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.