Evidence of meeting #61 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was support.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Nancy Milroy Swainson  Director General, Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
Luisa Atkinson  Director, First Nation Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Lyse Langevin  Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Elizabeth Douglas  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs
Don Head  Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Anna Romano  Director General, Centre for Health Promotion, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Branch, Public Health Agency of Canada

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses, for coming today.

I'll start with Ms. Langevin.

I represent a northern B.C. riding, Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies. We have a lot of reserves up there, a lot of seniors on reserves, too. I've seen far too many stories of seniors living in poverty, even though there have been allocations of funds to provide housing, to provide care. The way the funding model works is the funding for seniors goes to the reserve, and then the reserve is responsible for providing the housing. Correct?

12:30 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

That is correct.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

The question I have here is who oversees the projects that you talk about? Let's say we're having a facility that's going to house a senior on reserve. We know the funds are disbursed. What accountability measures are in place to ensure the projects are built or operated as expected?

June 8th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

Everyone, including first nations governments, supports transparency and accountability. Since last summer, we have been working with indigenous organizations, including the AFN, on ways to enhance mutual accountability. We're reaching out to community members and leadership through comprehensive online engagement and planning in-person sessions, too, across the country over the coming months on that topic. When it comes to—

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

I think what I want is a more specific answer to the question. I hear a line and I hear different things that sound fine, but I still see a lot of dollars that are going for projects and I don't see the accountability. Maybe it is there. I just don't see it.

Ultimately, what does that structure look like? The funds have been allocated to reserve X to provide seniors' housing and seniors' care. How do we make sure that this money is going to get to the seniors who need it the most?

I want to know, is it somebody who goes out there? Is there an officer who goes out who ensures that certain services are being provided for the funds that have been allocated? That's what I'm looking for, a tangible answer to the question.

12:30 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

In terms of the budget 2016 money that was allocated to the various projects across the first nations on reserve, the contribution agreements, as I mentioned earlier, do have a requirement to have reporting against the outcome of the project, and it is monitored by the department. It's in different forms of construction certification, inspections, and so on.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Okay. However, we still see situations where the results aren't actually coming forward on the ground for the money that's been expended. In terms of somebody out there who sees that the money hasn't been spent properly, then what? How do we ensure that seniors...? We still see seniors in squalor and poverty.

My riding has been pretty good, but when you go into the Far North, where it's very cold most of the year, these are the situations where it's unacceptable to have a senior who is not able to eat properly or live properly. In a case where somebody hasn't spent the money properly, how is that being monitored to make sure it's rectified as soon as possible?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

I have a kind of two-pronged approach to the answer to your question.

In terms of what happens when we witness a project that didn't come back with a certification, the budget 2016 money just started now, so we're starting to see the end of these projects. I'll have to get back to you for that answer on what the actual process would be.

In terms of the selection of projects and does the money go to the seniors, in terms of the selection of projects, that's where it would all start, versus did it get built properly or not? In terms of the selection of the projects, it is all based on proposals that are sent in by the first nations themselves.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

I don't think that's really answering the question, though, to be fair. I know you're representing INAC. What I'm trying to say is that this has been going on for a long time. This isn't something that's starting as of the money allocated in 2016. This was going on when we were in government. I've been here since 2011, and we've seen these stories repeatedly, stories of money getting issued to reserves and seniors still living in squalor. We can't keep doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result. We just can't.

That's what I'm looking for: how are you going to do this differently to ensure that the money being spent is being spent in the right way to take care of aboriginal seniors on reserve? That's what I want an answer for. How is INAC ensuring that's going to happen?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

That's your time, but I'll allow a brief answer.

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

We take accountability seriously. Our contribution agreements between our government and first nations do contain strong provisions, such as audit possibilities, to ensure the funds are used as intended.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

MP Blaney, please, for three minutes.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Elizabeth, most veterans want programs based on needs rather than on a complex service base. Will the federal government adopt this integrated services approach recommended to Veterans Affairs Canada by the Gerontological Advisory Council and begin by expanding the eligibility for programs at Veterans Affairs Canada to all surviving war service veterans, not just to clients of the department?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Elizabeth Douglas

We constantly review our programs and their eligibility. I would have to get back to you with a list of any updated changes to eligibility that are over and above the two programs that I came to speak of today.

Thank you. That's noted.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Luisa, the 2015 Senate report about on-reserve housing recommended several things. Recommendation 2 states:

That the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation allocate sufficient funds to the On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program, also known as the Section 95 program, in order to address the growing shortage of housing on reserve; and That the CMHC explore options to ensure greater flexibility in the way funding is allocated for the On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program, in particular, to allow for multi-year commitments which would give communities adequate time to organize [for] construction.

Has this happened?

12:35 p.m.

Director, First Nation Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Luisa Atkinson

We are in the process of working directly with the communities to explore those flexibilities.

In terms of the budget envelope, we are at the disposal of the government and obviously the national housing strategy and the $4 billion my colleague mentioned earlier, and how that's going to roll out in the future.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

In the communities I serve, there are a lot of remote and rural indigenous communities. I think of one community in particular, Kingcome, where the river is actually changing because of climate change. Every year they're having to put their houses up higher, and it's a huge burden on that community. I'm wondering about how you're working with those communities to create long-term housing strategies.

12:40 p.m.

Director, First Nation Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Luisa Atkinson

At CMHC we work very closely with the communities. We have staff who go into the communities directly to help them identify their needs, and they listen to what their needs are and really understand where they want to go as a community. As my colleague said, it really is up to the communities to give us an indication where they want to go.

Then we work together between departments, between other non-profits, and we try to come together to help on a community plan to see if we can see some impact on the future of the housing.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

When I think about that community, one of the things they shared with me was that, if you walk along their streets, you see they have these lovely cement things that the water hoses are in, in case there's a fire. CMHC came in, told them that's what they needed, and then left with the keys, so the people who built them actually couldn't get into them, and they don't have the water pressure to actually make them work. There are all of these hoses across the community and these lovely cement boxes that are of absolutely no use to the community.

When you talk about actually doing that work of consultation, in what instances does that not happen, and have you measured the outcomes and what that means for those communities?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

That's your time, but I'll allow for a very brief answer, please.

12:40 p.m.

Director, First Nation Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Luisa Atkinson

Thank you. We work very closely with communities. I'm not familiar with the situation that you're speaking of directly, and we aren't responsible for the infrastructure outside the house, so I'm a little confused about the example.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Okay, maybe it was a different department then.

12:40 p.m.

Director, First Nation Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Luisa Atkinson

We do work very closely and we build plans together. We have operating agreements and strong relationships with about 489 of the communities in total across Canada, and we continue to strive to work with more communities as we move forward.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much. That concludes this round.

We do have some committee business that we need to attend to, but I want to thank all of you for your testimony here today. It's a lot for us to think about. Looking at the list here of homework that many of you have in terms of bringing further information to this committee, I think almost everybody is on this list, so thank you for the future information, as well.

We will be suspending for a brief moment. We will go into camera, so I do need to ask everybody to vamoose. Thank you very much, everyone.

[Proceedings continue in camera]