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

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I call the meeting to order.

Before I get into the technical things, I want to welcome everybody back. We were away for two weeks in our ridings. We have the opportunity to be here with the minister, and that's always special, so I really appreciate everybody rushing and getting back into order.

Before we start, we always recognize, especially now, through a process of truth and reconciliation, that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), study of the subject matter of the supplementary estimates (C), 2017-18: votes 1c and 10c under Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and votes 3c, 7c and 13c under Department of Indigenous Services Canada.

Welcome again, Minister. We can begin with your opening remarks.

3:30 p.m.

Toronto—St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

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.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

MP McLeod.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I understand, because of changes in the dates, the supplementary estimates (C) have been deemed adopted. I just want clarification in terms of the process for interim estimates. Have they also been deemed? Is the process for interim estimates the same as for the main estimates?

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I'll turn to the clerk.

3:40 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Michael MacPherson

The interim estimates were deemed reported back on Monday as well. The main estimates are separate.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Okay.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

I should have introduced, of course, Associate Deputy Minister Lafleur, and the CFO, Paul Thoppil.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

All right.

Questioning moves first to MP Mike Bossio.

March 20th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Minister, as always, it's a pleasure to have you here today. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to visit with us, and for your speech and your statements.

Last month, the Prime Minister delivered a speech to Parliament in which he announced that the Government of Canada will develop in full partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples a recognition and implementation of rights framework. He made it clear that while the results of consultations with indigenous people will guide what the final framework will look like, the government believes it should include new legislation and policy that will make the recognition and implementation of rights the basis for all relations between indigenous peoples and the federal government. Budget 2018 has significant investments targeted at moving towards a recognition of rights framework and building capacity for indigenous self-determination.

Sorry for the long preamble, but in terms of questions, can you update us on how the consultations are going in regard to the recognition and implementation and that work?

As you noted in your remarks, the committee is currently studying Bill C-262, which seeks to ensure that federal laws are in harmony with UNDRIP. In your opinion, is that bill consistent with the government's new approach to rights recognition and self-determination? How can we expand upon Bill C-262 to capture all of that?

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes. As you know, we are supporting the private member's bill, but we do believe, as a government, we need to actually be very clear about the unique way forward that Canada has to take in a distinctions-based way, but also for us to be able to right the wrongs and be able to move forward in a way that deals with the realities of colonization, the Indian Act. There are some very distinct things that we need to do that will accelerate the progress to self-determination.

As we've heard at this committee many times, there are not 634 nations. We have to help those nations rebuild themselves in a way that really got, as Lee Maracle says, “villagized” because of the Indian Act. How do we allow those communities to have the kind of conversation to build their governments and to build the control over their land and their people?

This journey to self-determination is very much one where, in some of the consultations—which we started the next day with the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet in Atlantic Canada, and we have been to British Columbia, and last week in Saskatchewan and Alberta—some of the comments have been that this is a conversation that should have happened 150 years ago. Another comment from a chief was, “There is hope that we will have our say.”

We are really building on the kind of goodwill that is, about now, a door open to self-determination, to undo the effects of colonization, but we know there's cynicism out there. There's no reason that, all of a sudden, people would trust what the Government of Canada would do, so we are working very hard to rebuild that trust and to be able to get back to that journey of self-determination, as it says in my mandate, and accelerate the process of self-determination. I think it has begun well.

A lot of people are saying that it's all there in volume 2 of the RCAP report, so just dust it off and get on with it. There's a fair bit of that, as well as people saying, “We want our say.”

Because we have taken extinguishment off the table, surrender off the table, and going forward with loans and obviously the previous decision on the own-source revenue moratorium, people are feeling that this is different. We actually have to deal with the idea that these are termination tables or that we're extinguishing peoples' rights. That's exactly the opposite of what we're trying to do. We've begun well, but we're going to need everybody's help.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I know that Bill C-262 deals with the legislative piece, the laws of the land, but we're trying to also look at how we expand it around policy and program implementation as well. Can you maybe talk to that, as to how receptive that is, to just the different stages at which different communities and nations are moving in this direction, and to how we can help them move there more quickly?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think one of the things that we have heard is that in the 21 years since RCAP, a lot of community members have moved to urban centres. How do we make sure that their rights are recognized and implemented? Obviously, the Inuit already have their rights recognized in their land claims. They are very concerned about the implementation of those rights. We are also hearing that the role of women, the role of women in governance, and the kinds of checks and balances that were in traditional indigenous governments are going to be important as we go forward. We're also hearing about traditional legal practices and customs. How do we make sure that there is that space to allow indigenous legal practices and customs to be part of reconstituting nations and their governments?

I don't know if any of the members heard Val Napoleon on Michael Enright's show on CBC on Sunday morning. It's totally inspiring to hear what's happening at UVic and to hear the kind of research that's taking place in her unit on Cree governance, on the Gitksan, on all of the ways that these tough decisions were taken in the past, and on what we can learn in terms of Canadian law, from more collaborative, restorative approaches to justice that were there long before the settlers arrived.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Minister.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The questioning now moves to MP Cathy McLeod.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Chair, I would hope that when the mains come we actually hear from the minister before they're deemed adopted in the House. I think we're negligent in our responsibilities if we're not voting on these significant dollars. If we can make sure that our timetable in the future is appropriate, I think that's important, and it's one of our fundamental responsibilities.

I'm really glad the issue of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has come up. Of course, it's a private member's bill, and we aren't able to have the normal time that we would have with the minister in terms of this piece of legislation. I think that this is absolutely critical, and it was in your comments, so it's certainly very appropriate to the discussion today.

I'm going to go to the really important area of the issue. Certainly, on this side, we recognize that this declaration is an important road map, but we've also indicated that changing the laws of Canada...perhaps there are some areas of concern. As you know, free, prior, and informed consent is probably the most prominent area of concern.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

I've already turned to the page.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

First of all, you're a physician. You know that when you get approval for a medical procedure, if you don't get informed consent, you don't go ahead with the procedure. In criminal law, consent means that if you don't get consent for a sexual act, it is deemed a sexual assault. In the definition in the dictionary, it's “permission for something to happen”. As Pam Palmater says, “In what alternate universe does consent not require you to say yes or no? In every other context in society and in law, and in contracts, consent means you get to say 'yes' or 'no'.”

If you say no, something doesn't move forward; it doesn't happen. Are you definitively going to tell us today that consent, in terms of the UN declaration, is going to have some brand new meaning that no one's ever had before in legal, medical, or many other terms?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Obviously, as a nurse and as a doctor, you would have been very interested in a conversation that I had with James Anaya, who was the rapporteur on exactly that. His view was that you couldn't and shouldn't take a medical approach to this.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Whether it's a criminal approach or a dictionary approach, there is nowhere that consent does not mean yes or no.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

What we are saying is “Whose consent?” What we are trying to do, in rebuilding nations, is say that in the present way that the country is organized in Indian Act bands, we have situations where four Indian Act bands say yes, and they're closest to the project. Others may have concerns. The approach of free, prior, and informed consent means that you have to do the work upfront as early as possible to be able to achieve consensus in order to green-light a project. That is what free, prior, and informed means.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I don't disagree—

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

It means we're building consensus to be able to have the social licence to move forward.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I absolutely agree that the work needs to be done up front. In many of our legislative tools the work needs to be done up front. We currently have the Kinder Morgan pipeline, where you have 51 communities that have signed benefit agreements. Clearly, when we were asking Mr. Saganash, when he was a witness here, in terms of.... Would his bill change things...that the 51's rights would be outweighed by the one or two that were against? He said that clearly you need consent from everyone.

This is what the people who are supporting this bill understand about this bill. That is a huge concern when you have 51 communities and this bill is perceived as taking away their ability to move forward with an initiative because there are one or two communities that might say, no, they don't give free, prior, and informed consent.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

The reason that Minister McKenna and Minister Carr codeveloped the new policies on big projects and environmental assessment was to avoid exactly that; to start at the very idea of a project and then be able to build consent throughout, and consensus throughout, the process of a new project.

Cathy, I think what we want to explain is that in the north, we already have a process for land use planning. It's a tripartite arrangement between the rights holders, the territory, and the federal government, but we would only appoint a federal government representative if the rights holders...and therefore, good projects are approved and questionable projects are not approved.