Evidence of meeting #79 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 funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Herb Norwegian  Grand Chief, Dehcho First Nations
Harry St. Denis  Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation
Wayne McKenzie  Chief, Timiskaming First Nation
Cam Stewart  Director, Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Centre of Manitoba
Patricia Myran  Assistant Director, Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Centre of Manitoba
Douglas Eyford  Lawyer, Eyford Macaulay LLP, As an Individual
Glenn Archie  Head Negotiator, Flood Claims Negotiations, Mishkosiminiziibiing First Nation

11:30 a.m.

Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation

Chief Harry St. Denis

As I stated, the requirement to extinguish title at the end is a non-starter for the Algonquins. Any claim should be based on facts, not just people drawing lines on a map with a crayon. We have been doing research for the past 20 years or so, through contributions, not loan funding, which is where, once you have your claim accepted by the federal government, automatically the loan funding kicks in. After that research, or if you're asked to clarify something by the federal government or anybody, you have to borrow money to do it. I don't think we should have to borrow money. It should all be based on contributions and on facts.

It's nice to have an overall Algonquin claim, but if that can't be done, then the ones who are ready to negotiate, if the conditions are there for both sides.... You mentioned that everybody has to show good faith. We have shown good faith for a few hundred years now. What more do we have to do? What more do we have to give up in order to accommodate the governments? It's time the governments accommodated our interests. The provincial governments have to be involved, of course, because now a lot of areas of jurisdiction have been transferred over to the province, including lands and resources, which we require. So the provinces have to be involved as well, and in some cases the municipalities. The federal government should do the duty that it owes to the Algonquin people to assist in bringing the governments to the table with the interests of the Algonquins in mind for a change. That's what it would look like.

To put a specific policy in place is not easy; there's no one-size-fits-all document because of our diverse communities. This is true even among the Algonquins, let alone across the country. It depends on different situations, different fact situations, different locations. If some people want to negotiate under the current policy, that's fine, but we shouldn't be forced to. If we want a separate policy or a different approach, then we should be accommodated. As Mr. Norwegian mentioned, there should be interim measures. There should be interim protection of lands and resources while negotiations are going on. Some interim measures should be agreed to between the governments and the first nations. Otherwise there will be nothing left to negotiate. As you said, some of the negotiations take 30 or 40 years, and they're still no closer to being resolved than the day they started.

Thank you.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I will come back to this line next time, so continue on and we'll go back to it.

11:35 a.m.

Chief, Timiskaming First Nation

Chief Wayne McKenzie

I wanted to add to that a point about membership and who really has Algonquin blood in them. I'll go back to the Algonquins of Ontario. From what I heard they were just giving away status cards at these...they call them band offices, but I don't know what they really are. They hear that we're going to get land and we're going to get prime location on the water and money, like the $300-million claim. We have to be sure of who really is Anishinaabemowin, who really carries that spirit. This is why we're here. Many of us are thinking of our generations to come, for all these claims, and not just ourselves.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Viersen.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our guests for being here today. It is much appreciated.

Within the Northwest Territories, the lines seem to be clearly defined between the specific land claims. Even with the claim you are pursuing, the boundaries seem to be fairly firm. Could you explain a bit, Herb, about how you came to those boundaries and if there was any overlap with another claim?

11:40 a.m.

Grand Chief, Dehcho First Nations

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian

The boundary itself is something that has been there for thousands of years. It's derived out of family units that have harvested their areas, watersheds, and mountainous areas. It's very clear where these families harvest. Those areas were carved up and we were able to connect them. As a result of that, we were able to design a boundary around the entire Dehcho territory.

Mind you, a good part of that boundary goes into other jurisdictions such as the Yukon, parts of B.C., and Alberta. Our area that we've traditionally harvested for thousands of years goes way beyond the existing borders that were created.

Over the last few years we've confined ourselves to looking at what we can protect at this point. We then arrived at what's called an interim measures agreement. For the purposes of the interim measures agreement, we used the existing boundaries, such as the Alberta boundary, the B.C. boundary, and the Yukon boundary. Those boundaries became our areas where we would be able to identify lands and talk about jurisdiction.

We also had some claims settled around us, one of them being the Sahtu. Around the Norman Wells area, they have a boundary as a result of their final agreement, a line that's north of us. Also, the Tlicho have a line to the east of us. We have existing boundaries that we were able to negotiate with our neighbouring first nations. There are another four or five first nations who we still need to negotiate with.

Boundaries are always issues that are left towards a final agreement. As you come close to the end, to your final agreement, the boundaries are the issue that you bring to the table and try to wrap up. Normally, these things are quite fast. The information is there; everyone is brought on side, and a good, healthy discussion takes place.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Chief St. Denis, have you had any conversations with the Algonquins of Ontario? How would you come to an agreement on the boundaries? Wherever we go, that always seems to be a big part of this discussion.

11:40 a.m.

Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation

Chief Harry St. Denis

I have had discussions with Chief Kirby. I don't deal with the other nine so-called “Algonquins”. I don't recognize them as Algonquins, because they are not.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

We're working on another bill that has come through, Bill S-3, regarding who's entitled to status. One of the witnesses we had was advocating for genetic testing. What's your opinion on that?

11:40 a.m.

Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation

Chief Harry St. Denis

It might be a good investment if you invest in 7,000 of those AncestryDNA kits for the Algonquins of Ontario. I don't know how many would be left, but I think that the communities have to have a say. The whole Algonquin Nation, I think, should be the ones to decide who's an Algonquin and who is not an Algonquin. It shouldn't be left to anybody else to decide that because it is our right to decide that.

We have had meetings with the federal and provincial governments concerning the Algonquins of Ontario. I think it was in January 2013, Pete, if I'm not mistaken. There's no resolution. Although they say that our rights are going to be protected in any modern agreement that's signed, it's just not true. Even today for some of our member communities, especially from Kebaowek First Nation, who have title interest in an area near North Bay, their people are being charged, being harassed, and they're registered natives. They've being told, “Oh, you have to carry this Algonquins of Ontario card, and then you can hunt and fish at a certain time of the year.” These are people who have constitutionally protected rights, not rights that have been given to them by signing up to belong to a corporation, which is basically what the Algonquins of Ontario are. So we are far from having an agreement.

October 26th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

We heard this in the Northwest Territories as well, about the lists of people who are involved with these. But you will acknowledge when we say we're going to have it based on fact that this is a difficult list to come up with. If we're not prepared to go on strictly DNA evidence, and we're going to go on a community basis, well, that's highly disputed. In my own riding we have a lady who has DNA evidence that she's the daughter of a former chief, but she doesn't have status. How do we come to an agreement on who decides the list? What's the appeals process to say if you're not on the list, how do you get on the list? Also, if somebody's on the list who you think shouldn't be on the list, how do you get them off?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You only have a couple of seconds.

I want to remind MPs, please, that the goal of this is to actually hear from our presenters. When you talk out your time, you leave me in the spot where we don't give people an opportunity to answer. You have a couple of seconds. It has to be very short.

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation

Chief Harry St. Denis

It's a difficult question because there was always the court option for those people after. For the Algonquin people, we can have our criteria for establishing membership, but in the end it can be challenged by individuals and end up in court. It always seems that's where we end up when we're talking about constitutional issues all the time. It's a difficult question, I admit that.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now goes to MP Stetski, and welcome to the committee.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

From 2012 to 2015, I represented municipalities in southeastern British Columbia in treaty negotiations with the Ktunaxa First Nations. The discussions have been going on for about 12 years. The last meeting I was at they were reaching the agreement-in-principle stage. Through that very detailed process, the three years I was involved, I very much became a believer in treaties. Having said that, there are first nations who think there are ways to move forward other than treaties, and potentially other than court, these days the intermeasures that become permanent measures, for example. I'm really interested in hearing from all of the chiefs in terms of this given where things are.

I can tell you, Chief St. Denis, I absolutely agree. The reason that process moved forward is that all the negotiators, federal and provincial, had the best interests of the Ktunaxa in mind. It was a cash, the land, and a governance-structured discussion.

Given where you are, what do you think the best way to move forward is currently to achieve a better future? I believe treaties achieve a better future for everyone.

11:50 a.m.

Chief, Wolf Lake First Nation

Chief Harry St. Denis

I think it has to start, as I said earlier, from respect and recognition of our title and our rights. It can be a joint recognition of federal title and Algonquin title. I think we can have agreements in areas that really affect first nations—the environment, for example. Have our people have a say in environmental issues. Have a say in maybe resource revenue sharing from our lands and resources, which again would involve the provinces these days, because somehow Canada gave away all of our resources to the provinces, without our consent, of course. Those are a couple of ways and means.

Maybe it doesn't have to be a formal treaty in the end, as long as there is recognition. We're all here to stay. We can all benefit from the lands and the resources. We all have a say in protecting the environment, which is a concern for everybody these days. I think that's where we can start.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Chief McKenzie, do you have anything to add to that? Then I'd like to go to Chief Norwegian as well.

11:50 a.m.

Chief, Timiskaming First Nation

Chief Wayne McKenzie

Many modern-day treaties are extinguishing a lot of rights. I know that my community would not go for that, and neither probably would a lot of the Algonquin nation. As Harry was saying, there should be a lot of negotiating talks. Revenue sharing and resources are our big thing; they're always extracted without our say, if we have anything to do with developments, even.

I'll go back to examples. In the city of Ottawa, from what I was told, for a developer wanting to develop on the land, one of their first contacts is the Algonquins of Ontario. The Hydro dam in Chaudière Falls involved just them. We had no say. We had nothing to do with it. On Parliament Hill there's the billion-dollar renovation. We have nothing to do with it. There's not one Algonquin worker up there.

What's up with this reconciliation? This is right where that talk is coming from, and there are no Algonquins there, and you want to say we recognize you on our land? Let's stick to your word. Let's keep it.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have two minutes left.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Chief Norwegian, you have a very interesting model, and I think it's looked at across Canada as being a very innovative model and perhaps one that can be expanded. Give us your view on treaties, interim measures, or other ways to move forward.

11:50 a.m.

Grand Chief, Dehcho First Nations

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian

Thanks again. The name of the people you work for, the Ktunaxa, sounds very Dene, but from northern or southeastern B.C. It's interesting work that you've done.

In the Dehcho, we took a totally different spin on the whole notion of “treaty”. We have Métis people who live amongst us, and they are direct descendants of the Dene. Right away we were able to put the treaty aside and say that as a collective, because of our ancestry, we are all related. As a result, the Métis and the Dene have joined together and are now, today, negotiating with Canada.

The whole thing about the treaty was that it was not a tool to extinguish, although the other side tells you that they have their version of the treaty, which makes very clear that our rights have been extinguished to Canada. We, however, have taken the view that the treaty itself is a peace treaty. It's an arrangement whereby we would not declare war and we were not going to infringe upon the newcomers. We were able to arrive at that and there was that understanding, so we started negotiating.

The whole concept of the treaty recognizes our authority, our very own authority that we have as first nations people. Treaties actually are international documents that recognize the authority of the people you are doing business with. In our case, the Dehcho are signatories to the peace treaty of 1921. It became this whole issue of the land being clear, unsettled. This is where we are right now.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

11:55 a.m.

Grand Chief, Dehcho First Nations

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian

We're trying to clarify and put the position forward and trying to make it very clear that this is still our territory; we're together, and we're negotiating. That's where we are right now.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right.

For the final portion, the questioning moves to MP Anandasangaree for four minutes.