Evidence of meeting #81 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 provincial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Serge Beaudoin  Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Patrick Tanguy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Lyse Langevin  Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mario Boily  Acting Director General, Government Operations Centre, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you for being here.

This can get pretty political at times, if you don't mind my saying. You have the federal government, provincial governments, different bands, and then the Red Cross. The more you evacuate people, or if they don't want to evacuate because there are situations where the chief is under election or whatever.... How do we bring all these groups together, and then settle it?

In my city of Saskatoon and in Prince Albert, we'll start there, this happens every year. We're bringing in bands. We're bringing in people. It's two weeks. It's three weeks. Then it's six weeks. Tensions get high. The cities are involved. I have to admit, resources are being stretched. How do we deal with all of this in a simple manner? I've seen families split. The mom and the kids are in Saskatoon and the dad's in Prince Albert, or vice versa. I see it every year in our newspaper. Unfortunately, it's the second week in or it's the fourth week in and tempers start to flare. How do we deal with this?

We don't talk about politics, but indigenous situations can get very political when there are evacuations. We've seen it everywhere in this country when somebody is standing on a soapbox making this a political issue.

11:55 a.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

Yes, and I greatly sympathize with those who are being evacuated because that's difficult. I recognize first responders as well trying to help people get out of harm's way and there are occasions when people get split up. That's a tragedy in itself at the personal and family level for sure. Definitely we need to get better at resolving those issues. Again, it depends on where you are. In Ontario, Kapuskasing is a host community for evacuees on a regular basis. They have a system in place that's pretty well oiled to receive families and provide services, etc. But we need to get better at having that type of a resource accessible across the country.

Also, MP McLeod mentioned earlier there are proposals for an emergency reception centre in B.C. First nations are hosting first nation communities. There's better cultural awareness, more traditional food, in a way a better understanding of the people who are being hosted. That should be looked at in the context of the lessons learned event, but also in terms of continuous improvements from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

I see my colleague Patrick is itching to get in.

11:55 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

No, no, I think he had great points. I just want to add that this is asking us.... We've been talking a lot about lessons learned, but we need to have evacuation plans in place, because otherwise there is a bit of chaos that happens. If you are moving some elders to different communities, maybe if you had a plan in the first place you would know where other communities could be welcoming evacuated communities, indigenous or not. I think that's where we need to turn our attention to, the planning aspect of it.

At Public Safety Canada, I think we are doing a good job when it comes to non-indigenous, but we need to work more closely with Indigenous Services. I was referring to this very bureaucratic jargon about creating an inventory and all that stuff. Actually, this is going to empower us to co-develop those evacuation plans with indigenous communities. What is the stuff they have to fight any fires or to evacuate?

Under the oceans protection plan, there are great initiatives that are being done to empower indigenous communities to have access to material and hardware that would actually help them, and to have plans and monitoring. I think we need to use those examples.

Noon

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I have a little time here now.

What are the standards? You say that first nations manage their own fire protection services. I'm just looking here, under “On-reserve fire protection”. Are there standards in this country for individual bands? If they are managing them, do we have a Canadian-made standard that we are following? Do we have a standard for each reserve in this country, or is it up to the band whether they spend the money and what they spend it on? We have to have some standards on reserves in this country, I would think. Is there a standard?

Noon

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

There is no standard at this moment.

Noon

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

There is no standard.

November 2nd, 2017 / noon

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

Thank you for the answer.

That is why the institution of the fire marshal is really key, because it will drive the standard. It will have legislation to go with it that would permit the bands and the first nations to adopt the building codes and so on. That is why it is so key.

Noon

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

It's long overdue.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

That, technically, concludes our hour. I'm going to ask the committee to allow a bit of discretion for the chair to ask some questions. I understand that this has been done in other committees. Given that Manitoba faced one of the worst fire evacuations in recent history, I would ask your indulgence to ask a couple of questions.

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you. I'll try to make it quick. I'll be done within 60 minutes.

Noon

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

From what I hear, the situation in Manitoba was dramatically different from the situation in British Columbia, which was wholesome. Yes, there were glitches, but overall there was co-operation and respect for culture, and people were through that emergency in relatively good shape. Unfortunately, the situation in Manitoba was not the same. It was dire. It was extremely stressful. People were lost. Six thousand people were evacuated, most airlifted. There were delays. Some would argue that life was in jeopardy. There was massive confusion from the chiefs not knowing whom to approach.

The situation was so dramatically different that I would like some.... Is that because, in this circumstance, Manitoba didn't have an emergency plan? I'm sure you are aware that the chiefs were marching on the legislature, calling for the province to declare a state of emergency, when actually they should have been contacting Indigenous Services.

Can you put it in some context? Why was there such disarray this year for the fire evacuees?

Noon

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

I can't speak to why there was disarray, besides the fact that it was an oncoming emergency situation that occurred fairly quickly. Folks were put in the face of having to evacuate very quickly, exercising their emergency management plans. The Canadian Red Cross, which was in charge of the evacuations, is definitely doing a lessons learned event and trying to ensure that it builds on what occurred and how to resolve it.

That being said, some first nations actually recognize the Red Cross for what it did very well. Poplar River, just last week, gave the Canadian Red Cross an award for helping them get out of harm's way.

It's never perfect, but we need continuous improvement. We need to build on the successes. We need to look at what happened in Poplar River and make sure that's learned. Why did that go well, and why didn't it go well in another community? When we have organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, which want to step up and provide better services, we are in a better spot.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Poplar River was the first fire, so there was actually capacity in hotel rooms, or at least rooms were opened for evacuees, while apparently at other times rooms were not opened for evacuees. Was there agreement to sign the five-year deal with the Red Cross from the Island Lake band?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

The agreement was not sought by the individual first nations.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

In the agreement with the Red Cross, what was the consultation process with indigenous people in Manitoba?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

That one was an extension of an existing agreement. The consultation, per se, occurred at a high level between officials from the regional offices to leadership of Manitoba first nation representative organizations. It wasn't a first nation by first nation approach.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Was that organization AFN?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

I can get you the names.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please.

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

There is the Manitoba Interlake Tribal Council, for instance. I can give you the specifics.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Firefighters remained at St. Theresa Point and other communities to fight the fire locally, apparently saving buildings that are estimated at a value of over $30 million, but those individuals didn't have equipment. The chief indicated that they are concerned that they will not be compensated, because these are not identified as official firefighters. Will Indigenous Services look at equivalency of those people who stayed behind and saved those communities?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

If these are costs related to fighting fires in indigenous communities and they were incurred during the actual emergency event, they would be eligible under the emergency management assistance program of the department.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good.

How many of the communities this year were airlifted?