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

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Welcome, everyone. We're having our 84th meeting of the indigenous and northern affairs committee. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying the fire safety and emergency management systems in indigenous communities.

First, I'd like to recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. It's important for us to start to recognize that as Canada is moving through a period of reconciliation.

Welcome to our committee. Unfortunately, we've cut your time a bit. If it's okay with the committee, we're going to do seven minutes for each political party. Does that seem to work? That will take us a bit past 12 o'clock, but it will give everybody an opportunity.

You'll have 10 minutes to present and then we'll go into the round of questioning. I'll give you a signal when we're getting close to the end.

11:35 a.m.

Jean-Philippe Tizi Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Madam Chair, and members of the committee, thanks so much for the invitation to speak with you today.

My name is Jean-Philippe Tizi. I'm the chief of Canadian operations with the Canadian Red Cross. I'm joined today by Bill Mintram, senior manager of indigenous relations within the Canadian Red Cross.

We are very pleased to be with you today to share some of the observations and learnings from this year's wildfire season, which, as we know, has been extremely intense.

I would like to start by speaking briefly about the Canadian Red Cross collaboration with indigenous people and communities across the country. The Canadian Red Cross has a long history of working with indigenous people and communities. We have in fact worked with over 200 first nations across Canada so far. The community is at the centre of all Canadian Red Cross work and our goal is, obviously, to empower community leadership and enhance local capacity in a community-driven and community-led format. As an organization, we are committed to reconciliation, cultural safety, and collaboration with indigenous leadership, community organizations, and partners. We are also committed to a community-based service delivery that acknowledges first nations, Métis, and Inuit sovereignty, including nation-to-nation relationships.

Wildfire season 2017, as we know, was an extremely intense season that impacted so many people across the country, but mainly in the west. This summer we saw an active wildfire season with more than 5,300 fires that burned an area larger than 34,000 square kilometres. As part of this response, the Red Cross worked closely alongside indigenous people and communities, provincial governments, and INAC, of course, to assist more than 84,270 Canadians. This work included mobilizing more than 3,000 personal support people across more than 57 locations, including providing support to over 30 affected indigenous communities across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, of course, British Columbia, and also some in Alberta in a more limited fashion. Allow me to highlight some of the key actions of our work.

In Manitoba the Red Cross supported five indigenous communities. As you know, we were working with local leadership, INAC, and DND to coordinate the evacuation of more than 7,200 people. We arranged around 300 flights. We mobilized our troops and our logistic capacities to organize those flights. We have been supported as well by DND, who mobilized 12 flights as well just to complete the work. Also, as part of a five-year agreement with INAC we have been providing emergency supports to Manitoba first nations. Our team has worked with 12 first nations on emergency preparedness activities before this season and is now continuing. That's Manitoba in a very short fashion.

For Saskatchewan, in September 2017 extreme heat and dry weather resulted in the evacuation of 2,860 people. Evacuees were sent to Prince Albert and Saskatoon. We again provided emergency social services to all the evacuees on behalf of the provincial authorities for a total of 24 days. Again, it was a very long evacuation. This support included accommodation for 2,860 evacuees as well as the distribution of over 6,500 supplies, including cots, blankets, and comfort kits.

In B.C., obviously the largest of all the efforts this summer, there was a very long and intense response. We responded to hundreds of fires across the province and we assisted in B.C. more than 50,000 Canadians in the provision of accommodation, registration, emergency financial assistance, and individual support via casework. Of course, the work continues to be delivered now.

To date, our teams have conducted over 100 visits to the 24 indigenous communities that were impacted by this summer's wildfires. We are working closely with local leadership to understand how best we can support their population as they return to their new normal.

To date, these initiatives have included the following:

Around safety and well-being, obviously, we have learned a lot. Learning from other disasters has taught us the need to increase our support for mental and emotional well-being for people suffering from the psychosocial impact of evacuation.

The work continues to be done in collaboration with partners such as the B.C. health authorities, the First Nations Health Authority, INAC, and others to avoid duplication. This support extends for months and even years for those most vulnerable. We know it's a long run here.

In the area of community partnerships, community partnership grants are a vital aspect to helping communities recover. The projects are generated by local groups and reflect community priorities and culture. This support includes grants for schools, local governments, first nation bands, and community organizations to support responses and recovery. For example, we have recently approved a grant for first nation bands to assist with their costs to hunt outside their usual area as the animals have moved due to the fires. That's the typical type of support we could provide. Another example of community partnership requests from indigenous communities is for cultural gatherings and ceremonies which are, as we know, an important part of their recovery process.

Finally, there's support for small business. Another great example of how we are meeting the unique needs of indigenous communities is through our support for small business, including not-for-profit organizations, and of course, first nations in British Columbia on the inclusion of cultural livelihoods, recognizing the value in indigenous communities of individuals whose primary sources of income are cultural, artisanal, and through traditional hunting, trapping, and fishing. I'm very pleased to share that to date, over 2,900 applications have been received and over 2,100 of these applications have already been approved and processed in terms of assistance. The second phase of this program was just launched on November 20 and will continue to provide relief for small businesses and those living cultural livelihoods in a similar way to our support for individuals and families.

Obviously, lots of lessons have been learned. Again, it has been a very intense season, another one after Fort McMurray last year, and the Canadian Red Cross is obviously committed to work alongside communities before, during, and after disasters. It's a long run. We know one of the teams is still on the ground delivering services and will be there for a long time in B.C., in particular.

As part of this commitment, we are currently conducting consultations on our wildfire 2017 response with indigenous communities across all three provinces. Feedback from community members, local organizations, and other partners will help us continue to shape and adapt our programming.

We have three major recommendations. There are many others, but I just wanted to share those with you and with this committee at this time.

I will now turn to the first lesson and recommendation. The first response to any disaster is always local. It's through here; it's through international. We recommend investment in preparedness activities. We need to boost the investment in preparedness activities which would help enhance local capacity from within indigenous communities. We're doing well collectively. We believe that we can do much more again in terms of preparing communities and reducing risk and impact of future disasters.

Second, it is crucial to recognize that the diversity of indigenous communities and their individual languages, customs, cultures, and their community history, while ensuring culturally appropriate emergency preparedness tools, training, and activities. Adapting the approach to the very different nations, bands, communities across Canada is essential.

Finally, there is a need for increased collaboration with indigenous people and communities in both preparing and responding to emergencies of all kinds.

Madam Chair, and members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today. We'll be very pleased to respond to any questions you may have.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Very good.

Questioning begins with MP Mike Bossio.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, both, very much for being here today and providing this testimony. We have a tale of two cities, or in this case, a tale of two provinces. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times: the best of times being in B.C. as far as how things are rolled out with the evacuations, and unfortunately, by the looks of it, the worst of times in Manitoba, in the rollout there.

What would you say would be the key factors in the differences between what occurred in B.C. and what occurred in Manitoba?

11:40 a.m.

Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Jean-Philippe Tizi

Thanks very much for the question. Bill will start to answer it.

11:40 a.m.

Bill Mintram Senior Manager, Indigenous Relations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

In looking at the responses between provinces, because the scope and the dynamics are very different in relation to how we're providing services, we are doing our best to ensure that we're working with communities, working with the leadership, and striving to meet the needs of the people. The dynamic between Manitoba, as presented, and British Columbia.... They are very different relationships in terms of working with community. Manitoba is working with the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in a manner in which.... Sorry.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

It's okay. Take your time.

Would you say that not having the provincial relationship and the preparedness is a vehicle in that relationship? Would you say that is one of the key factors in the difference between B.C., which is very engaged in preparedness, and Manitoba, which does not have that same kind of relationship?

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Jean-Philippe Tizi

Just to complete here, yes, absolutely. In Manitoba we have a very solid agreement with INAC and an extremely solid relationship with the 64 bands, and we have been very active over the last three, four, five years. In fact, we've also started to be very active in the area of emergency preparedness. The ground is very solid. The collaboration is very much there. That's one factor.

The second factor is obviously the magnitude. We're talking about 7,200 people who were evacuated. It's not 56,000 people. In B.C. we have had a very good dialogue with B.C. authorities, and with first nations also. We haven't reached the same level of collective preparedness. That's what we are looking at now. We're looking ahead in terms of lessons learned. We know—and that's the message we convey everywhere—that we would rather have the dialogue about the role of the Red Cross, how we work collectively, and who is doing what before an event. That's basically what made a difference. Obviously, again, the magnitude was so different in the number of communities that were impacted. People were evacuated for two months. It was extremely long. It was another type of situation there.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Two of the recommendations that you spoke to were the diversity of indigenous communities and having an understanding of language, culture, and so on. Indigenous collaboration was the third one. How many members of the Red Cross who are engaged in this service are of indigenous origin? What percentage, would you say, of the employees actually have direct indigenous backgrounds that can be tied to these communities?

11:45 a.m.

Senior Manager, Indigenous Relations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Bill Mintram

I don't have national numbers, but in Manitoba, around 27% of the staff are indigenous.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

What about in B.C.?

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Jean-Philippe Tizi

B.C. is lower. I don't have the exact number.

I'll mention two things, though. One is that there is an organizational commitment. Last year our board approved a position on reconciliation and made a strong commitment about increasing the number of volunteers and staff coming from first nation communities. That's in the mix; it's in the plan, and we're progressing. In fact, in Manitoba it was even higher. In B.C., we have some team members. We also formed outreach teams with indigenous people.

We do recognize it's not enough, though. We're on the right track, but we need to amend the capacities, including capacities coming from first nation communities.

November 21st, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Of course, you spoke about preparedness and investing in preparedness. If the Red Cross is going to fulfill this service and this role in the future, how much of that preparedness is the responsibility of the Red Cross itself? What kind of training is going into Red Cross employees, in particular, indigenous individuals, to try to get that number from 26% to a much higher number? Is there an active program in place right now that is seeking to recruit and train indigenous people to fulfill these responsibilities?

11:45 a.m.

Chief, Domestic Operations, National Office, Canadian Red Cross

Jean-Philippe Tizi

There are two ways to respond to that, if I may.

First of all, the responsibility to prepare is on the community. We're there to support and to offer the technical expertise. We have the know-how and the knowledge, which we can share, but first and foremost it's for the community to take this responsibility. That's the first response.

The second is that, as I've said, we have a plan of action that we will be activating in March to boost the number of people we train who are coming from indigenous communities.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you, Mr. Bossio.

Questioning now moves to MP Arnold Viersen.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our guests for being here today.

If you'll indulge me for a moment, I have a bit of committee business that I'd like to move into.

Madam Chair, two weeks ago, I put forward a notice of motion for the Privy Council to appear before this committee. I think everybody has had a chance to look at that motion since then. Since I've moved that motion, in fact, it appears that three more people have either resigned or been removed from the commission as well; I think it's three to five people. I think it's imperative that we vote on this motion and get the PCO here as soon as possible. I look forward to having a vote on that today.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP Anandasangaree.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Chair, I move that the debate be now adjourned.

11:50 a.m.

An hon. member

They don't care about the issue.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

It's non-debatable.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

There's a motion.

Do I need a seconder to close debate? No. All those in favour of closing debate? Those opposed?

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I think there was some confusion. Can we call the vote on the motion? Are you prepared?

11:50 a.m.

An hon. member

I would like a recorded vote.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Excuse me. I'd like to suspend and go in camera.