Evidence of meeting #98 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 housing.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Michael MacPherson
Diane Lafleur  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Sony Perron  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

No, I'm saying that the attestation wasn't meant for, and had no intention of, discriminating against people. It was about making sure that the jobs that the young people were being asked to do were not undermining charter rights.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Yes, and I don't think that the jobs they provide there with the first nation...but the problem is is that with her own conscience or the conscience of her band council they couldn't check that particular box.

Do you not see that as discriminating against that particular band?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

I believe that the interpretation that they have taken is not the interpretation that was intended. I think it is about us ensuring that the young people in this country are not distributing abortion flyers. That is what has been the problem in the past.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Yes, but the wording of your attestation was terrible. You didn't communicate that whatsoever if she had problems signing that. Would you not agree with that?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think that this is, again, an issue that has passed the vote yesterday and the people of Canada understand why that was necessary after the abuse that took place after a number of summers.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Can your department fill in the gap in the funding that they've now lost out on because they couldn't sign that?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

I don't know of the situation, but I think that there are obviously lots of summer programs that Dr. Philpott's department funds, and so do Project Venture and some of the other programs from a number of different departments. I think everybody would want to make sure....

The on-the-land programming, the kinds of things that really matter in the summers, that's what we want.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Switching gears a little bit here, 10 people sit on the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee: a farmer, an emergency room physician, two public health experts, a tourism lodge president, a women and girls advocate, a sports enthusiast, a survivor of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, a former police officer, a former Supreme Court judge, and a second-generation competitor. None of these people are indigenous.

As the Minister for Indigenous Relations, are you not concerned that there's no indigenous voice on that particular committee, given the fact that firearms play a large part in every indigenous community's sustenance, in how they lived, all these kinds of things...? Are you not concerned that there's no indigenous voice on that committee?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

I certainly would be happy to look into it, Arnold, and if you have some suggestions of people, I would be happy to give it to the ministry.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

That concludes our time available today with Minister Bennett. We appreciate your coming out; it was certainly lively. I see we have lots of energy.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We are so pleased to have you here, Minister. We're going to try to move along because we'll be having the bells at 5:15 and we want to have an opportunity to go through a couple of rounds of questions. First, I want to recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. We welcome you here to the INAN committee and over to you for your presentation.

March 20th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Indigenous Services

Good afternoon, colleagues.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend some time with you this afternoon.

Thank you, Madam Chair, for already acknowledging that we are meeting on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, and obviously we're all very grateful for the opportunity to gather in this place.

It is a pleasure to be before this committee to spend a moment to thank you again for the important work you are doing on a number of critical studies. I want to particularly comment on how I'm looking forward to the upcoming report on wildfires and fire safety on reserve.

I understand you have recently completed your study, and will bring forward a report with recommendations that we will give the utmost consideration.

Today I want to briefly outline our department's supplementary estimates (C), interim estimates, and explain how, along with new investments in budget 2018, we want to continue to work to close existing socio-economic gaps and to ensure that indigenous peoples have control over their services and programs.

As I have stated before; ours may be the first government department ever created with its own obsolescence as a goal.

With this in mind, I strongly believe, as demonstrated through Minister Bennett's ongoing work—as she's probably discussed with you—in the development of a recognition and implementation of rights framework that not only the recognition but the implementation of inherent indigenous and treaty rights is essential to address the broad socio-economic gaps that exist between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

My job as Minister of Indigenous Services is to improve the delivery of services in a distinctions-based fashion in partnership with indigenous peoples.

Together we will advance indigenous self-determination and over time transfer the delivery of government services to indigenous communities.

Indigenous Services is working toward a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples, based as you know on a recognition of rights, and on a relationship of respect, co-operation, and partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Metis.

We have selected a focus on five interconnected priority areas where Indigenous Services plays a critical role in advancing the agenda. They are health, education, children and families, infrastructure, and economic development, including a new fiscal relationship.

At the centre of these five priorities is of course people. These are individuals whose well-being depends on undoing the damage of more than a century of paternalistic policies that have led to broken families and communities and have damaged the trust of indigenous peoples in their relationship with government.

I am talking about people like Gerry, who has paid a high price for those policies.

Gerry is a 25-year-old Métis youth who I met some time ago. He was a youth in foster care from the age of eight to the age of 14. During that time, he lived in almost 40 different homes. Gerry suffers from dyslexia and ADHD. His mother was not able to care for him because of her mental health issues and her experience with residential schools. His grandparents wanted to take him in, but couldn't afford to do so. Gerry said to me, “It's not that I lost my identity in foster care. My identity was stripped from me. They see us numbers, not people. You get lost. You slowly lose everything that made you.”

Gerry's story is one of intergenerational trauma, poverty and disconnection from his culture.

It's a story about people who were denied control over their own lives, factors that are directly linked to these broad socio-economic gaps and poor health outcomes in indigenous people's experience.

I'm pleased that budget 2018 takes bold steps in supporting a new approach to closing these gaps. For instance, it proposes an additional $5 billion over five years to ensure that indigenous children and families have an equal chance to succeed in life.

This builds upon already significant investments made through Budgets 2016 and 2017.

As some of you know, we were particularly delighted to see in the budget $1.4 billion in new funding over six years for child and family services. This investment will enable concrete progress on the federal government's six points of action, which we announced at an emergency meeting on indigenous child welfare in January, as well as allowing us to fully implement the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

This is the first time that budget investments will go directly to communities for prevention and early intervention, a major step in child welfare reform. Together with our partners we're working toward reducing the number of indigenous children in care and supporting children growing up with strong connections to their language and their culture.

As well, the budget provides an additional $173 million over three years to support the work on clean and safe drinking water on reserve. This is in addition to the $1.8 billion provided in budget 2016.

These investments are going to allow us to accelerate the pace of construction and renovation where possible to pay for repairs to high-risk water systems and to prevent additional long-term drinking water advisories.

These investments will also be used to assist efforts to recruit, train and retain water operators under first nations-led service delivery models.

We're on track with our commitment to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve by March 2021. Since November 2015, now 54 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted.

Equally important, funding has been provided to support the implementation of three distinctions-based housing strategies. A total of $1.5 billion is earmarked to improve housing conditions and support the codevelopment of a first nations housing strategy, an Inuit-led housing strategy for the regions of Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit, as well as a Métis Nation housing strategy. This is in addition to the $240 million over 10 years that was announced in budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

We all know that adequate housing is a key determinant of health. Overcrowding is a crucial factor in the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis.

To keep indigenous families healthy, budget 2018 has announced $1.4 billion over five years and $145 million ongoing for health. These monies will be helping with acute health problems such as tuberculosis in Inuit communities as well as matters like opioid addiction in first nations communities.

In the meantime, we continue to require immediate funds to continue to deliver our mandate. The interim estimates for 2018-19 will be approximately $2.9 billion. This funding will ensure that Indigenous Services can carry out its activities in the first three months of the fiscal year until the main estimates are approved in June.

The total of the supplementary estimates (C) for Indigenous Services Canada is $359.6 million. This reflects new funding for emergency management service providers, non-insured health benefits for first nations and Inuit, as well as the Indspire and post-secondary student support program.

This also reflects transfers with other government departments, including a transfer from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples.

These funds are an important step forward as we replace the previous colonial-era department with new organizations that are committed to reconciliation. These investments, coupled with the infusion of billions of dollars in budget 2018, will go a long way to closing the gap between the living conditions of indigenous and non-indigenous people. This will help us to realize our shared goal of building fully healthy, prosperous, self-governed communities that offer indigenous children, youth, and families a bright future.

I would be pleased to take your questions.

Thank you very much.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

The questioning will start off with MP Vandal.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Minister Philpott, it is a great honour to address you this afternoon.

In Canada, 2018 has been an exciting year for the Métis nation. I know that the Manitoba Metis Federation in my province appears to be very happy.

Budget 2018 states:

These investments in Métis Nation priorities reflect the Government’s commitment to apply a greater distinctions-based lens to Indigenous funding decisions and support the Métis Nation’s vision of self-determination.

My question is twofold. First, can you speak to the importance of the development of a distinctions-based approach, and why you've included it in your programming pillars? Second, can you comment on the specific investments in the Métis nation across our country?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

You are right to point out that this was a well-received budget from the point of view of the Métis Nation of Canada. I certainly received positive feedback, and I think, as you indicated, that part of that is that this is a distinctions-based approach.

One of the things that I think has been quite successful over the past two and a half years is the development of something that we call the permanent bilateral mechanism. This is a format where the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers meet on a regular basis, a minimum of three times per year, with our counterparts who are leaders in first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. Through that Métis-Canada permanent bilateral relationship, they have come forward very effectively with the kinds of priorities that they want to work on, and you see that reflected in the budget. They didn't necessarily want for our relationship going forward to be exactly like it would be with first nations or exactly like it would be with the Inuit. Again, that's reflected in the investments.

There were significant investments in the budget for the Métis nation. Probably the largest of them would be the investment in housing of $500 million over 10 years. It is an incredible opportunity to have long-term housing made available.

I've had the opportunity to see the things that happen when indigenous organizations have access to resources like this. The Métis Nation of Alberta, for example, has done some incredible housing projects that have made a real difference in addressing homelessness for families, so this will be very helpful. They've already done a lot of the work in preparing a housing strategy.

In other areas, the investments are more modest. They are, in a sense, a down payment in areas like education and health. There's more work to be done to understand exactly what that relationship should look like going forward in the future, but there were certainly investments in those areas that were well received.

I might add that outside of my department, with Minister Hajdu, as you may know there's an investment in employment and skills development.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Good.

I also know there was some investment in nation capacity building. That was not with you, that was with....

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

That would fall under Minister Bennett in terms of the relationship.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

There was a sizable amount that was invested there through the MNC.

The other issue that's very important in Manitoba is the whole issue of child welfare. I believe that at one point you labelled the child welfare crisis in our country a humanitarian crisis. I agree with you. Ninety percent of the children in Manitoba who are in care, or a very high percentage, are indigenous, unfortunately.

You mentioned the investments that the government is making in child welfare, but I'm wondering if perhaps you can give another overview of what we're doing relative to child welfare, and what other possible reforms we will consider to actually change the system itself, which is not only a financial issue. We know that most things lead to more investment, but how do we actually change the system to make it more responsive to indigenous needs? If you can, maybe talk about the Manitoba situation.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I will try to be brief, but it's a very big topic. You mentioned the fact that I had described what I learned about the overrepresentation of indigenous children in child and family services in this country as a humanitarian crisis. I was perhaps teased a bit afterwards that I was being overly provocative in using terminology like that. However, since I said that, I can't tell you how many times indigenous leaders have thanked me for drawing attention to this issue, which they've been trying to raise for some time. It's something that was highlighted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The first five calls to action relate to child welfare.

You're absolutely right that in Manitoba the circumstances are very severe, but they are also quite dire across the country. I already mentioned the money, and you're absolutely right that that's extremely helpful, not only to meet the requirements of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, but to get money that will support prevention. As you know, there are these perverse incentives, in which, in many cases, funding flows according to the number of children who are apprehended from their families, yet there's no money that flows to families who say, “Could we get some support to keep the child with us or with an aunt or grandmother?” Changing those funding policies has been shown to be very effective in a number of places.

At our January meeting we outlined some of the things that we felt the federal government could do. We put it out as a six-point plan, which has been well received, and it speaks to that, changing the funding mechanisms and channelling them more towards prevention. One of the things we've also talked about is whether there is perhaps a role for federal legislation. This is a sensitive topic, and we are having ongoing conversations about that. It was something that was a call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so we're having conversations with first nations, Inuit, and Metis about that possibility and whether it might support the work to draw down jurisdiction on child welfare to communities that want to be able to control child welfare services themselves.

The other thing I'll say—again, we could go on at some length on this topic, but I know there are other things you want to bring up—is that in each part of the country we've established tripartite working groups because every province is a little bit different. The provincial legislation is different in different places, the way that money flows is different, and we're trying to deal with those regional differences.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The questioning now goes to MP Cathy McLeod.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

It's interesting, with the split of the department, some things are very obvious in terms of which goes to who, and others, to be quite frank, are confusing. When you go to the website, it sort of says it's changing, so as the opportunity goes, I would encourage providing better clarity to this committee as those things are decided upon.

I have a quick question in terms of moving health. Is that effectively under your jurisdiction now even though the money has not transferred yet?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Thank you, it's a great question, and thank you for your comments and recommendations in terms of work on the website, which I know the deputy has already taken note of.

Yes, the first nations Inuit health branch, which was previously with Health Canada, was moved over in November, I think, into Indigenous Services Canada through an order in council.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

The budget hasn't moved yet?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

I believe the budget, for the largest part, is now in our department, and maybe the officials can clarify some of that.