Evidence of meeting #78 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 quebec.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Guy Whiteduck  Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation
Noah Swappie  Chief, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach
Robert Prévost  Advisor, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach
Natan Obed  President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
William MacKay  Deputy Minister, Department of Justice, Government of Nunavut

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach

Chief Noah Swappie

I think the wording is pretty much the same, or perhaps similar, but there are some things that were overlooked in our agreement in comparison with the JBNQA, such as the hunter support program. As the population increases, the funding increases, but with the Naskapis, there's nothing in the agreement that specifies that. It's only the regular indexation that happens.

We've opened a strong dialogue with the Crees and Inuit, because we want similar treatment—if not the same, at least on par with what they have today.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Questioning now moves to MP Amos.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Meegwetch to all three of our presenters. It's very appreciated. The knowledge and the experience you're bringing to this table is significant.

Chief Swappie, you can be assured that the members here will be reading your written submission, so some of the detail that you might not have had time to present orally will most certainly be considered.

I'd like to direct the majority of my questions to Chief Whiteduck, on whose territory my riding sits. I've had the privilege of interacting with Chief Whiteduck on many occasions, as recently as this past Saturday.

I do appreciate that this is the first time we've had an opportunity to interact in a parliamentary setting. I know that it will be recorded for posterity's sake, so I want to be judicious in what I ask you.

Chief Whiteduck, you have been a leader in your community since the 1970s, which distinguishes you in this crowd. Indeed, among all parliamentary leaders, there are very few who have your experience in leading a nation. Can you tell me a bit about how you have seen the federal government's policy towards comprehensive claims evolve over that time, specifically as regards the Algonquin experience? Where has it come from? We've heard where you see it is now. We understand your position with regard to extinguishment and so on.

Where has it come from, in your estimation, and where would you like to see it specifically go?

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck

We've seen some changes as time has gone along—cosmetic changes, as far as I'm concerned. The key areas of concern to us, the extinguishment and certainty, are difficult for us to accept and digest. As I mentioned a while ago, we would much prefer that it be set aside and a whole new arrangement taken to address some of the issues touching our nation. It's the whole issue of resource management and having our say in that and ensuring a return to our first nation communities, not only our community but all the Algonquin communities. The existing system and policy do not fit well into what we're seeking in trying to find our rightful place.

I hear now the Naskapi chief bringing the issues up and the limited elements.... If you don't negotiate carefully, you end up having to pay the price, saying, well, that's the deal made. We're saying that we want our rightful place. We want to be co-managers in the resources. We want to make sure of a continual return from our land use, without pushing anybody out of their territory. That's what we're looking for.

The policy doesn't even go near that. We know there are court rulings. There is the Tsilhqot'in decision where title was recognized. We'll see where that evolves too, but we definitely want that rightful place and we really don't believe the policy, with cosmetic changes, will meet what we want.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

When you consider the 80-20 rule, and you indicate that perhaps not 100% compound interest is necessary to get to “yes” on a better approach, obviously the difference between 20% compounded interest over a series of years on a specific amount offered by the government is going to have a massive impact when a greater percentage of interest is added, compounded over many years in the case of the Algonquin. What do you think is a more fair approach, and how does one do that without bankrupting the country? I say that because I think we have to get to “yes” on these issues. This is important for us to do.

11:50 a.m.

Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck

But your own courts, your own judges whom you appointed to the Specific Claims Tribunal, have recently said, look, your formula doesn't work; we don't agree; it should be compound. You had a judicial review and you withdrew from the process, and you've accepted that particular case. Clearly, 100% compound may be problematic, but that would be the rightful thing to do.

I understand that there might be a huge cost, no doubt, for some claims. In our case, the claim we're talking about—the 20 or so claims involved in that global approach—would probably mean $400 million if we used full compound interest. We're saying at least develop a formula that's more fair. We were suggesting....

Now they're reviewing our band funds to say, okay, if you had that money, what would you have spent? We're proving to them, from 1873 when these claims took place, that we've spent on average about 30%. That means there was 70% retained. The formula, then, should be 70-30. It really means that the offer on the table would triple at least. That may be problematic, but that's where it stands.

We are doing a study right now with an auditing firm, jointly arranged between us and Indian Affairs, to look at our band funds. The review is completed, and it looks like 70-30. A 70% compound is a hell of a lot more than 20%, that's for sure. But what is fair? Well, it's part of negotiation, I guess. It could be something less, or it could be something close to it, but I don't think it should be any less than 50-50 at minimum. We're still saying that right now if the process is 70-30, well, we're going with 70-30.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

How can the federal government work with all components of the Algonquin nation, moving forward, to get to a final agreement in which there is a recognition of rights and in which extinguishment is set aside?

11:50 a.m.

Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck

Right now, we've been approached by senior bureaucrats saying, okay, we're willing to enter into an memorandum of understanding with you to look at all these issues without extinguishment. Well, that's cracking the door open a little bit, hopefully, and we're hoping to explore that possibility over the next 12 months. If that process works for us, then the other Algonquin communities, if they wish, can get on board. Hopefully, this can evolve into something that's more respectful and balanced so that our people who are here today and future generations will be able to benefit from the same things we benefit from.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you. Meegwetch.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The questioning now moves to MP Viersen.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our guests for being here today.

A number of our prior guests in this study have talked a little bit about timelines. As I think the fellow from the tribunal said, there's nothing that motivates people more than a court date, essentially. Can I get your take on timelines? If you can, give us a sense of how long some of these things have taken, from your experience, and whether or not you think a hard date on some of these things would be helpful.

We can start with you, Chief Whiteduck.

11:55 a.m.

Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck

Clearly in the specific claims process we could accelerate. If we clarified the game plan, especially the calculation of the value of a claim, given the loss of revenue and whatnot, surely these things could be done within a three-year period. I don't think they should drag on for 10 or 15 years. When you have a lot of small claims, they could be resolved very quickly—in my view, within a year's time from the time they're accepted to negotiate. One year later you should be there. In most claims you could go quite quickly, I think.

The territorial claim, for the territory occupied by the Algonquins, will take more time, in my view—five to ten years, I think. You can't negotiate and set down all the rules and regulations that will govern the process in one year, that's for sure. At minimum, I think, as I mentioned, in five years, or 10 years maximum, you should be able to do it.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Chief Swappie, how has your experience been with how long timelines are, and what would you say about hard timelines saying that a settlement should be reached by a particular date?

11:55 a.m.

Chief, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach

Chief Noah Swappie

Could you repeat the question?

October 24th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

We had the director of the tribunal here, and he said that nothing motivates people to come to an agreement more than a court date. He basically said that if you're negotiating anything, there should be a definite date negotiated at the beginning to say we'll have this agreement concluded by such and such a date. It forces both parties to get the work done on time.

Would you agree with that statement, or would you say that we don't necessarily want a hard date because we want to get the right deal? Those are the two ditches to fall in: you want the right deal, but it might take a very long time, so in order to force a deal to come to pass, you put a hard date on it. Could you give us your thoughts on that scenario?

11:55 a.m.

Chief, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach

Chief Noah Swappie

To me, we shouldn't have to come up with hard dates or court dates if it were implemented properly. We have a classic example of how long we've been waiting. Our agreement was signed in 1978, and it took at least 40 years for one file to be realized.

A partnership agreement with Quebec was signed in 2009 to get this process advancing, and last month, was it...?

11:55 a.m.

Advisor, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach

Robert Prévost

Yes, it's starting to be implemented.

In the NEQA it said that Naskapis shall be trained and hired as wildlife protection officers. This was 1978. It was implemented with the Crees and the Inuit, and we've been requesting that for years and years. In 2005-06 we started to request it more. In the partnership Quebec agreement it stated that it would be implemented, and we just got funding this year. A Naskapi wildlife protection officer assistant will be hired on April 1, 2018.

It took 40 years for Quebec to implement one commitment in the NQA, when it was already implemented with the Inuit and the Cree. For 40 years or something, it was in black and white.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We have one minute left.

Vance, do you want to take it?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

That's a nice welcome to the committee.

11:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I will take the time to ask one question, and I'll give you time to actually answer it.

I recognize that within your communities you do establish strategic plans and visions that are, in fact, solidified and put in place by the entire community, not just one or two individuals. With that, it includes identifying objectives, attaching action plans to those objectives, and with that, of course, trying to execute those plans with respect to the resources you have available to you.

With respect to moving forward in an economic, social, and environmental resurgence, how do you find your future within this dialogue maturing, and what can this actually add to ultimately becoming more of an enabler so that you folks can satisfy the recommendations contained within your strategic plans?

Noon

Chief, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck

We've been hearing a lot of fine speeches and comments made by the Prime Minister and this government, but we need to see some action. We think if there's a will, there's a way, but sometimes the political will is not there. Really, we have a strategic plan for the bulk of our community. When we're looking at the development of the nation, each community that makes up our nation are at different levels of development, and there's a slow process sometimes to bring it up to speed on some of the key issues.

Clearly, things should change. If the political will is there, hopefully in the next 10 years, we could make a lot of improvements.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That is the goal.

That ends this portion of our work today. I want to thank you for taking the time, travelling to the standing committee, and sharing your thoughts and briefs. Meegwetch.

We'll suspend so that the next panel can convene.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I'd like to call the meeting back to order. Thank you, everyone, for quickly reorganizing.

We are dealing with a very complex issue—compensation for historic wrongs, for addressing things that were shorted, that we look to in a process of reconciliation—so we want to hear from you. We will be able to create a report, as members of Parliament, that will go to the House. The minister and the department will be responding, so it will be on the public record. This will help to raise these issues and move these files forward. At least it's the goal of this committee to be part of that solution.

We welcome both groups to our committee. As you know, the process is 10 minutes to present. I'll give you a heads-up. You'll notice that I'll give you the number of minutes left as we get very close. I'll give you a signal to wrap up. After that, we'll go through a period of questions and answers from the MPs.

We will begin with the president of ITK.

Mr. President, welcome. It's nice to see you again.

12:05 p.m.

Natan Obed President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Qujannamiik.

Thank you so much, members of the committee and my colleagues from the Government of Nunavut. We welcome the opportunity to make remarks here today.

I want to start by saying that land claims affect each and every Inuit across Inuit Nunangat, across our country. We grew up with these ideas of our organizations negotiating with the federal government and with provinces and territories about our rights and about our future. We grew up in a really unsettled time, and so my generation thinks of land claims in a very specific and personal way that immediately brings to mind the fact that our organizations weren't funded at all and we were basically borrowing money to negotiate land claims for, in many cases, 20 years, 25 years, or 30 years.

If we move forward to today, we have Inuit Nunangat settled land claims across our four regions. Nunatsiavut is a self-government in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's the third order of government. Then there is Nunavik in northern Quebec; Nunavut, of course, and the territories created out of the land claim agreement; and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in the Northwest Territories. Together they make up the sum total of Inuit Nunangat, our Inuit homeland. It's about 33% of Canada's land mass and over 50% of its coastline. It is a massive space co-managed by Inuit with governments, and it is a homogeneous policy space.

In thinking about not only the effect of land claims on Canada and on Canada's map, we also want to start thinking about land claims as changing the policy map, the way in which you think about how funding flows from the federal government to Canadians and, in this sense, to Inuit within Canada. We've been working very hard in the last couple of years to reimagine not only the way in which funding for essential services like housing or health care flows from the government to our Inuit jurisdictions but also the way in which Canadians think about the relationship between Inuit and the crown.

We still have tremendous challenges in implementing our land claim agreements. We still struggle with going from the provisions within our agreements into the reality that was imagined within them. Just like any piece of legislation that is passed, our land claim agreements have constitutional status in that they have a force of law, if you will, but there is also the 95% or 98% of the work that has to happen once the Canadian government has signed onto new legislation or a new land claim agreement to breathe life into it.

We have had challenges trying to work with the federal government and with the provinces and territories to just imagine what, let's say, co-management means with regard to decision-making in relation to wildlife or lands or waters; what procurement policies mean in the face of land claim agreements; the way in which economic development opportunities happen; the way in which education happens in the face of jurisdictional control; and the spirit and intent of the agreements, especially in relation to how to build Inuit workforces to take advantage of not only natural resource extraction but also opportunities within government.

We're still a long way away from creating the implementation scenario that we all imagined when we went on this nation-building exercise of settling comprehensive land claim agreements with Inuit. We still live in some of the worst socio-economic conditions in this country. We still have a life expectancy that is 10 years less than that for all other Canadians. There is a $60,000 median income gap between Inuit and non-Inuit who live in Inuit Nunangat, and we have very low levels of secondary and post-secondary attainment.

I'm not here to talk about the deficits of our population, but we have to recognize that there are those so as to galvanize our approach to create social equity in this country. Outside of the land claim implementation structures, there are these pieces of social equity that were never able to be negotiated within land claim agreements but that need to sit alongside of them in order for land claim agreements to be fully implemented. It's the idea of infrastructure and the fact that we still don't have broadband in Inuit Nunangat; we have insufficient ports, runways; we have insufficient subsidies for airline travel or other ways in which goods and services flow between southern Canada and Inuit Nunangat. Those are still essential pieces of the puzzle to ensure that land claim agreements and the honour of the crown are implemented within this country.

Our agreements are more than just a number of obligations. The idea that we have one provision, that you have to uphold the letter of the law to one provision or another, and that you spread them out across the federal government or across departments within provinces or territories, isn't really the way in which we as Inuit have imagined land claim agreements. This new relationship and this path towards shared success, the certainty that Canada gains from settling comprehensive land claim agreements with Inuit, especially in relation to sovereignty and economic development, is something that is very powerful. It attracts opportunity and investment in Inuit Nunangat. It creates the certainty that Canada has around sovereignty in the Arctic and the discussions that will happen in the next generation around the Northwest Passage and about shipping.

All of these can be seen through the lens of the relationship that Inuit have with the federal government, so more should be done to implement our agreements. More should be done to recognize the existing obligations and the relationship we already have with one another. The fact that there have been court cases or major concerns with the honour of the crown and the intent to implement our agreements not only frustrates us as Inuit but also, I think, at the Canadian level isn't what Canadians expect.

In this time of reconciliation, on this path forward that we want to share together, we all have to imagine that we have obligations that pre-exist this new space, which is only a few years old. We imagine that we want to honour the relationships we already have and the modern treaties that have the force of law. In this space we also are working with the government of today, and the Inuit-crown partnership declaration that was signed in Iqaluit by the Prime Minister and me in February has a number of joint party areas attached to it. The first is the implementation of land claim agreements. It is a priority, not only for Inuit but also for the crown, to implement modern treaties and land claim agreements and to create a renewed sense of partnership with the indigenous peoples—in this case, with Inuit. We do hope that in the coming budgets we will see a path towards that new relationship and the implementation of our land claim agreements.

For example, a robust portion of the upcoming Arctic policy should speak to land claim implementation or infrastructure development in this renewed relationship. It should address housing and overcoming our 40% overcrowding rate, because housing could not only help stabilize our economy but also improve the health of our people. It should show that Canada is a place of equity where, no matter where you live, there are basic levels of foundational services that you are entitled to as a Canadian. Throughout all of this, we remain proud Canadians. We remain patriotic, but also understanding that we have rights as indigenous peoples, whether through the United Nations, the Constitution, or our land claim agreements.

We want to create this shared country and shared space with you and with the federal government, provinces, and territories, but we want to do it as part of an evolving Inuit democracy. There is a space in Confederation for Inuit, and land claim agreements are part of the framework of that relationship. I do hope that we can find a way to make Canada recognize this relationship in the space that we already have.

Nakurmiik.