Evidence of meeting #87 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 working.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Hélène Laurendeau  Deputy Minister, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Joe Wild  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

The tribunal ruling against your department on May 26, 2017, said that still, in regard to Jordan's principle, your department was working on “a calculated, analyzed and informed policy choice based on financial impacts and potential risks rather than on the needs or the best interests of First Nations children.” That was what the tribunal found against your government.

Will you say that you will apply Jordan's principle to Inuit children and to non-status Indian children as well who are identified under the Human Rights Tribunal. Will you extend that?

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

It would not be my place in this setting to make that commitment because that is a conversation that I need to have with Inuit leaders. I speak with Natan Obed and other Inuit leaders on an extremely regular basis. This is not something that has been raised as a concern. Obviously if it were I would proceed with that conversation, but as I said to you, my commitment is to make sure that Inuit children, like first nations children, should have access to the care that they need. They should never be denied care on the basis of a jurisdictional dispute, and we will remain committed to that principle.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

I look forward to hearing more on that. When I see zero children being approved I can't believe that suddenly—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

What you're seeing there may be related to the fact that in territories health care is delivered by the territories through arrangements that we have with them. You'll see that there aren't cases, or there may be one or two scattered cases, I think, in British Columbia and that was because we have transferred responsibility to the British Columbia First Nations Health Authority.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

That concludes our time for that round.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

We'll move on to MP Anandasangaree.

We're moving back into the seven-minute round and we'll continue to work through the process.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Chair, I'll be splitting my time with MP Tootoo.

Minister Philpott, I want to quote you. You said, “Turning around the effects of generations of historic injustice and systemic discrimination against Canada's indigenous peoples could never be done fast enough.” I think you're absolutely right.

Could you tell us about some of the challenges that you see ahead as your department develops? Also, are you confident that we're going to be moving forward in the right direction in terms of the frustrations that people have confronted and faced over the years?

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

My goodness. I'm going to need a lot more than three minutes for that. We'll have to have a further conversation.

The challenges are enormous, as I indicated earlier, because we're essentially addressing generations' worth of discrimination. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action asks our government to recognize that the deep socio-economic gaps that exist are a result of past government policies. I fully acknowledge that. Changing those policies does take time and that's part of the responsibility of the working group of ministers on the review of laws and policies.

Let me give you a couple of concrete examples. I'm surprised no one has asked about water. I'd be happy to have a conversation about water. That's a perfect example of how I wish I could snap my fingers and make sure right now that every first nation in this country on reserve had access to clean drinking water.

There are challenges related to making sure that we fulfill our commitment that all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve will be lifted in a five-year time frame. That is not something that can be done instantaneously. As intelligent people will understand, it takes time to plan what a water system needs to look like. It takes time to make sure there's an operation and maintenance plan and to train water operators. It also takes long-term funding, which we have provided and had never been provided in the past.

We will get that work done. We can't do it instantly. We're working on that issue and a number of others to find ways to accelerate it as quickly as possible.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

I will yield the rest of my time to MP Tootoo.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

MP Tootoo.

12:20 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Gary.

Welcome to both ministers. I congratulate both you and the government for dissolving that entrenched, paternalistic, colonial structure that I think everyone in this room recognizes was a challenge to deal with. I'm optimistic about the change in that approach.

No one will disagree with me that Inuit are indigenous people in this country. My question is for Minister Philpott.

When you talk about indigenous services, which specific services? There are some that specify first nations. For my benefit and knowing where to go, what specific services for Inuit and Nunavut will we deal with under the new and improved department?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Thank you. It's an excellent question.

As I indicated earlier, we work very closely with Inuit leaders in our work here. In fact, the Prime Minister established something called a permanent bilateral mechanism. We signed it almost a year ago now, an agreement between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the representative of the four Inuit land claim organizations and governments, and our government on an Inuit-crown partnership committee. That is one of the tables that really drives our work forward in terms of setting the priorities of what Inuit want us to work on most urgently.

As it relates to my department, I can give you a few examples of that. One that I'm really enjoying, because it's so important, is the work that we're doing around our commitment to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat. This is something that's been a very, very long time coming. We've put together a task force within that committee. I've asked them, and Natan Obed has also commissioned this task force to come up with a very detailed plan as to how we're going to eliminate tuberculosis and what it's going to take. It's going to take things like housing. We have a really interesting approach to working with Inuit on a specific housing strategy for them. There is a whole range of services within our department.

I acknowledged in the past that Inuit have not necessarily known what their role is in terms of services. We are making sure that is clarified going forward.

12:20 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Okay, thank you, Minister Philpott.

I guess one of the other things, and it was mentioned earlier in comments, is that under the land claims agreement, there is a public government established under that modern treaty. The territorial government is responsible for providing some of those services like health care, education, and housing. I'm just wondering, because you talk about working with Inuit leaders, is there also a committee that you're working on with the territorial government as well so that they're not being left out of the picture?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I would say, yes, we are working with the territorial governments. In the case of two regions of Inuit Nunangat, we're working with the provinces that are associated. Again, an example is the tuberculosis task force, where the Government of Nunavut is intricately connected to the process. Again, we are looking, not only at a distinctions-based approach, in terms of the distinctions of indigenous peoples, but even within Inuit Nunangat, as you know, there are four regions. When you look at something like housing, we developed a really innovative approach to being able to deliver housing support directly to Inuit corporations in some cases. We were told that, in the case of Nunavut, that wouldn't be necessary, and that has worked effectively. We are always trying to be very flexible in our approach.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have 10 seconds left, sorry.

12:25 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Okay, thank you. I'll go very quickly.

On your priorities, you mentioned transforming the way health care is delivered in first nations, and your mandate letter talks about how to deliver health services to indigenous peoples. I just want make sure—that may have been just an oversight—that Inuit and indigenous peoples are included in that.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you. I'm sorry, I'll have to save the response for another opportunity.

Questioning now goes to MP McLeod.

November 30th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you. I have a comment, a request, and then a question.

First, I would like to make a comment in response to my colleague Kevin Waugh. I would suggest that a patrilineal approach is for a secret table in Ottawa with chiefs and government. Something that gives first nations the tools around transparency is the exact opposite of patriarchal. It is actually giving community members important information. I do want to just make that comment.

The next is actually a request. I think both of the ministers, more than perhaps many people, understand how challenging things are and can be in the north. They know there has been $5.6 million spent on an outside rink that the heritage minister indicated was going to go somewhere in Ottawa-Vanier. Already we spend $1.2 million of taxpayers' money on the canal per year, so I would just request, to the best of your abilities, that you advocate for this rink to go to a community in the north, and I'll be happy to come and cut the ribbon with you when they put it up there. I think it really is something that doesn't sit well with many taxpayers, and they might have some degree of comfort knowing that it went to a community in need.

I'm actually going back to the issue of the United Nations declaration. I know the minister said that National Chief Bellegarde said it doesn't mean veto. He has also said three times that it means the right to say “yes” and the right to say “no”. I've mentioned this a number of times. We've talked about the complication when things go across jurisdictional boundaries. We talk about the free, prior, and informed consent. We look at what you've committed in Bill S-3, where you're going to try to come up with something but you have a lot of commitments that criss-cross each other, as we talked about in the debates yesterday about Bill S-3. We've talked about it in terms of pipelines.

To give any degree of comfort in terms of what you're doing and where you're going, have you considered a Supreme Court of Canada reference in terms of what that will mean in these complicated situations, so that before you move forward in a way that has not had appropriate interpretations, we have the right to an appropriate interpretation?

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I think the discussion paper that Minister Carr and Minister McKenna have released on how we go forward on environmental assessment in large projects is truly respectful of indigenous rights, but also indigenous knowledge. Indigenous people must be included at the earliest time in a project, at its idea stage.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Minister, I don't disagree with that at all. I absolutely agree and I think most companies, if they don't, need to recognize that they need to start the conversations and the government needs to start the conversation. But I'm talking about a commitment around legislative process, changing the laws of this country, and not knowing exactly what those results might ultimately end up being.

I think it's not inappropriate. Discussion papers are great, but I think understanding implications from a legal perspective is also very important.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

We're very committed to consulting as we move forward on this rights recognition framework. Some of what you are discussing is being dealt with at the working group on laws and policy that Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould chairs. Basically, we will go out to consult about the kind of clarity and the kind of understanding that Canadians require in terms of how we will enshrine a rights recognition framework for Canada. This will be the hugely important work of this next chapter.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

My next area of concern is the friendship centres. I have had the opportunity, both as a committee member and as an individual, to visit friendship centres across this country. In my opinion, they do very significant work, and to be frank, they do it on a shoestring budget. Consistently in the last couple of years I've had panicked calls from friendship centres saying they have no commitment for their money. They have to string stuff together. In some cases they lay off staff. They have to look at their lease spots.

I know there's money for an urban aboriginal strategy. I know there are more organizations than just friendship centres that deliver services. But I'm going to ask, specifically, are you going to commit today that they are not going to have to go through this scramble year after year, where they're making panicked phone calls to you and panicked phone calls to the critics?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

This is a really important area. The recent census data confirmed to us that indigenous peoples are increasingly living in urban areas. If there is a specific organization you're concerned about, please contact me, and I would be happy to follow up with details on that.

We have been trying to reach out. I have heard from a number of MPs and have made sure they have the information available about the ongoing funding for friendship centres, which we have committed to and which should be widely known. If people are not aware, they should reach out to us.

In the supplementary estimates (B), you'll see there is a reference to the funding that is part of the urban programming for indigenous peoples. This is one of many programs of our government that responds to the needs of indigenous peoples in urban areas.

Last week you heard great announcements about a national housing strategy. Obviously that's going to be incredibly important to urban indigenous peoples. We also have new funding for early learning and child care. We have programs, such as aboriginal head start in urban and northern communities that's connected to the aboriginal head start on reserve program. There's a large package of programming.

We recognize there's always a need for more, and in fact we've had a call for proposals for more programming. There has been tremendous interest in that particular call for proposals. We'll be announcing the results very soon. We will continue to have to look at how we can expand.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The questioning now moves to MP Angus.