Evidence of meeting #84 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 manitoba.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Philippe Tizi  Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross
Bill Mintram  Senior Manager, Indigenous Relations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross
Chief Jerry Daniels  Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.
Jolene Mercer  Director of Operations, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.
Garry McLean  Elder, Lake Manitoba First Nation

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Yes.

12:40 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

You have to get them an airstrip.

Imagine if what happened in Wasagamack happened in Poplar River, and you didn't have any time. If they hadn't had the boats, it would have been more of a catastrophe. The risk still exists, because the communities don't have....

The community of Pauingassi, which is a lot smaller, doesn't even have an airstrip. It's very isolated. In the same region, Little Grand Rapids doesn't even have a road to the airstrip. If they ever face the same kind of situation, these communities are going to be in a more dire circumstance than they were at Island Lake. At least in Island Lake, they have a bigger lake. They have other communities in the region they can go to that can provide shelter to the community.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I heard about the shelter issue in Winnipeg when we were there. In Saskatchewan, although we had our challenges, we made sure that in Prince Albert and Saskatoon those who needed to be were at least put up in hotels. You didn't have that in Manitoba. When we visited that centre, that was one of the sticking points.

The respect for elders or children was an issue in these places. Would you agree with that?

12:45 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

Oh, yes, and I think we heard it from the leadership back home, in terms of the response when they were in the shelters. There were a lot of different concerns. I mean, it went into the media. It was all over the place, in terms of the leaders from the Island Lake region and what they were saying.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have about 10 seconds left.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Go ahead, Chief Roulette.

12:45 p.m.

Garry McLean Elder, Lake Manitoba First Nation

I'm Elder McLean. My name is Garry McLean.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Yes, that's right.

12:45 p.m.

Elder, Lake Manitoba First Nation

Garry McLean

[Witness speaks in Saulteaux]

That wasn't French. That was Saulteaux, Ojibway territory.

As elders, we're taught to respect all of you people here, because all of you are our brothers and our sisters. We respect that.

As you know, in Canada, we have roughly 220 isolated first nations communities in Canada. In Manitoba, we have 22. In our region, we have four. In the southeast, with 32 communities, four are isolated communities.

In those communities, the Manitoba firefighters association was set up to do brush fires in the early nineties. They were only funded to do brush fires. In Manitoba, when the flood in 1997 came, we weren't affected until two months after. Morris was affected in the spring. The water doesn't get to our communities until two months or three months after, so often we have time to prepare.

The problem that we have, of course, is with the region. I mean, emergency funding for the department of Indian affairs is very limited. It's very low in Canada, and not just in Manitoba but in Canada.

I think, as a committee, if you're going to make recommendations to the finance minister, those are the things you need to include. We have plans in place. We've presented some of those to the region, but the region is stuck with things too. As you know, there's roughly $10 billion in Canada. Manitoba gets around $1.6 billion to be spread out in 63 communities. That doesn't include new emergencies. That's the problem we have. With anything over $500,000, you have to go to the Treasury Board, and that causes difficulty. The first nations are not allowed to come directly to the Treasury Board; we have to go through the region, and that's the problem.

Meegwetch.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thanks, Garry.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right, the questioning goes to MP Donnelly.

Welcome.

November 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair. It's my first time subbing in at this committee, so thanks for having me.

Thank you, witnesses, for providing your testimony on this study on wildfires in first nations communities.

I want to first off say I'm sorry for any losses to those families in the communities you talked about, in terms of the impacts of fires this past summer.

Grand Chief, you gave a lot of background information. You mentioned the infrastructure that you're faced with in some of the communities, and the slow response and inadequate financing, and some of the problems. There was a presentation of two recommendations, looking at proper funding, and your wanting controls over implementing your plans.

Can we go back a step? You also referenced developing a protocol. Forgive my ignorance, but is there such a protocol that exists with your communities and the federal and provincial governments?

12:45 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

Yes. The firefighters do communicate among themselves throughout the province, so there is communication that's happening. What I'm trying to do is to push towards expanding that beyond just within our communities, to get more involved in the whole region, co-operation mainly, so that we can find efficiencies. That takes a commitment from leadership within municipalities to ensure that happens.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I was going to ask you to expand on that. What would that look like? Is there a willingness from the federal department and governments to go with what you're saying or is it more of a barrier as a problem?

12:50 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

I don't know if we've actually gone down this path where we've had capital assets that are made available, that do not exist within first nations, where they'll respond in a timely fashion in a way that we need. We don't know who was involved in the monitoring of the fire in Wasagamack. How did that get up so quickly? Did we know the wind trajectory, all the different factors that go into assessing the level of risk?

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

We talk a lot about free, prior, and informed consent. What you're proposing in terms of establishing a protocol sounds like a very good opportunity for a longer term solution. How do we get at the systemic problems that you're identifying to this committee and a protocol for how we talk to each other government to government to government? It seems like that makes sense. Then we could get down into the specific plans and funding and timelines, etc.

12:50 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

It's definitely a delicate balance. There are a lot of people who are a part of that discussion. I see the value in partnership and working together. I think we could find a lot of efficiencies that we don't have identified right now. Just by working together in that fashion you allow for more issues to be worked on.

There are lots of different things. With flooding, it has to do with some of the ditches within the municipality that are not cleared out. We need to deal with those kinds of things as well.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

In terms of amenities for firefighters and infrastructure, you mentioned that they're inadequate in some communities. Could you talk about the current infrastructure that exists and what's needed?

12:50 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

There's a huge lack of infrastructure. We've discussed among the communities how to manage evacuation in the future, trying to build from what we've seen. Some of the communities want to have more.... It needs to be taken at a higher level of concern. If you had a community or region the size of Island Lake evacuate anywhere in Manitoba, hotels would have been made available. We can look at any example for that. With10,000 people moving out of a community, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't put them into the RBC centre.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

There doesn't seem to be a level that exists in terms of calling a state of emergency, in terms of how many people are affected.

12:50 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

That's what I'm trying to work for. I'm trying to have a threshold. It's on everything. We need to have a standard for measuring the honour of the crown. How do you establish that or how do we establish a genuine partnership? We have to have something that says this is where it is. We have to try to move in that direction.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Could you talk about the funding needed? We're just talking about control and how to develop that control and involve first nation communities more in control. Your other recommendation was about proper funding. I think you mentioned earlier that you didn't have the numbers. Is there a way to find out how much financing is needed to properly fund emergency response, wildfires?

12:50 p.m.

Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

We work with our partners. That's what I've said. The IRTC right now is the one that is advancing it within our region. A lot of it is capacity within all the organizations. It's difficult to do something at a higher level, at a regional level. We build off of our partners. We work with the ones who are leading it. We try to build off of the best of our people. We try not to duplicate that.

When I say the IRTC is moving in this direction, I'm saying, yes, we support this, this needs to happen, but we want to be a part of expanding that to the entire region. That's our job, to ensure that takes place. We want to make sure that it happens within a time frame.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You're done.

Questioning now goes to MP Anandasangaree.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, panel, for joining us this afternoon.

We've heard quite a bit of testimony recommending an indigenous fire marshal. I'd like to get a sense of your thoughts on what kind of function they would have and what kind of consultation you have had with anyone relating to this so far.