Evidence of meeting #65 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 amendment.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Nathalie Nepton  Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Candice St-Aubin  Executive Director, New Service Offerings, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Martin Reiher  Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution and Individual Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Philippe Méla

9:45 a.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Madam Chair.

In part of it, on that topic of those amendments, the word “consultation” was used. I'm wondering if the department consulted with first nations on this bill and on these different amendments.

9:50 a.m.

Candice St-Aubin Executive Director, New Service Offerings, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

We provided a series of two truncated consultation periods or engagement periods, so it was not formalized consultation per se as defined perhaps here.

The first half was a series of information sessions on the case, because of the lack of information potentially at the grassroots on that case, including the first round of the bill, which you would have seen prior to this, and the proposed amendments and legislative approach going forward, as well as stage two, which would allow for a broader consultation on broader issues.

Following the recommendation by the Senate to seek an extension, and after it granted us five months, there was a second truncated period of additional engagement and consultation whereby we met not only with communities. The community sessions included a range of chief and council, community members, as well as—

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Point of order.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Point of order.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I recognize your ability to recognize independence, but this committee has always been very co-operative. When Mr. Tootoo has come, I think we have given him, through the different sessions, the ability to ask witnesses questions.

We did pre-studies back in December. We have done pre-studies now. We're in clause-by-clause, and I'm very concerned that we're going back into things that are well documented in the blues in terms of the process.

I'm wondering if, in respect for the legislative clause-by-clause process, we could ensure that the interventions be somewhat targeted.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I'd ask the member to try to keep questions quite limited to the clauses, to the bill itself. We have had an opportunity to go through consultation questions and others.

Please, we're obviously in the midst of clause-by-clause.

We'll go back to you.

9:50 a.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

I appreciate that, and I think I got the response: there's no real consultation on it. I think the grand chief would agree with that.

The other question I have is about 1951 as a date. Where did that date come from?

9:50 a.m.

Martin Reiher Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution and Individual Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

This date was added in 2010 by the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, which is an amendment of section six of the Indian Act.

That bill was passed in response to the McIvor decision, which found that the provisions at the time of the Indian Act were contrary to section 15 insofar as it treated differently the male and female lines with respect in particular to individuals affected by the double mother rule. That rule was introduced in 1951, which is why the 1951 date was introduced in the remedy.

9:50 a.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

In talking with the grand chief, I think he feels that it should go all the way back if you want to deal with it.

The other quick question can be ruled out of order. I know one thing, from my discussions with the grand chiefs, is that they want self-determination. They don't feel that it should be, with all due respect, someone here determining whether you're an Indian.

As Inuit, we have that. A local group in our communities decides who a beneficiary is and who is not. Why not just do that instead of going through all of this? It was good and right for us. Why can't we extend that same leeway to first nations?

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution and Individual Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Martin Reiher

To answer your question, the minister was very clear that ultimately her will would be to put Nathalie, our registrar, out of a job, and to allow first nations to determine who they are, which is why the government has determined that a two-stage response would be appropriate for the additional decision, first to deal with what's an issue and known at the moment and then to turn to a broader discussion on how to profoundly reform the registration provisions and ultimately to find ways to get rid of a registrar.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

MP McLeod.

June 15th, 2017 / 9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I think most of us spoke to this issue when we had the witnesses in front of us. I'm also feeling a lot like Romeo about being in a position where we have to decide who's going to be joining the ranks of the aboriginal people according to the definition in front of us, which was decided on by somebody else. Like Romeo, I'm also aboriginal and I'm also a residential school survivor, and I agree with a lot of the comments. I also agree with a lot of the comments that Cathy has made on the process up to now and how it didn't really do a very good job. However, I've listened very carefully to the witnesses who have come forward, and I'm hearing more than one person with a legal background and with more legal expertise than I have state that there are concerns over the wording of this amendment. That includes Murray Sinclair, who has said it publicly. I think we have to take that into consideration. We have to hear the voices of the Native Women's Association of Canada, who said we need to go through the phase two process.

I really have concerns when we talk about going ahead without consulting. It is the basis on which we said we would move forward. It is a reason why I decided to run for this government, for this party. I come from an area where we practise consensus government and sharing information and communicating where we're going to go, and where collaboration is very important. I think that has to be done, and we spelled that out in going into phase two. We are currently in 10 sets of negotiations. Some of those negotiations for land claims and self-government include memberships. We have to talk to those people. We cannot just say we're going to go ahead and decide this without talking to them. That really is something that is important to many people across the country. We heard many individuals say that we do this regardless, but we also heard from organizations that represent a lot of people, which said, “Be careful. It's not worded right, and we should take the time to do it properly.”

I think we're committed to addressing the issue in phase two. Phase two has spelled out the process, and it certainly is in line with the nation-to-nation approach. That's why we need to move forward on recommendations.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Saganash.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

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

I have a technical question, but as a quick response to that, when the government announced the missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry, the minister undertook what she called a design phase, and she travelled around this country. I don't know exactly for what purpose. One must wonder how that is going because I don't think anything was given to the commissioners to start off with. So if that's the kind of consultation you're talking about, I have a slight problem with that.

I hear you on what the Indigenous Bar Association has said. With all due respect, I disagree. When someone tells me to be careful, and the government buys that, it is just a pretext to delay further, in my view. I have enough experience in politics—35 years—to know that.

I prefer hearing Chief O'Bomsawin, who told us that those are his people and they can come back if they want to, that they belong, and that there is a right to belong to a community and a right to belong to a nation. I'd rather listen to that chief, who is responsible for an entire community, who tells us to let them come back and that they are his people, than listen to someone who just says to be careful without explaining what we should be careful about.

One of the things the minister told us was that we need this legislation right away because whether some students among the Abenaki attend university this fall or not depends on this. Some have told us that even if we had this legislation today, they wouldn't be able to to be registered by the fall. I'm pretty certain about that.

What is the backlog that you have right now? If they apply tomorrow morning, the day after this legislation is adopted, how much time would it take for a student to get status?

10 a.m.

Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

In regard to the processing of new applications that would be coming in under Bill S-3, there has been money set aside to establish a unit, and we're currently staffing it. The unit will be composed of 54 individuals to do intake and to assess applications, so if the bill receives royal assent, we will be starting to process applications that are already in the queue.

Generally speaking, service standards, depending on if it is a complete application, can range based on complexity. These would obviously be a few months, so the average service standard is from six months to eight months, depending on the situation.

10 a.m.

NDP

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

I have difficulty understanding, then, why so many applications take years. There are some applications that do not receive an acknowledgement of receipt for about seven or eight months.

How do you explain that? How can you reassure this committee that with those 54 people in place—is that specifically for Bill S-3?

10 a.m.

Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

Yes, the 54 individuals are specifically for the purpose of applications that will be received under Bill S-3.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right, we're now at the point where we're going to call the vote on the amendment to clause 2.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 2 as amended agreed to)

Is it the will of the committee to group clauses 3 to 15?

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Shall clauses 3 to 15 carry?

MP Saganash.

10 a.m.

NDP

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

As you know, Madam Chair, I did intend to propose an amendment to clause 10 and also to clause 11. I don't know if the clerk has received them.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right.

To move things along, then, shall we consider only clauses 3 to 9? Okay.

(Clauses 3 to 9 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 10)

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Technically, the amendment didn't get through the process that goes according to the rules. You are able to present an amendment from the floor.

MP Saganash.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

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

I think I spoke at length on clause 10 during the committee hearings.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Excuse me; we first need to distribute your amendment.

Does the clerk have a copy of the amendment?