Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for your warm invitation to this meeting, which we are holding on the traditional territory of the aboriginal peoples, on this International Day of the Francophonie.
Before we begin, Madam Chair, we want to thank you for the recent report on indigenous land rights, which you tabled yesterday. As you know, this is very relevant to the ongoing discussions we're having with first nations to identify fair and practical measures to improve the claims process.
We are currently reviewing the committee's recommendations to help inform our efforts to reform our approach to claims.
I can already point to the fact that, as recommended in your report, the government will be replacing the use of loans with non-payable contributions to fund indigenous participation on the negotiation of modern treaties and specific claims, which was in the budget.
More broadly, our government is committed to creating a new recognition and implementation of rights framework, which is currently being codeveloped through a national engagement. Your report is extremely helpful in the context of the new recognition and implementation of rights that was announced by the Prime Minister on February 14.
Also, in terms of your ongoing study of Bill C-262, we are also wanting to ensure that federal laws are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so it's all very timely. As you know, the government is supporting this bill, and we believe that the comprehensive study that you're undertaking will also inform this broader work on rights recognition and implementation.
I'm appearing today to discuss crown-indigenous relations and northern affairs, lovingly now referred to as CIRNA, our supplementary estimates (C), and, for the first time, the interim main estimates.
These estimates (C) show a net decrease of approximately $46 million, which reflects $63 million in net transfers of existing funding to the new Department of Indigenous Services.
We know that relationships built on colonial structures have contributed to unacceptable socioeconomic gaps.
That is why, in August of last year, the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of INAC, as recommended in RCAP 21 years ago, to create two new departments, Indigenous Services Canada and CIRNA, so following the order in council last fall, there was a transfer of resources from our department to create the Department of Indigenous Services Canada.
The final structure of these two new departments will be determined in partnership with indigenous people, and we've been meeting with our partners from coast to coast to coast about how, as they say in architecture, form follows function, and how we can make sure there is a distinctions-based approach in design and processes of these two new departments.
Together, we will chart a path forward that advances reconciliation and builds a stronger future for indigenous people and all Canadians alike.
Supplementary estimates (C) also includes new funding of approximately $17 million for initiatives, including the Canadian heritage rivers Inuit impact and benefit agreement, the Nunavut devolution agreement-in-principle, the Anishinabek nation education agreement, and indigenous tourism.
I would be happy to discuss these important investments in more detail during the question and answer period.
Supplementary estimates (C) also re-profiles approximately $600,000 of the nutrition north program funding to this year, which is less than 1% of the annual budget. This is related to our government's investment of $65 million over five years to expand nutrition north Canada food subsidies to 37 additional communities. Re-profiling this money will ensure this funding is preserved for our government's ongoing support for northern families to have affordable, healthy, culturally relevant foods; however, we know much more needs to be done. That's why the government is also continuing to work in partnership with northerners to overhaul the program to ensure it better reflects the needs of northerners.
Our appearance today is in the context of an evolving estimates process, as our government moves to increase transparency and modernize how estimates are presented and approved. Parliament recently approved a change in the main estimates approach in which the 2018-19 main estimates will be divided into two distinct exercises: interim estimates and main estimates. The interim estimates will provide the department with funding for the first three months of the fiscal year, while main estimates will provide the remaining funding for the entire fiscal year as well as incorporate some budget 2018 approvals.
This will better align the federal budget and the main estimates.
I am pleased that we are able to review these documents in the context of Budget 2018 investments. This will allow for a much more comprehensive discussion about my department's planned spending in the coming year.
Budget 2018 invests an additional $5 billion over five years to close significant socio-economic gaps, move towards recognition of rights, and build capacity for indigenous self-determination.
This is our government's third budget. I believe it's important to highlight that it builds upon the historic investments of $8.4 billion in budget 2016 and $3.4 billion in budget 2017, for a total commitment to date of almost $17 billion of additional funding for the priorities of indigenous peoples, a commitment recognized by our partners.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde commented on budget 2018 saying, “the long-term investments in First Nations governments and infrastructure sets a strong foundation for re-building our nations.”
Manitoba Metis Federation President Chartrand said that budget 2018 “finally addresses the needs and aspirations of the Métis Nation.”
The president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Natan Obed, characterized budget 2018 by saying, “That is a game changer, if you will, for self determination.”
Budget 2018 outlines new steps the government will take to increase the number of modern treaties and self-determination agreements in the context of a recognition of rights approach.
This is at the core of my mandate.
Since 2015, approximately 60 discussions on the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination have been launched with over 320 communities—a total of over 700,000 indigenous peoples.
To date, 19 negotiated agreements have been codeveloped and signed through the discussion process, and others will follow in the coming months.
Budget 2018 commits $51.5 million over two years to support these discussions and the codevelopment of agreements that advance a recognition and implementation of rights approach.
Budget 2018 will also help nations rebuild and accelerate self-determination and self-government with investments, including $105 million over five years to support the capacity-building efforts of indigenous groups that are seeking to rebuild their nations in a manner that responds to the unique needs and priorities of their communities; and $74.9 million over five years to provide permanent funding to support the permanent bilateral mechanisms with first nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation.
These sustained investments over multiple budgets confirm our government's ongoing commitment to reconciliation and to renewing Canada's relationship with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
I look forward to discussing these issues with you and welcome your questions.