I would also like to acknowledge our presence on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.
I would like to thank the chair, vice-chairs, and committee members for the invitation to speak to you today to support your study of Bill C-262 and for the opportunity to elaborate on the suite of programs, policies, and legislative initiatives under the purview of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard that have made and will continue to make advances toward reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of Canada.
I am Robert Lamirande, the director of indigenous affairs and reconciliation directorate at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I would like to introduce my colleague, Marc Sanderson, acting director general, national strategies of the Canadian Coast Guard.
My directorate is responsible for providing policy advice on indigenous fishing and other matters toward advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples; negotiating and implementing program, treaty, and other constructive agreements on Fisheries and Oceans management; promoting fisheries related economic opportunities through programming to support indigenous capacity to fish safely and effectively; and building relationships and partnerships with indigenous communities through effective engagements, which we do hand in hand with the national strategies directorate of the Canadian Coast Guard.
We do this work because the sustainable use of the fishery resource, the protection of fish and fish habitat, the conservation and management of our oceans, and the safety of those on the water are a priority for the department—a priority held in common with indigenous communities.
And because Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard have presence in many coastal and rural communities across Canada, we have worked hard with indigenous communities and groups to collaborate and partner on all aspects of our operations. These relationships are comprehensive, complex and dynamic. They are adaptive to the capacity of each indigenous community or group to participate in economic opportunities and in co-management.
We are now on a clearer path to a renewed, nation-to-nation, crown-Inuit, and government-to-government relationship, one that builds on the relationships and partnerships developed over the past decades. These relationships with indigenous communities are the touchpoints through which we will collaborate to articulate what reconciliation means in the context of Minister LeBlanc's portfolio.
This includes those changes to programs, policies, and laws necessary to demonstrate that we are moving to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. This commitment to reconciliation is guided by the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. These principles, as you know, are themselves guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.
I want to highlight for you how Fisheries and Oceans Canada has worked in collaboration and in partnership with many indigenous communities. Through the innovative and successful Atlantic and Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiatives, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provides commercial fisheries access, business management capacity, and training needed to build self-sustaining, indigenous-owned and operated commercial fishing enterprises.
Through the aboriginal fisheries strategy and the aboriginal aquatic resource and oceans management programs, Fisheries and Oceans Canada helps indigenous groups acquire the scientific and technical capacity, means, and training to meaningfully participate in fisheries, oceans, and habitat collaborative management, including employing aboriginal fisheries guardians.
Budget 2017, a year ago, has taken these programs a major step forward, investing over $250 million over five years and $62 million ongoing annually. This includes ongoing funding for the Atlantic and Pacific integrated fisheries initiatives and northern expansion through a new northern integrated commercial fisheries initiative.
As we embark on the renewal of these programs, we are also undertaking a review to see where and how these programs can be strengthened in collaboration with the National Indigenous Fisheries Institute, a technical organization established in May 2017 whose board is made up of experts from national and regional indigenous organizations. The institute is enabling the co-development, co-design, and co-delivery of our indigenous programs.
However, working collaboratively and in partnership with indigenous communities is not focused solely on fisheries.
The Oceans Protection Plan, for example, is enabling indigenous communities and groups to meaningfully participate and partner in Canada's marine safety system, from waterways management to emergency preparedness and response.
We are working with indigenous communities and partners to create a new indigenous chapter of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in British Columbia. And discussions with other indigenous communities are exploring opportunities to establish additional auxiliary units in the Arctic and in British Columbia to bolster responses to emergencies and pollution incidents.
A national strategy on abandoned and wrecked vessels will build an inventory of the problem vessels, and a risk assessment methodology. Indigenous communities will be invited to participate in these assessments and to help prioritize interventions.
Through engagement with indigenous communities in British Columbia, the Canadian Coast Guard has launched an environmental response officer recruitment program. We are also nearing completion of a process to recruit Inuit students for a new rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
Ongoing training programs across the country will provide participants with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience to enable them to play a greater role in marine safety in their communities in a safe and effective manner.
As you know, reconciliation also means self-determination of indigenous communities often but not exclusively through negotiation and implementation of treaties. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is participating in over 40 active rights reconciliation self-government negotiations with indigenous communities on fisheries and oceans matters.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also making systemic changes to better enable collaborative partnerships with indigenous peoples, and we have done so through important proposed legislative changes: Bill C-55, An act to amend the Oceans Act ; Bill C-64, An act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels; and Bill C-68, An act to amend the Fisheries Act. Proposed amendments to the Oceans Act will strengthen, among other things, the ability to designate marine protected areas on an interim basis and, as with all marine protected area designations, partnering with indigenous communities is the foundation for the successful protection of these unique aquatic ecosystems.
The proposed Wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels act, under the Minister of Transport, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, would enable, among other things, agreements with a government, council, or other entity authorized to act on behalf of an indigenous group to exercise the powers and perform certain duties or functions of the minister.
The proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act and the programs enabled by these changes include certain amendments specifically aimed at advancing reconciliation, including new tools to enhance opportunities for partnering with indigenous peoples in the conservation and protection of fish, fish habitats, and shorelines; and amended provisions to enable agreements with indigenous governing bodies and any body, including a co-management body, established under a land claims agreement, to further the purpose of the act. Such agreements could enable the declaration of the law of an indigenous governing body, including a bylaw, to be equivalent in effect to a regulation under the Fisheries Act.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard have advanced and will continue to advance reconciliation through concrete changes to programs, operational practices, and legislative frameworks that give voice to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As we move forward we will seize on the relationships and partnerships we have with indigenous communities to articulate renewed nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples within the mandates of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.