond to your question, sir.

8:55 a.m.

Stephen Gagnon Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. McLeod.

I would say that there have been a number of reviews of the program over the last couple of years. The minister was required to table a report in the House, and in order to do that, the former minister appointed Mr. Benoît Pelletier to go out to discuss the operation of the act and the tribunal with first nations and other interested stakeholders.

He provided a report to the minister. The minister tabled a report. Essentially, the Auditor General also reviewed the program and tabled a report last November. Public accounts reviewed that report and issued its own report a few weeks ago, I think some time in early May, so there has been substantial review of the program.

I don't want to speak for others, so my interpretation of what I've been hearing and what I've been reading is that first nations, generally speaking, are happy with the operation of the tribunal, although they do note that it's fairly formal and the formality adds to costs and the consumption of time.

What they were fairly critical of, though, was the operation of my branch, my department's approach to the negotiation process itself, the idea, I think, being that in 2007 when “Justice at Last” came along, first nations believed they were going to get a more co-operative approach to resolving specific claims. They believed that the department then stopped communicating with them, and the focus was just on hitting three-year timelines to get the negotiations completed, and the process has suffered. All of the reports we were getting back were about how we needed to start speaking to first nations and organizations again to talk about the process.

We are now working with—

Sorry?

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

But there are no changes to the act. Nothing has changed, so the backlog continues. How do you plan to resolve that?

8:55 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Stephen Gagnon

We've formed a joint technical working group with the Assembly of First Nations.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Another review....

8:55 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Stephen Gagnon

Well, a review with first nations to get to some kind of recommendations on process changes that they believe—

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I'm trying to get to the point where you're going to tell me that things are getting better, that we're going to resolve this.

8:55 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Stephen Gagnon

Well, I hope that things will get better.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Maybe you can tell me how many have been resolved and how you plan to make it better in the immediate time period, not how many more studies you're going to do.

8:55 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Stephen Gagnon

That's a fair question, and I know people are impatient. What we're trying to react to is the sense that we are making changes unilaterally, so we are working with first nation organizations to try to develop some recommendations that we hope will have some credibility and that will improve the situation.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Yes.

8:55 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

If I might just....

Sorry.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I'm not hearing what I wanted to hear, so I don't think I'm going to be satisfied with another answer, but I can't ask questions without asking about the north.

On the money for infrastructure, under the department, there are two pots of money that I'm curious about: infrastructure for indigenous communities and the housing money. Is there a mechanism for that to flow into the Northwest Territories?

8:55 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

Thank you for that, Mr. McLeod.

As you know, budget 2016 provided $80 million over two fiscal years for housing, for northern and Inuit housing in that regard.

As of March 2017, $25.5 million of it was allocated by INAC to Inuit land claim holders in the Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit settlement region for the construction and repair of housing units. In the three regions funded by INAC, it was $50 million over two years for Nunavut, $15 million over two years for Nunatsiavut, and $15 million over two years for—