Evidence of meeting #83 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 evacuated.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Keith Maracle  President, First Nations National Building Officers Association
John Kiedrowski  Project Manager and Consultant, First Nations National Building Officers Association
Viola Thomas  Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc
David McDougall  Chief, St. Theresa Point First Nation
Al Richmond  Chair, Cariboo Regional District
Judy Klassen  Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Kewatinook, As an Individual

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

What advice would you give? I know I don't have a lot of time left, but if you had a few points that you think are key to creating a successful fire marshal's office, what would they be?

11:40 a.m.

Project Manager and Consultant, First Nations National Building Officers Association

John Kiedrowski

I would suggest inspections of renovated buildings in first nation communities. That's really where the death traps are, and it's not being done.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Do indigenous building officers now exist in all first nations? Do you know?

You're a national organization, right?

11:40 a.m.

President, First Nations National Building Officers Association

Keith Maracle

They exist in all provinces but not in all first nations. We have building inspectors in every province across Canada.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Are those building inspectors advising all the different first nations on setting up building codes?

11:45 a.m.

President, First Nations National Building Officers Association

Keith Maracle

They advise the ones they're responsible for.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

So, there are many that don't have any whatsoever.

11:45 a.m.

President, First Nations National Building Officers Association

Keith Maracle

That's right.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Are there any training programs in place right now for building officers?

11:45 a.m.

President, First Nations National Building Officers Association

11:45 a.m.

Project Manager and Consultant, First Nations National Building Officers Association

John Kiedrowski

I think the challenge, Mike, is that the inspectors may be telling the chief and council what to do, but a lot of chiefs and councils don't even have that framework, such as building codes and building bylaws.

For example, if Keith walks into a community and sees that something is not being built in accordance with the fire code, he can't do a stop-work order. He can't stop it down. Mostly, chiefs and council say, “Look, we have to get this thing built, and we're not going to do the inspection because we need to ensure that the home is being built so that we can get that payment done. It may not be in accordance with the codes, but we need to get that payment through.”

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

The fire marshal would help with that.

11:45 a.m.

Project Manager and Consultant, First Nations National Building Officers Association

John Kiedrowski

Well, he would help in terms of education.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right.

Questioning moves to MP Cathy McLeod.

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses here.

I'm going to start, and of course the focus will be the B.C. wildfire issue. To put it in perspective, I think 1.2 million hectares burnt. That's 3 million acres, and tens of thousands of people evacuated. It's not as big a challenge in terms of remoteness as it is in terms of its massive scope.

I do want to give a particular shout-out to Viola, whom I'm really glad to see her here today. Tk’emlúps opened up their powwow grounds. It didn't matter whether you were first nations or non-first nations, because they welcomed people from across the province. They fed them. They provided showers and washrooms. It was just very heartwarming. I think there's a great appreciation for what your band and community did.

When we first talked about it, there were barriers between first nations and non-first nations. You could be supported to help first nations, but you were sort of told that the other people didn't count in terms of getting support, even though you opened up your land and your hearts to them, and fed them. Did that issue get resolved?

11:45 a.m.

Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Viola Thomas

No. We're still trying to resolve that, and it hasn't been resolved at all. It's still a big challenge.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Where is the challenge? Obviously, for the non-first nations people, the responsibility would be through province, perhaps right across.... Where's that challenge still?

11:45 a.m.

Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Viola Thomas

It's at all levels. An example is the people who were evacuated from Esk'etemc, one of the neighbouring Secwépemc reserves. Because the emergency preparedness centre that was set up in the city didn't have them on their list as an evacuated community, those individuals were denied support. It was just as fundamental as that: they didn't know that it was a community of people who were evacuated, so they couldn't even get the emergency allowance because they weren't on the list. It starts at the very basic level.

The other challenge is that first nations aren't adequately acknowledged or recognized as a local authority in the same way as municipalities. Therefore, in any provincial or federal emergency planning preparedness training, we're not included. We should be included, because we have four bridges that come through our community, we have Highway 1, we have the Trans-Canada Highway, and we also have the CN railway that comes through our community. To exclude first nations in that way is putting all of our lives in danger.

We're already at risk because of the wildfires killing off a lot of the animals. That's food security for a lot of our families who hunt in the winter and fish in the summer. There will be a lot of families who will have hard times this winter because of the impact of the wildfires. Historically, Canada used to be proactive and have effective collaboration around resource management to prevent wildfires. Traditionally, our people did early spring fires to get rid of the underbrush, so that was a prevention method. We did traditional fire burning, so we need to restore some of those practices, but we need Canada and the provinces to actively include us in training around emergency preparedness.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I have two questions.

Typically, a local government declares a state of emergency. A province can declare a state of emergency.... There are levels. When you talked about Kamloops declaring a local state of emergency and triggering support, for example, for the flooding that you talked about, was a local state of emergency also declared for your flooding, or do the first nations not have the ability to declare an emergency?

11:50 a.m.

Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Viola Thomas

We didn't have the ability to declare that, so that's one of the barriers. That's a really good example of why you need to engage first nations in emergency preparedness.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

We heard on Tuesday from the First Nations' Emergency Services Society, who have a bit of a coordination and a responsibility role. How does that group interplay with your community?

11:50 a.m.

Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Viola Thomas

We had some real challenges with trying to convince the Red Cross to come to our powwow grounds to train our volunteers and staff on how to access the emergency allowances.

The application requires that you have an electronic mail address. A lot of our people don't have computers. They're not connected to the Internet, so even the fundamental process of making applications for emergency allowances doesn't take into consideration our realities within first nations communities.

Fundamentally, the Red Cross really needs to step up and train more indigenous people if they're going to be the first responder for emergency preparedness for our communities because, quite frankly, they were a barrier to us. It took four weeks before they were able to send their staff over to train our volunteers.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Maybe you can spend some time thinking about it, because we can take submissions for the next little while, but if you were going to give two or three recommendations, and I'm hearing indigenous community members trained by Red Cross.... Can you talk about what you would believe would be some important lessons learned that we could contemplate?

11:50 a.m.

Councillor, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Viola Thomas

I think that the public safety ministry—

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Make it a very short answer, please.