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

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

I'd like to shift the focus a bit to the crown relationship in a context of nation-to-nation reconciliation. Obviously, the federal government has a very particular perspective and has shifted from the previous administration in terms of how it wants to go about doing this.

The crown is not just the federal government. The crown is a series of other governments. It's really important, I think, for Canadians to understand some of the challenges that the federal crown is facing and some of the opportunities we have in working with our provincial counterparts. A specific example is in Rapid Lake in the northern part of the Pontiac riding where the Algonquin people are having a very difficult time. They have housing issues. They're under third party management, and there's mediation presently between the federal government and their chief and council to get out of that third party management. In order to get to housing solutions, they need electricity solutions, and electricity solutions don't come solely from the federal government.

That's a specific example that demonstrates how the nation-to-nation relationship isn't just a one-directional or a bilateral thing. I wonder if a comment could be made more generally on the provincial role and what the federal government is doing with the province. If there's time for a specific comment on that case of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, that would be appreciated by people in my riding.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

I'll start, because you're absolutely right. Where it affects us very directly is on some of the settlements that we're trying to make around land and around treaty land entitlements, and where provinces or territories have to agree on parcels of land that would be part of the settlement. That is sometimes tough work.

We need the provinces and territories as part of these solutions, and sometimes it is the place where the politics and the reality of reconciliation with non-indigenous people is part of that deal, with leased land or with things that happen to be the crown's but are leased. I think we are getting to a place where the provinces and territories understand that this is the only way to peace in the valley. This is the way that we will have reconciliation in our time. It's a very important piece.

As you say, with housing and the way we ended up working to get the hydro to Pikangikum in order to have new houses, these are those kinds of integrated approaches, but nothing is more important than on the child welfare that Jane is working on with the provinces and territories at trilateral tables.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have 15 seconds.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I'll just tell you one thing that I think is kind of interesting. In case anyone ever wants to read them—you can find them on the Internet—I brought with me today the principles with which our government has determined that we will conduct ourselves in our relationship with indigenous peoples, the 10 principles. Some of the provinces are now working on developing their own set of principles based on that recognition of rights, and we are obviously working on specific issues.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now moves to MP Waugh for a five-minute period.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you, Chair.

I'm going to go back to the financial transparency. I have to. I have two first nation bands in my province of Saskatchewan right now. When you gutted the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, Minister Bennett—and now I guess it goes to Minister Philpott—your government said that you promised a new system of transparency.

Now we've heard from Thunderchild and Onion Lake, and I'm going to pull out three or four more.... When is it coming? What do I tell them? They're watching here today. They're frustrated.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I'm very happy to respond to that question. This is something that Minister Bennett did speak to. We have heard from first nations across the country about their feelings towards the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. We have even gone out and consulted on that. There have been dozens of engagement sessions taking place, and uniformly it has been requested that the act be repealed.

We are embarking on a new fiscal relationship. There is actually very good news to report on that. In fact, there will be more news that you'll hear about this next week at the Special Chiefs Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations in terms of how this is working. I can tell you that, through using first nations-led organizations such as the First Nations Financial Management Board, communities are building capacity for what they need and what they want to do, and that is to take control of their communities in order to be able to develop mechanisms by which they can conduct themselves and how they will report in a transparent, open, and accountable way to their people.

This is the way forward, which we believe is much more effective. It has enabled communities to successfully get out of third party management and to do so responsibly.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

How does a band member right now obtain proof of misuse from a band chief when he or she is not obligated to do so...? You see the frustrations. You're going to get pockets in every province and territory in this country, because there is no accountability. They don't report back to you. As we've seen in the two communities in my province, they're not even reporting back to their own band members. This is a big problem. You've promised to fix it. When are you going to fix it? You've done away with the transparency act, so when are you going to fix the loophole?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I will tell you that it's impossible to put every group into one basket, because there are very individual circumstances—

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

What are you doing?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

—and we are obviously working with communities to address these issues on a community-by-community basis, but we're doing so in a spirit of respect and a spirit of capacity building.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

What do I say to Harrison Thunderchild and Charmaine Stick about responsible...on behalf of this...? They have come to Ottawa. Now they're in court in Regina. What do I say to them?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I would be happy to hear their specific concerns and make sure we get an answer to them, but as I say, both our department and first nation-led organizations are working to help communities to be better able to do what all responsible governments ought to do. This is work that happens every single day. Our treasurer may want to speak to some of the specifics of it.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

How long is this going to take?

12:50 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

Part of the minister's mandate letter commitment is to establish a new fiscal relationship with first nations peoples. We have commenced that dialogue. We have done so with the Assembly of First Nations, and have undertaken regional engagement sessions under three pillars: sufficiency of funding, predictability of funding, and accountability.

Under that third pillar of accountability, we are establishing, based on a rights and recognition approach, a co-developed approach, a means of developing a mutual accountability framework that is centred on first nation community members in terms of addressing the issues you have raised.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Will you repeal the First Nations Financial Transparency Act?

12:50 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Paul Thoppil

I believe the minister has already indicated that, through the sessions that have occurred from coast to coast, that's what first nation communities are actually asking.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I'm done.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning moves to MP Harvey.

November 30th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.

Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Further to my honourable colleague's comments, since I joined the committee in the fall, we have travelled significantly across the country and we heard nothing about the financial transparency act at any point during that committee testimony. I recognize that it was around different issues, but certainly at different times, bands and organizations were prompted to give us feedback on a multitude of issues that were important to them, and it was nothing that we heard about. I just want to highlight that.

Further to that, I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about loss of potential economic opportunity on reserve. I know that it's a different subject, but I think it's something worth touching on. It is not only loss of economic opportunity but also economic leaching, the ability of first nations communities and nations to create their own economic agenda and opportunities and also to see those plans through without having outside entities come in and steal some of the potential opportunity from them.

I think that's very important in the next step forward. We often talk about the greatest hits tour when we talk about indigenous communities, which are the communities that have proximity to large-scale population or available resources, but there are significant potential opportunities that could benefit indigenous communities that aren't in those positions. I think it's important that we look at that as an issue. I just want to offer that out for comments from both of you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

There's no question that this is a really important topic. It actually builds on what we were just talking about in terms of the new fiscal relationship and as the.... I think I referred to you as the treasurer, which is not the right term for you. I apologize. You are the chief financial officer.

As the chief financial officer was saying just now, what we are hearing from nations is not around the transparency act. What we're hearing from them is that they want sufficiency of funding, they want predictability of funding, and they want to be supported in their desire to be accountable to their citizens. These are the areas in which we are working, in technical working groups, to support them.

Part of that comes to the whole economic development piece and finding ways that communities can increasingly access own-source revenues, increasingly look at taxation mechanisms—and I need to give a shout-out to the First Nations Tax Commission, which has been incredibly effective along with the other financial institutions that are first nations-led and that have been perceived to be extremely helpful.

There is a real need to find ways in which we can be more creative. One of the things I will point you to—and this goes along with Will's comments earlier—is the way that all of Canada wants to actually engage in helping to build economic opportunity for indigenous peoples in this country.

I recently had the privilege of attending an event hosted by the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, which is very interested in engaging with indigenous peoples around opportunities for economic development through the building of infrastructure and finding ways that can be done with a lens of community benefits attached to it, so that as organizations come in to help support the building of infrastructure, they do so in a way that will accrue benefits to the community.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Maybe I can just talk a little bit about the northern communities. At the meeting of northern ministers there was a serious conversation about economic leakage, about how economic activity in the north is not benefiting the north. A lot of these companies are owned by southern enterprises and we actually have to figure out a new way of doing this.

What Zita Cobb brought to Newfoundland during the cabinet time was this idea of transparency as the new green. People should know if they stay at her hotel, eat her fish, or see the furniture made, how much of that money stayed up in her community at Fogo Island. I think we're trying to take what she calls “economic nutrition” labelling into communities, so that consumers know whether this is benefiting just southerners or urban, non-indigenous companies, or whether it really does benefit indigenous communities.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Just before I run out of time, really quickly, does either one of you want to offer a brief comment on what you believe is the take home message from each of your respective departments in terms of what you hope for the future?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

One of the things I would hope the committee would take home from our conversation today is the sense that we are really working in a deeply interconnected way, hand in hand, together on advancing the responsibility of our government to reconcile our relationship with indigenous peoples based on a recognition of rights—and we cannot get it done unless we simultaneously energize both tracks.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We only have about two minutes for MP Viersen, and then we'll take a little bit of time to do our votes.